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View Full Version : Are bikeshare users making cycling unsafe for DC?



RC-DC
05-13-2011, 12:35 PM
Other than in photos, I have yet to see a single bike share user wear a helmet or any other safety gear. Or obey regular traffic signals. Half of the bike share riders I see are either using their smartphones or wearing white earbuds – with both ears covered. This is a recipe for disaster. Riding a bike in the street, we have to follow the same/similar rules as a car. But it's as if they think they're riding on a beach boardwalk in California.

DC does not have a helmet law for cyclists and I’m not sure I like the idea of mandates, but this is a matter of common sense. Bike share encourages hop-on/hop-off casual riding and I agree that carrying a helmet everywhere ‘just in case’ is not practical. Does anyone else feel that it’s dangerous to tolerate unsafe cycling? What’s the solution? Or is it, your head – your risk and I should stop worrying about fellow cyclists? :confused:

Mark Blacknell
05-13-2011, 02:36 PM
Do you wear a helmet when you get in your car? If not, why not? It would be safer if you did, no? A helmet is not the end-all be-all of safe cycling. It's annoying to see the presence of a helmet substituted for an informed judgment of circumstances.

I've seen a number of folks on CaBi's with a helmet. I've rarely seen earbuds in (and I've seen hundreds, if not more, on CaBis). So my experience doesn't line up with yours at all.

That said, it's about education and culture. When most of the people on bikes are stopping at lights, people are far more hesitant to blow it on their own. When most people are in helmets, folks new to it feel less dorky. I think it's far more effective to lead by example than admonish over perceived mistakes.

consularrider
05-13-2011, 03:42 PM
I don't ride much in DC, but of the CaBi riders I see on the Mt Vernon Trail, about half have helments, only slightly less than the percentage of what appear to be casual, non-CaBi riders I see on a busy day. Same with the use of ear buds.

CCrew
05-13-2011, 03:50 PM
I don't ride much in DC, but of the CaBi riders I see on the Mt Vernon Trail, about half have helments, only slightly less than the percentage of what appear to be casual, non-CaBi riders I see on a busy day. Same with the use of ear buds.


Same here. Since my office is on the 15th st cycletrack, I see a LOT of CaBi bikers. I'd have to agree with consularrider's averages, which are pretty close to the non-CaBi riders I see also.

Greenbelt
05-13-2011, 07:55 PM
I see lots of CaBi riders -- most seem pretty responsible to me. Some a little inexperienced maybe. I've tried to educate a couple about staying out of the door zone in bike lanes next to parked cars, and to not move up in to the blind spot of possible right turners. I've been surprised how fast the bikes can go -- I've never ridden one, but they must be pretty decent bikes.

Brock
05-14-2011, 10:58 AM
I'd have to agree that CaBi riders seem representative of the non-CaBi riders. I definitely see plenty folks on the red bikes without helmets, with earphones, and on the sidewalks - but I also see plenty of people doing the same thing on regular bikes, too.

I'm not a psychologist, but I suspect this is some kind of unconscious bias. Because the CaBi bikes stick out, you take notice when someone is riding one like an idiot. It's the same thing with ZipCar: people have complained that you have to watch out for ZipCar drivers, since they don't drive that often and tend to be erratic. If all Toyotas were baby blue and had a huge logo on the back, I'm sure people would start to single them out as terrible drivers. It's less about the demographic and more about noticing them.

PotomacCyclist
05-14-2011, 11:18 AM
I haven't noticed a difference in helmet wearing and earphones between CaBi cyclists and other cyclists. I don't keep track of the statistics but it seems like most cyclists wear helmets, CaBi or not. I've probably seen more non-CaBi riders with earphones, and even some holding up a cellphone to their ear while riding. (Some of those in the latter group also ride in the wrong direction on the trails.)

As for the speed of the bikes, no, they aren't fast. You can still pick up some speed on downhills but you won't be anywhere close to the speed that you can maintain on a road bike. Or even a mountain bike. The CaBi bikes are heavy. It's probably better that way. It keeps inexperienced cyclists from going too fast. The accident rate has been extremely low among CaBi users, from what I've read. According to a report of a recent Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, there have only been 8 crashes out of 370,000 trips on CaBi. I've only heard about one of those crashes involving somewhat serious injuries.

If anything, CaBi is lowering the bike accident rate in DC and Arlington.

PotomacCyclist
05-14-2011, 11:20 AM
Here's the link to the account of the BAC meeting:

http://www.thewashcycle.com/2011/05/capital-bikeshare-update.html

RC-DC
05-17-2011, 09:32 AM
Do you wear a helmet when you get in your car? If not, why not? It would be safer if you did, no? A helmet is not the end-all be-all of safe cycling. It's annoying to see the presence of a helmet substituted for an informed judgment of circumstances.

No, but I do wear a seatbelt and my car has airbags. Would you drive around on today's roads in a Model T? Good luck against that Ford Expedition.

Thanks everyone for the informed responses. More cyclists seems like it will equate to better safety for everyone (more bikes on the road will force cars to drive safer around them). I do wear a helmet whenever I bike, as well as a day-glow vest and gloves. I stop at lights and stop signs (which I think actually confuses many drivers as they're used to cyclists not stopping). I think it's a correct that non-CaBi cyclists are equally less likely to wear helmets. My thought on that as CaBi is greatly increasing the number of visible cyclists (greatly lowering the barriers to using a bike), and they don't wear helmets, new cyclists will see that as the norm and it's OK to not wear a helmet. I like the suggestion to educate when the opportunity arises. In the end, my head, my risk is the best approach. I came within three feet of getting hit by a car that ran a stop sign this morning on the Hill. So I'm going to keep wearing my helmet, and coach others to whenever the opportunity arises. Leading by example is good advice.

Brock
05-18-2011, 08:17 AM
My thought on that as CaBi is greatly increasing the number of visible cyclists (greatly lowering the barriers to using a bike), and they don't wear helmets, new cyclists will see that as the norm and it's OK to not wear a helmet.

That's a really good point. On the upside, everyone I talk to about biking is adamant about wearing a helmet - but then again, my friends are all slightly past the "just out of college and I'm INVINCIBLE" age. And while I am loathe to make the kind of sweeping generalizations that I was arguing against earlier in this thread, I very rarely see anyone over 30 riding without a helmet - it definitely seems to be more common for younger folks to forgo the brain bucket.

jrenaut
05-18-2011, 08:22 AM
I just took my 223rd Bikeshare trip this morning. I've worn a helmet for 221 of them. The other two were rides of less than 3 minutes. I stop at (almost) all stop signs and red lights, and I ALWAYS yield to pedestrians.