Bike-Sharing Programs and Bicycle Safety

Since the first bike-share program appeared nearly a decade ago, this new mode of transportation has resulted in zero fatalities.

In Chicago, which averages five to eight bike fatalities a year, Divvy, the city’s immensely popular bike-share program, has proven to be a safe and practical way to get around. There are 4,760 Divvy bikes across 476 stations and Divvy riders have traveled 14.1 million miles since June, 2013, resulting in only 37 crashes. From that point through the end of 2014, there were 18 Divvy crashes, compared with 2,803 bike crashes in Chicago overall.

While there have been no Divvy fatalities, one of those 37 accidents resulted in brain trauma for a cyclist who was hit by a car.

Still, one does wonder how Divvy riders have managed to stay so safe in comparison with the rest of the city’s cyclists.

There are a few explanations. One is that Divvy bikes are built for safety, according to spokesman Elliot Greenberger. They have blinking lights, sturdy frames, and are designed to make riders sit up straight.

Another reason the number of Divvy crashes and injuries has remained so low is the company’s constant safety reminders. Their web site is full of bicycle safety information, from general riding tips to bicycle laws in Chicago and Illinois. Riders can also view a Chicago Bike Map or request a free copy in the mail.

Similar information also appears at Divvy kiosks and on bike handlebars.

Of course, Divvy also encourages riders to wear a helmet at all times.

While the data pertaining to Divvy and other bike-sharing programs – since the first one appeared in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2007 – is promising, bicycle safety has a long way to go. Hundreds of cyclists are killed by cars each year in the United States. As previously mentioned, five to eight of them are Chicagoans.

According to the CDC, there were 494,000 bicycle-related emergency room visits in 2013.

Remembering Fallen Cyclists

On Wednesday, May 18, the annual Ride of Silence took place in Chicago, along with 356 other locations around the world.

This global event, which honors cyclists killed or injured on public roadways, began in Dallas in 2003 as a tribute to fallen marathon cyclist Larry Schwartz. According to his friend Chris Phelan, who began the Ride for Silence, Schwartz, with an estimated 20,000 miles of cycling under his belt, had never been involved in a bicycle accident until that fateful day when a school bus hit him from behind. Despite wearing a helmet, Schwartz suffered serious injuries and died three days later.

Chicago has had an average of 150 to 200 Ride of Silence participants over the last few years.

This year, the ride was ten miles long and passed by eight “ghost bikes.” Ghost bikes are constructed from unusable parts that are painted white. Each ghost bike marks the memorial of a cyclist killed by a motorist.

The Ride of Silence always take place on the third Wednesday of May, so next year’s will be on May 17th.

Bicycle Safety Rules from Divvy

With the Ride of Silence taking place last month, now is a good time to review the rules of riding a bike safely in and around Chicago, as according to Divvy.

Divvy advises riders to “be predictable” by following all traffic rules and laws. They also encourage cyclists to become skilled at handling a bike, to be aware of their surroundings, and to be courteous to others on the road by communicating their actions through eye contact, hand signals, and even sound.

More trips for riding in traffic include:

  • riding in a straight line rather than weaving in and out of intersections, parked cars, or turn lanes.
  • riding with traffic rather than against it.
  • not wearing headphones while riding, as it is important to hear cars honk or accelerate, amongst other sounds.
  • being aware of oncoming vehicles that may impair your view, and of vehicle blind spots – if you can’t see the driver, the driver probably can’t see you.
  • passing stopped buses only on the left and only after looking back to make sure the road is clear.
  • never passing a bus in order to make a right turn.

Chicago wrongful death attorneys, who often have to handle the five to eight bike fatalities that occur in the city each year, hope that these rules, as well as others found on the Divvy site, will help them have to deal with even less bike-related deaths in the years to come.

The flip side of bicycle safety is the responsibility that motorists have to share the road with cyclists. As drivers, it is important to be vigilant, patient, kind, and to avoid all distractions.