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Bike-Shares Result In Safer Bicycling (Washington Post Errs)

Angie Schmitt in a recent article accurately dispelled a disquieting misrepresentation often seen in the mass media. In recent articles on Streetsblog USA, Schmitt unraveled false projections about safety and bike-shares. The facts show increased safety comes in cities with bike-shares.

Take a walk down a New York City street, a Boston Street, a San Francisco street, etc. Even if you don’t bicycle — you notice groups of bikes. Yes, minds consciously and subconsciously take in the growing enclave of bicycles and register people in numbers bicycle.

Divvy bike-share in Chicago. All images by Zachary ShahanCleanTechnica (CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

The investigative work from Schmitt and followed by Jacobsen and Komanoff for Streetsblog USA brings up this question: “So how is it that a study that documented drops of 14 percent in the number of cyclist head injuries and 28 percent in total cyclist injuries in U.S. cities with bike-share programs got this headline in the Washington Post last month?– ‘Cities with bike share programs see rise in cyclist head injuries’.”  Streetsblog USA continues with an exact and truthful title, “Cities with bike-share programs see marked decrease in cyclist injuries.”

The actuality is that bike-share cities registered a total drop in reported cyclists injuries of 28%. This is compared to a 2% increase in the control cities — quite notable, 30 percentage points.

Here’s more from Streetsblog Schmitt’s WaPo Is Wrong: Head Injuries Are Down,  Not Up, in Bike-Share Cities:

“The message that bike-share is increasing head injuries is not true,” Teschke told Streetsblog USA. “The tone of the article suggests that head injuries go up. Really what is happening is that head injuries went down, non-head injuries went down — but non-head injuries went down more.”

Schmitt goes on:

“In the cities that implemented bike-share, Teschke said, all injuries declined 28 percent, from 757 to 545. Head injuries declined 14 percent, from 319 to 273 per year. And moderate to severe head injuries also declined from 162 to 119.”

helmet study

In five cities with bike-share, both head injuries and injuries of all types decreased more than in cities without bike-share. Graph: Kay Teschke (via Streetsblog)

Cities without bike-shares showed all injuries increased slightly from 932 to 953 per year — 6%.

Moreover, the data in the report determines that cumulative head injuries dropped further in the five cities that implemented bike-share than in the control group. Head traumas simply didn’t fall as much as total injuries, according to Teschke.

Tracing the confusion we understand that Teschke communicated with Bernstein about the issues in this misleading article. He was at first dismissive, but then accepted her criticisms as correct. However, he did not improve his piece for some time.


Perhaps we now see a glimmer of the same. Streetsblog USA happily notes: “Then there’s the heartening fact that the biggest bike-safety beneficiary appears to be children: Cycling injuries to children less than 15 years old dropped 44 percent in the five bike-share cities. Yet it’s unlikely that more than a handful of people in this age group would be using bike-share bikes. So perhaps they benefited from a ‘halo’ around bicycling.”

In other words, many bike accidents are directly related to motorists’ blind spots, mental as well as physical. Bicyclists stand to become less affected and less injured if their numbers are more. Bike-shares bring numbers and visibility up substantially.

One of the models I often refer to is the “traffic garden” in Utrecht, a beautiful example. Education is required for greater safety — as well as protected bicycle paths, bike-shares, and observant drivers. Clear-thinking cultures do address bicycle safety at young ages. Skills made when young are skills that hold over the long run, and that drivers also remember.

Safety in numbers really shouldn’t be underestimated, though: more pedestrians and bicyclists = safer walking and bicycling.

The important point this study as well as the new one discussed above shows is that bicyclists are often not the cause of bike accidents. However, there are many misrepresentations of fault after accidents. This is one reason many bicyclists now wear helmets with cameras in them. They want to record the truth of a collision.

Peter Jacobsen and Charles Komanoff write: “Except that to run the story straight up like that would have required the Post to set aside the unholy trinity atop Americans’ ingrained misconception of cycling safety: the beliefs that helmet-less cycling is criminally dangerous; that cycling is inherently risky; and that cyclists, far more than drivers, make it so.”

Riding mass transit one day — with bicycle in tow on the front of the bus — a conversation struck up. A young man sat across from me on the bus, smiled, and offered his story to me. “I have a video camera in my helmet now.” I looked on quizzically. He continued: “Next time I get blamed for an accident that I did not cause, I will have proof.” He was young, healthy, and vibrant. The young cyclist went on to tell me of several accidents that were clearly not his fault. He was a bicyclist, like a fish out of water, and received the blame. Four accidents he was in were not his fault, but he was forced to take the blame. Skewed statistics for the city?

I found out this is not personal to this young man. According to many organizations and studies, there is misrepresented fault all over our country in regards to bicycle accidents. It is the woe of many a cyclist, as noted by Laura Laker in a couple of Guardian articles.

Read Related Stories:

WHO Tool Calculates Health Savings of Bicycle & Pedestrian Infrastructure

How to Bike More Safely

Green New York Style: A Sustainability Tour Of The Big Apple

New York May Soon Require Bike-Safety Classes for Drivers

Increased Safety For Night-time Bicyclist With BLAZE

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Written By

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)


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