It seems like the local press has run through so many permutations of the Citi Bike story that now it’s time to recycle Citi Bike stories from a year ago.
One month after the system launched, the AP ran a story about the lack of a helmet requirement for Citi Bike riders (because helmet requirements have proven so successful in other cities, don’t you know), and the Observer published more alarmism yesterday about the risks faced by bike-share riders who lack health insurance (because of course it should be up to the bike-share operator to make up for the market failure to provide everyone with affordable health care).
It’s all very reminiscent of the fearmongering bike-share report put out by Comptroller John Liu last year and the news cycle that followed. The Post even ran a squib from the AP story based on the same outlandish prediction from Rutgers University professor John Pucher that figured so prominently in Liu’s report — that bike fatalities would skyrocket after Citi Bike launched.
Well, Citi Bike launched more than a month ago, and there have been no deaths or serious injuries. Unless this first month was a total outlier, Citi Bike won’t result in a significant increase in bike fatalities in NYC, let alone the doubling or tripling predicted by Pucher. As the AP glossed over quickly, only three minor injuries have resulted after more than 500,000 rides. It’s too early to extrapolate what the Citi Bike safety record will be over the course of an entire year, but it’s safe to say the injury rate on Citi Bike so far is much lower than the overall bike injury rate in NYC.
In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 3,448 reported bike injuries in NYC, or about 9.4 per day, according to crash records compiled by the state DMV [PDF]. (Most of these injuries are classified as minor.) To figure out the rate of injuries per trip, you’d need to know the number of bike trips each day, but data on citywide bike trips is sketchy. However, the most generous estimate of daily biking in NYC that I’ve ever encountered is Charles Komanoff’s figure of 665,500 trips per day [XLS]. I happen to think that overstates the actual number of bike trips, but it’s a good number to determine the lower bound of the injury-per-trip rate. It works out to one injury for every 70,800 bike trips.
Meanwhile, with just three reported injuries and 529,000 rides in the first 31 days of Citi Bike operations, the safety record for New York City bike-share riders is much better: One injury per 176,000 trips. That’s about 2.5 times safer than our very rosy assessment of the injury rate among non-bike-share cyclists.