People riding shared public bicycles appear to be involved in fewer traffic crashes and receive fewer injuries than people riding their personal bicycles. In cities from Paris and London to Washington, D.C. and Mexico City, something about riding a shared bicycle appears to make cycling safer.
Paris’s Vélib’ is perhaps the most iconic bike-sharing system in the world. Launched in 2007 with 20,000 bikes, its widespread popularity not only transformed how Parisians traveled across their city but set off an explosion of new bike-sharing systems worldwide. With a few years of practice at this point, the Parisian experience is particularly telling.
“The accident rate is lower on a Vélib’ than on ‘normal’ bikes,” a spokesperson for the office of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë told Streetsblog. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, Vélib’ riders were responsible for one-third of all bike trips in Paris but were involved in only one-fourth of all traffic crashes involving a bicycle.
The numbers are if anything more striking in London, where the Barclays Cycle Hire system — or “Boris Bikes,” to borrow the phrase locals have adopted in honor of their mayor, Boris Johnson — opened at the end of last July. Though the London government didn’t track the relevant safety stats of bike-share users compared to other cyclists, they provided us with the data to do some back-of-the-envelope calculations.
So far, after 4.5 million trips, no bike-sharing user in London has been seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash, according to Transport for London. Only 10 bike-sharing users were injured at all in the first 1.6 million trips on the system, a statistic that was compiled earlier. A spokesperson also told Streetsblog that they estimate that half a million bike trips take place across London each day, 20,000 of which are on Boris Bikes. Finally, during 2010, 10 people were killed, 457 seriously injured and 3,540 non-seriously injured while cycling in London.
Crunching those numbers, no people were seriously injured or killed on the first 4.5 million trips on Boris Bikes, while about 12 people are injured for every 4.5 million trips on personal bikes. And over 1.6 million trips, ten bike-sharing users received non-serious injuries, compared to an average of 35 such injuries for the same number of trips on personal bikes.
Stateside, transportation officials are seeing the same effect.