Ford GoBike Electric Bikes Taken out of Service

An electric assist GoBike in Oakland last year. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick
An electric assist GoBike in Oakland last year. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

As reported by Streetsblog NYC, on Sunday, Lyft, which operates bike share systems in multiple cities, found a flaw with its electric-assist bikes and is taking them out of service. That means e-bikes are getting pulled from the Bay Area’s Ford GoBike system.

From the Ford GoBike release, which was more or less identical to releases sent out in NYC and Washington DC, where the same e-bikes are deployed:

Since GoBike first deployed electric bikes last year, riders have taken hundreds of thousands of rides and shared with us incredibly helpful and overwhelmingly positive feedback.

However, we recently received a small number of reports from riders who experienced stronger than expected braking force on the front wheel. Out of an abundance of caution, we are proactively removing the electric bikes from service for the time being. We know this is disappointing to the many people who love the current experience–but reliability and safety come first.

Given our region’s brutal hills (and the advantage of a motor to level them a bit) Bay Area electric GoBike fans were understandably disappointed. A few were quick to point out the irony of GoBikes taking such a proactive step because of a technical/safety issue, given that the Bay Area’s bike-share system is owned and operated by a ride-hailing service:

Of course, Ford GoBikes aren’t the only option for electric assist bike-sharing–there’s also JUMP. But SFMTA has made it difficult to rent JUMP bikes by restricting the company to only 500 bikes in San Francisco. There are another fifty JUMP bikes deployed in the Presidio, which is federal land and therefore not regulated by the SFMTA. Streetsblog has inquiries out to JUMP and to SFMTA to find out if there are any plans to lift those caps and/or expectations of expansion in San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. According to an article in Berkeleyside, electric bike deployment in San Francisco and the East Bay is limited because of agreements between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Motivate (the operator of GoBikes that was purchased by Lyft) that limit competition with the Bay Area’s “official” bike-share system. Many advocates want those limits removed.

GoBikes, meanwhile, did its big rollout of electric bikes about a year ago.

So how long until electric GoBikes are back in service? Also from the company’s statement:

We have been hard at work on a new electric bike, and are excited to bring that to you soon. The new bike model will be accessible just by scanning a QR code or tapping your Clipper card, and overall will be more fun to ride. In the meantime, we will quickly replace some of the electric bikes with pedal bikes. A portion of electric bikes in San Jose have different components, and will remain in service. As a thank you for your patience, we will extend monthly and annual memberships by an extra month.

Are you a regular electric GoBike user? Did you ever have problems with the brakes? And what will you do now that they are being taken out of service? Do you use JUMP bikes as well? Have you had any issues with them (aside from just finding one)?

Please post below.

  • Parker

    I rode the electric GoBikes A LOT and never had a problem with the brakes. They’re very heavy bikes and the kickstands couldn’t support them, but otherwise I preferred them over Jump’s bikes.

    The real problem here is that some trips I won’t do on the classic bikes. They’re also heavy and are dogs on even slight hills (yes, I could probably be in better shape, too) so removing the ebikes has reduced the size of the bike share network (for me).

  • crazyvag

    The problem is not with brakes from what I saw. It’s with the locking mechanism accidentally kicking in and fully locking the front wheel. Either from wear and tear, but possibly from theft attempts.

  • John French

    I’m a regular user of the e-bikes. Never had a problem with the brakes, but last week I almost fell hard when I failed to check the tires before setting off. The front was completely flat – someone had knifed the sidewalls of every bike in my local dock.

    I assumed the e-bikes all being out of order was just the result of more sabotage. I guess I’m glad it’s not that, at least?

  • John French

    Where I live, I always have to climb a hill to get home. No problem on either the e-bikes or on my own bikes, but the regular non-electric bike share bikes are so heavy, and the upright position makes it hard to get any decent amount of power through the pedals. This definitely makes the GoBike system less useful.

  • Jame

    I started using them because the regular bikes are hard to do any sort of incline. And they made it possible for me to go further. My own bike, while upright, is infinitely easier to ride on the same routes than the classic bikes. I think the issue is more geometry based than actual weight based. It is very hard to be efficient in them. My usage will definitely decline, because I really don’t always want to expend so much energy on such an inefficient bike further than about a mile.

  • John French

    I wonder whether the purported “braking issue” might also be down to the geometry of the bike. I’ve heard it theorized that the phenomenon of getting thrown over the handlebars when braking hard with the front brake is usually a result of failure to properly brace oneself against the handlebars when braking – that is, the bike doesn’t usually flip over the front wheel, but rather the rider, having failed to brace themselves, is thrown over the handlebars by their own momentum.

    The high handlebar position on the shared bikes makes it much harder to properly brace for heavy braking, IMO.

  • mx

    I’m a regular user. I haven’t had any problems with the front brake locking up, but given the reports I’ve seen on Twitter, I’m glad they’re doing this, as going over the handlebars coming down Page St. after the brake locks on with full force sounds terrifying. I’ve had some small problems here and there: one with a flat tire (which feels very weird on an e-bike since the motor still does it job) and a few times where the docking station loses its network connection and fails to acknowledge I’ve returned a bike. Most of my complaints are about availability.

    The non-electric ones are heavy, lumbering beasts. I’ll absolutely use them for quick trips on Market or anything downhill, but even small hills like Valencia are a decent amount of exertion (yes, there’s a fitness aspect to this) and I want a transportation option that’s active but not so active that I wind up arriving sweaty. For me, they’re good up to 1-1.5 miles in the flats or downhill. With the e-bikes, I’d happily take one from the Financial District to 24th St or up the wiggle or just straight up Page.

    I use JUMP bikes sometimes; finding them can be hard. I’ve had occasional problems with the battery gauges or the motor suddenly cutting off on me, but they work well, and I find they usually have a little more power than the GoBike e-bikes. I have an annual GoBike membership though, so paying by the half-hour for JUMP is less attractive; I really like the flexibility of just paying a fixed membership and not having to think about the cost/benefit of every ride.

    In general, we just need a lot more bikes available in this city. People are riding them like crazy. Flood SF with cheap-to-use e-bikes and let the car-free revolution happen!

  • mx

    From what I’ve seen of the problem, the brake is actually locking in the closed position. There’s some kind of failure mode where it fails closed instead of failing open. I’m not sure there’s anything the rider can do but go over the bars at that point, but I’d agree the geometry doesn’t help.

  • Daniel Michael Filipkowski

    I use the e-bikes everyday for commuting and getting around the city. I am going to walk and take Muni as a slower and less efficient alternative. I don’t use JUMP. After nearly 400 rides I have never had an issue with the front brake on the e-bikes. There may be something wrong, but I think at times it could be user error, especially if you’re not used to e-bikes.

  • Jude Inderrieden

    You just pulled the carpet out from over 100 food couriers who use your ebikes to make a halfway decent wage. Your regular bikes are crappy. Really crappy. Please fix the glitch . My guess is it’s not a “braking issue” it’s a “breaking away” issue that’s either about money or money. Pull your hands outta your pockets and reach out to embrace an industry that needs all the help we can get! And you ov ercharged me 3 times and socked me with a $160 tab!

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Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content. In San Francisco, putting a bike share station at the top of a hill has predictable results. People are happy to rent […]