Even though bike share riders are often helmetless and inexperienced, they have a better safety record than other bike riders. Researchers aren't sure why, but their guesses may shed some light on bike safety in general. Photo by nickfalbo.
Here's the key safety stat: No deaths have been associated with bike shares in over 35 million rides, reports Brad Plumer at Vox, compared to 21 deaths per 100 million rides for cyclists overall. A new analysis confirms bike shares' safety, and their researchers have suggested some possible reasons for the difference. Here are some of them:
- Rental bikes are heavier and clunkier. That makes it harder to go fast, and the bikes' wider tires deal better with potholes. It's possible that lighter bikes trade speed and convenience for safety.
- Bike shares operate in places where cars drive slowly, like traffic-clogged city blocks. That means we've ruled out the kinds of accident where a car might collide with a bike on the side of a high speed road. Drivers are also already looking out for pedestrians on city blocks, so they may be more likely to notice cyclists too.
- The lack of helmets might be a factor — or maybe not. This is a controversial issue: Drivers and cyclists alike might be more safety-conscious when helmets aren't in the picture, but helmets can turn otherwise fatal crashes into survivable ones. We don't recommend ditching a helmet as a safety measure, but in a population level analysis it's not clear if helmets are helping or hurting safety.
For more information on these points, and a few of the researchers' other thoughts, visit the link below.