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How a $4 San Francisco Lyft bikeshare became a 7-week nightmare

Ari Kanter demonstrates how he locks a Lyft bike on Market Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. Kanter has had recent issues disputing a theft charge with Lyft after a bike he used was stolen. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

What should have been a quick Lyft bike ride became a seven-week nightmare for one San Francisco rider.

IT worker Ari Kanter took a $4 ride on Aug. 10, traveling roughly half a mile from his job near Market Street to a friend’s place in SoMa. He uses Lyft bikes as his own bike was stolen three times in one year.

He docked the bike as he usually would but half an hour later, a notification on his Bay Wheels app said there was a mechanical issue when docking it.

When Kanter contacted Lyft support, the representative told him not to worry and that they were sending someone to look at the bike and would close the case without any additional charges.

Days later his credit card was charged $110, with emails flooding in from Lyft telling him he would be responsible for another $1,200 if the bike was not returned.

“A few weeks later, Lyft said they would charge me $250 instead of $1,200 for the missing bike, and my credit card confirmed the charge went through,” said Kanter. 

A Lyft bike is securely locked at a Market Street station in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/ The Standard

Emails seen by The Standard between Lyft and Kanter confirmed the charges on his account. Lyft has been contacted for comment.

Kanter then told Lyft he was going to take the company to small claims court to get his $360 back.

“Your company is still charging me nearly $400 for a bike that I docked last month that apparently has a mechanical docking failure and was then subsequently stolen,” Kanter said in a Sept. 16 email to Lyft. 

Then after leaving the Folsom Street Fair on Sept. 25—he learned that his Bay Wheels account was suspended after trying to rent a bike to ride home with.

“I could get all the way to scanning the bike code into the app, but then a pop-up displayed saying my account was disabled,” Kanter said in an email. “There was no advanced warning about this, no email about this, no message in the app other than the pop-up after scanning the bike QR code.”

Ari Kanter shows a past message he received from Lyft. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Because the Lyft account is tied to his phone number, he couldn’t make a new account to get around the problem.

Despite all of the issues with the company since Aug. 10. Kanter has since rescued five stolen Lyft bikes, effectively saving them some $6,000.

“I don’t like people stealing bikes, I hated it when people stole my bike,” Kanter said.

Lyft gave Kanter $10 bike rental credit and thanked him via an email seen by The Standard.

While he was an avid supporter of Lyft and Bay Wheels, the experience has left him resentful of the company.

“I’m not as supportive of Lyft anymore; it’s just left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Kanter said.

Kanter has had recent issues disputing a theft charge with Lyft after a bike he used was stolen. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Since The Standard contacted Lyft, it has reactivated Kanter’s Bay Wheels account and says it will refund him $362.29.

A Lyft spokesperson said: "Our goal is to give riders the best information possible as they find, ride and return one of our bikes. This time we missed the mark, and have taken steps to get Ari riding again."

Lyft's terms of service say riders are responsible for bikes in their custody, which includes properly locking them at the end of a ride, and if a bike isn't properly secured and is subsequently lost or stolen, the rider has agreed to be responsible for the cost of the bike.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at