One of the chief concerns of any individual, organization or community planning to encourage more biking is how safe is it? This is especially true for those considering the introduction of bike sharing systems like Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., Citibike in New York City or B-bike share here in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. The economics are challenging enough: Bici in Canada being the most recent poster child for a financially-troubled program. Couple that with the uncertainty of insurance actuaries and what can be expected to be high premium rates, and you have two seriously daunting obstacles to bike sharing success.
On the actuary side, there is some very positive news to report. According to Barbara Goldberg, writing for Reuters , since the launch of the first public bikeshare system in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2007, there has not be a single fatality in more than 23 million rentals. Not one! There have been crashes, of course. Some 40 of them the first year of New York's Citibike program, but none of them proved serious, much less fatal: this despite many of the riders being novices. As Goldberg puts it…
"Against all odds - including novice riders, refusal to wear bike helmets and the daily crush of weaving, horn-blaring traffic - not a single rider in New York City's bike share program has been killed since it launched in May 2013…"
In case you're curious, the average distance ridden by a Citibike rider is 1.74 miles, so in terms of total distance travelled it works out be somewhere around 40 million miles. In terms of time: It's nearly 5 million hours or 565 years!
Sadly, the record doesn't extend to all cyclists. In New York City in 2012, 18 cyclists died in accidents. This number dropped to 12 in 2013, but by mid-2014, deaths stood at 12.
Why such a remarkable safety record for bikeshare riders? Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California at Berkeley's Transportation Sustainability Research Center attributes it to the nature of the bikes themselves.
"The bikes are heavy, with a very low center of gravity, wide tires, drum brakes that keep the braking system dry even in inclement weather, and the bikes are geared so it is difficult to gain considerable speed."
I would also attribute it to novice rider caution. Experienced cyclists can and often do take chances in traffic that inexperienced riders won't, occasionally with tragic results. That extra caution has thus far served them well; and that was largely without wearing helmets.
Posted By: Bill Moore [18-Aug-2014]
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