SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Most people know Lyft as a company that offers on-demand rides in cars, but starting Tuesday, it will also offer electric bicycles in Santa Monica. Docked at the same stations that currently house the city’s human-powered Breeze bicycles, Lyft’s pedal-assist e-bikes are designed to ensure continuous access to a bike share system as the city ends its Breeze program Nov. 1.
“We are on an exploratory path with a commitment to lower-emission transportation, and we think shared mobility is part of that,” said Francie Stefan, chief mobility officer for the city of Santa Monica. "We've been working on shared mobility for a number of years now, and are continuing a process of looking at how the city’s partnership with private sector companies can help provide services like shared bikes."
Available through the Lyft app, the bikes are $1 to unlock, and $0.34 per minute to ride. Cyclists scan the bike’s QR code to unlock the bikes, which use an electric motor to enhance riders’ pedaling and make them move with less effort. Each bicycle comes with a cable lock that allows it to be locked to any public bike rack within the program’s service area for $1.
The bikes will also be available through the Lyft Community pass system, which allows low-income residents and qualifying Santa Monica Community College students to pay just $5 a month and take e-bike rides for the reduced rate of $0.05 per minute.
Lyft's e-bike share is coming into the market just one month before Santa Monica terminates the Breeze bike share it ran for almost five years, using grants from the Los Angeles Country Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Air Quality Management District. Through that system, the city-owned 450 Breeze bikes.
"The program was incredibly popular and an incredibly good way to raise awareness about bicycling in the city as a way to get around," said Stefan, adding that each of the bikes was ridden thousands of miles and that the fleet, as a whole, was becoming a victim of its own success. "We were hitting a point where we needed to purchase an entirely new fleet, and at this point, there is no grant funding for that."
Santa Monica already has a years-long partnership with Lyft. It is one of two on-demand scooter companies that currently operate in the city, along with the local company that started the e-scooter craze: Bird.
“We are excited to bring e-bikes to Santa Monica to help reduce congestion and emissions, by providing another transportation option for residents and visitors,” said David Fairbank, general manager for Lyft Bikes & Scooters in Southern California. Lyft is starting its e-bike share program with 100 bikes but plans to offer about 500 e-bikes on the Westside over the new few months.
Santa Monica is the latest city to join Lyft’s bike share program, following Minneapolis, San Francisco, San Jose, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Portland.
Over the past few years, Lyft has been quietly adding new forms of mobility to its app. Since 2018, it has been operating on-demand scooters in various markets, including Santa Monica, Los Angeles, and on campus at the University of California, Los Angeles. Two weeks ago, it added a car rental service to its app in L.A. called SIXT.
“Lyft and Uber see themselves as competing with people buying cars or people buying more cars per household, so they want to meet everybody’s full mobility needs,” said Juan Matute, deputy director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If you can get on a scooter or bicycle in an area that, pre-COVID, had congestion, that creates new markets that Lyft and Uber can capture.”
Lyft has been part of Santa Monica’s ever-evolving shared mobility program brought about by the sudden, unannounced appearance of Bird scooters on its streets three years ago. While Lyft has not offered electric bikes in Santa Monica previously, it’s been gaining experience in the bike-share space through its ownership of Motivate. The largest bike share provider in North America, Motivate, operates bike shares in urban areas throughout the country, including New York City.
One other electric bike share program – Jump – operated in Santa Monica from Sept. 2018 through April of this year. Once owned by Uber, the San Francisco-based scooter company, Lime, purchased it in mid-May. In California, Jump currently only operates in Sacramento. It is not likely to resume operations in Santa Monica, Stefan said.