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, a Citi Bike representative said.
In fact, experts say no fatalities have been logged in any U.S. public bike share program since the first one launched in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2007. There are now programs in 36 cities, including Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco, with new services planned in Tampa, Florida, Boise, Idaho, Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere.
While there is no central reporting clearinghouse for bike share fatalities, the safety record was confirmed by three alternative transportation experts: Susan Shaheen, co-director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center; Russell Meddin, founder of the Bike-sharing World Map; and Paul DeMaio, founder of MetroBike, the nation’s oldest bike-share consultancy.
I’ve used bike share programs in Washington, New York and Brussels. And if I ever find them in other cities, I’d use them there, too, because they’re easy to deal with:
I should point out here, that what most people don’t understand is that though there are fees if you use a bike more than a half hour, the way to get around it is to go to another bike docking station within a half hour and swap out the bike. You don’t pay an extra fee for the first bike, and you’re not paying for the second bike because you have a membership. And you can use that second bike for a half hour with no extra cost. I’ve ridden from Washington to Alexandria, swapping out bikes twice and paid no extra fee. Same procedure goes for New York and Brussels. When I was in New York, I paid a daily membership fee and regularly used bike share to get from Brooklyn to midtown Manhattan. Swap out bikes, no extra fee.
But what makes these bikes safe? (Back to Reuters):
“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,” Shaheen said.
That’s right. You really don’t get much speed on them. You set it to the highest gear and pedal as fast as you can, and anyone on a regular bike will pass you without much exertion. But the bikes are convenient and docking stations are all over the place. In Washington in particular, I can get home faster using bike share than using the metro. I just walk up and get a bike. I have to wait for a train to show up. Sometimes the metro waiting time takes longer than the bike ride home.