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The debate about the bike-sharing program in San Diego

On Behalf of | Aug 6, 2015 | Bicycle Accidents |

Commuting in San Diego can be aggravating, at best. Spending a significant part of your day stuck in traffic can make even the calmest person feel like pulling their hair out. In response to these frustrations, a bike-sharing program was launched in San Diego, encouraging people to use rental bikes to commute rather than cars.

While this is obviously not a solution for everyone, the idea – which has been used in numerous other cities across the country – was that it would help reduce traffic to some degree in San Diego. Bike-sharing programs allow people to rent a bike at one location, travel to their destination and leave the bike at a different station.

The program has already launched with 85 bike stations across the city. In all, the company installing the stations is intending to create 180 locations for bike-sharing enthusiasts.

Mixed reviews

Unlike many other cities, the bike-sharing program in San Diego was launched without public funding. As residents and tourists alike are able to use the bikes year-round – thanks to our typically pleasant weather – the company, DecoBike, should be able to profit despite the time of year.

Nevertheless, critics have been questioning DecoBike’s choices when it comes to the current locations of the bike stations. Some have suggested that too many stations have been created in areas that would attract tourists – such as the boardwalk on Pacific Beach – rather than in places that would increase the number of commuters using the bikes.

Supporters of the program insist that people must be patient and that the program will eventually meet the goal of reducing the number of people commuting by car, rather than just allowing tourists to enjoy a bike ride along the beach.

Is it safe?

When bike-sharing programs were initially launched in 2007 – the first was in Tulsa, Oklahoma – many people expressed concern about the inevitable safety risks. As bike sharing allows novice riders to easily access bikes in urban areas, the concern was that a sharp increase in bicycle accidents and bicyclist fatalities would occur.

Surprisingly, there have not been any reported bicyclist fatalities associated with bike-sharing programs across the U.S. since the programs were initiated. Many credit the type of bike used in such programs for the lack of fatal accidents. These bikes are typically very heavy, with wide tires and are designed to make it tricky to reach high speeds.

Despite these safety features, perhaps the biggest concern regarding bike-sharing programs is the lack of helmet usage. As we’ve mentioned before, only those under 18 years of age are required to wear a helmet when bicycling in California.

DecoBike does not provide helmets at its bike-sharing stations. As few people actually bring a helmet with them when using a bike from a bike-sharing program, researchers have found that the number of people suffering brain injuries in areas with these programs is high. In fact, according to a study found in the American Journal of Public Health, more people suffer head injuries in bike accidents in cities – like San Diego – that have launched bike-sharing programs than those without these programs.

Consequently, if you are planning to use a DecoBike to get around in San Diego, it is a good idea to bring your own helmet. Even if it feels like a pain to carry a helmet around, you’ll be happy you protected yourself if an accident takes place.



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