With 36 cities across the country now hosting their own systems, bike share is almost becoming an American institution. According to a new report, it's estimated that Americans have taken 23 million rides since 2007 (wow!), but here's the most amazing part: Not a single death has been attributed to a bike share system in the U.S. At least not yet.
While there's no single source of nationwide data available, according to a story at Yahoo, three separate transportation experts agree that not one fatality has been reported from any of the U.S. bike share systems since the first one opened in Tulsa in 2007. While it might seem counterintuitive—bike share puts all these inexperienced cyclists on the road!—there are actually some very good reasons why bike share provides a safe ride, one that actually might be safer than a traditional bike (which sadly have continued to see fatalities on city streets).
Bikes designed for bike share are built differently—they have a lower center of gravity, so they're a bit more sturdy than your typical Schwinn. They move slower than the traditional bicycle (which you'll know if you've ever tried to get one up a big hill). Bike shares also arrive in a city alongside a larger investment in bike safety. So a system often comes hand-in-hand with infrastructure improvements that help make all bikes more visible on streets. You could also argue that if people are switching their mode of transit from car to bike, more people would be moving through their cities at slower speeds, making streets safer for everyone.
One big concern in many cities is that bike share systems don't require their riders to wear helmets (although in some cities, you can rent helmets, too). But this report comes a few months after a study that the number of head injuries actually went down in cities with bike shares. It points to an important conclusion: More people on bikes creates a greater awareness and understanding from both cyclists and drivers on the streets, preventing crashes. Plus, bike share might actually be extending people's lives due to the fact that biking adds increased physical activity to their day.
This is not to say that there will never be a death on an American bike share system—unfortunately it's bound to happen eventually. But this is a great start for a new way for Americans to get around, because basically, it looks like any way you slice it, more people on bike shares equal safer, healthier cities. [Yahoo]
San Jose's bike share, photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP