E-bikes were officially introduced to the Divvy fleet last summer, but the popular jet-black bikes were apparently only the first iteration of the technology. Lyft, the current operator of Chicago's bike-share program, recently unveiled an upgraded e-bike model that will debut in Chicago this fall, according to a Lyft representative.
The first thing you're likely to notice about Lyft's new e-bike is its bright white color, which makes use of retroreflective paint (the same kind used in street signs) to make the bike more visible at night. Another prominent feature is the LED beacon ring on the front of the bike, providing additional illumination (and visibility) after the sun goes down. The new frame is also much sleeker than the previous Lyft e-bike, integrating the battery that powers the electric motor into the frame itself rather than simply attaching it to the bike.
The biggest changes to the latest Lyft e-bike are internal, including a more powerful electric motor, a rear hydraulic brake that will make stops smoother and an improved battery that can last up to 60 miles on a single charge. A more visible upgrade is the LCD screen and speaker that are built into the handlebars, displaying time and milage as well as giving instructions for unlocking and parking the e-bike.
One more major feature of the new Lyft e-bikes is the ability to charge them at compatible stations (the batteries for current Divvy e-bikes are collected and charged elsewhere). It's unclear when exactly this feature will become widely available in Chicago and other bike-share programs that Lyft operates (in cities like New York, San Francisco, Portland and Washington D.C.), as it will require the upgrade of existing docking stations. A Lyft representative told us that Divvy will be "piloting station-based charging in Chicago this year."
According to a release from Lyft, the latest e-bike models were designed to prioritize durability and reduce the need for regular repairs and battery swaps. While exact numbers weren't shared, Lyft claims that internal data shows that once riders try an e-bike, they're more likely to take an e-bike whenever they're available at a bike-share dock (the bright blue, non-motorized Divvy bikes still outnumber the Lyft e-bikes in Chicago). It's not difficult to imagine a future when non-motorized Divvy bikes are phased out entirely, replaced with e-bikes that make cycling a more accessible (and less tiring) transportation option. As of late, I've definitely noticed more people cruising down the city's streets on black Divvy e-bikes than the original, pedal-powered models.
Stay tuned for an announcement of when exactly Lyft will launch the new e-bikes in Chicago this fall, and look forward to an even smoother cycling commute on these upgraded rides.