Research by the Mineta Transportation Institute and the University of California has found that bike share users tend to ride “in a safer manner” than those who own their own bicycles.
The study suggests that the often weightier and cumbersome design of such bikes might actually change rider behaviour, as it’s considered more difficult to ride such a build in a reckless manner. The research was carried out alongside bike share operators and experts in commuter cycling.
According to the US Census American Community Survey bicycle use has generally been increasing in the US since as far back as 2005. For the purpose of this study, however, the focus centred on cities with higher than average modal share – San Francisco, Washington and Minneapolis – all of which have hire schemes. Furthermore, the theory of safety in numbers was carefully considered in analysis of the statistics.
On this front the study actually found that, particularly in Washington and San Francisco, the correlation between growth in cycling numbers and collisions was found to be high. Using data captured from Bike Sharing stations, the authors of the research found that hire bike users generally had a lower non-fatal injury rate in comparison to the equivalent data from non users.
The study states: “There have been no fatalities on bikesharing to date in the US, the bikesharing fatality rate is currently zero (as of this writing), as compared with the US fatality rate of 21 per 100,000,000 trips.”
In its conclusions, the research flags bicycle design as a key influential factor on how the bike is used:
“Because bikesharing bicycles are designed to be larger, slower, and sturdier than personal bicycles, they are not ridden as aggressively as personal bicycles. Members of the bikesharing focus groups noted that people riding bikesharing bicycles appeared to do so more cautiously. This was noted despite the widely observed fact that helmet usage is lower for bikesharing bicycles.”
If the findings are indeed correct, the introduction of electric hire bikes around the globe could in future presumably reverse this trend.
Interestingly, the conclusion further points to lower levels of helmet use among hire scheme users, stating: “The reason (for the study’s findings on hire/non hire safety) is definitely not due to increased helmet use, which is widely documented to be lower among bikesharing users.”
Experts called upon to comment on the findings were divided on helmet use, with some suggesting they should be mandatory, while others suggesting that the health benefits far outweigh the risk posed to users.
A passage within the conclusion says that while there are documented safety benefits from helmet use, they do not prevent the collisions occurring in the first place.
Read the full study here.