About one year ago, New York City began its bike-share program. Many commentators predicted a traffic disaster, claiming that the rental bicycles would be ridden by tourists who did not know the city and residents who seldom rode bikes in the city’s traffic. A Wall Street Journal writer penned an article titled, Death by Bicycle.” A Rutgers University professor predicted that bicycle accidents would triple after the implementation of Citi Bike.
Do the numbers confirm the predictions of those who thought a bike share program would prove to be a disaster for New York City? Renters have taken more than 8.75 million rides so far, traveling 14.7 million miles. Not one of the Citi Bike riders has died, proving the pundits wrong.
According to Citi Bike, there have been about 100 accidents involving the blue rental bikes, with about one quarter of them requiring a trip to an emergency room. In short, the bike share program has not boosted traffic fatality stats as once feared. And this remarkable safety record is not unique to New York City.
A piece in the Washington Post speculated that more bikes on the streets of Washington, D.C., might actually make streets safer and prevent bicycle accidents. The presence of bicycles forces motorists to drive more carefully.
Bicycle fatalities in New York have remained relatively constant in the past 20 years, with between twenty and thirty people each year dying as a result of bicycle accidents. However, injuries from bike accidents have declined, probably because more riders wear helmets.
The good news about the shared bike program in New York City could change. Bicycle riders and drivers of motor vehicles could become more careless. Maintenance issues with Citi Bike could make the brental bikes less safe. But for now, New York City is and increasingly bike-friendly place, one that is apparently safer than predicted.
Source: Slate, “Not One Person Has Died on an NYC Bike-Share Bike,” May 30, 2014.