San Francisco e-bike riders’ penchant for locking their Bay Wheels wherever they damn well please is about to cost them some serious dough.
A host of pricing changes are coming to the Lyft-operated platform as of March 2. Perhaps the most notable of which includes a brand new $2 locking fee for riders who choose to ignore available dock spaces in favor of using built-in cables to lock the e-bikes to racks or street signs. In other words, use a docking station or pay up.
Pretty simple, right? It will be cheaper for riders to leave e-bikes at stations as opposed to scattered about, thus helping to ensure bikes are easier to find, maintain, and charge. But wait, we’re not done yet.
In some neighborhoods that lack docking stations, riders won’t have to pay fees to lock e-bikes up to nearby racks using built-in cables. In other neighborhoods — including areas where docking stations are few and far between like sections of Potrero Hill — riders will need to pay up unless they leave their e-bikes at docks that may be many blocks away.
And you’d better believe there are even more exceptions: If you ride your Bay Wheels e-bike to a station and find it full, you can lock your ride to a nearby bike rack without any additional charge.
“Because ebikes need charged batteries and can be parked at stations or public bike racks, they cost more to operate than classic bikes,” explains Bay Wheels in a Feb. 21 Medium post. “We worked with the SFMTA and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to make sure our pricing ensures that the system remains accessible for everyone, takes into account the ways people ride, and encourages parking behavior that helps ensure bikes are available when and where riders need them.”
When reached for comment, a Lyft spokesperson insisted that there is value for everyone — the city, riders, and yes, Lyft — in people using the docking stations more frequently. Which may be true! Less e-bikes locked to bike racks means less sidewalk obstruction, more consistent locations to find e-bikes to ride, and a more efficient charging and maintenance process.
Whether that value is greater for customers than the additional $2 per ride remains to be seen.
The new $2 bike-locking fee isn’t the only charge rolling out on March 2 — although it is perhaps the most head turning. In addition to paying for the privilege of locking up wherever they want, “non-members will pay $0.20 per minute to help cover the additional costs of batteries and charging,” the Medium post continues. “Non-members pay $2 to unlock plus the non-member per-minute rate.”
Speaking of the Medium post, the replies to Lyft’s announcement consist of frustrated commenters insisting they’re being ripped off.
“Doing a cost analysis w/ the new pricing just makes bay wheels no longer an appealing option for daily commuters compared to purchasing a personal e-bike/boosted board/electric scooter,” read one such comment. “Assuming a 20 min one-way commute, that amounts to 6$/day for MEMBERS. If a person commutes 220–240 days a year give or take, that’s ~1400$…”
(And yes, that math checks out.)
But hey, convenience has always come with a price tag. If you rely on Bay Wheels, that price tag just so happens to be going up on March 2.