How Bike Share Programs Might Make Cycling Safer

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Could bike share programs lead to greater cycling safety?

In April 2015, Philadelphia introduced a bike share program. By 2019, there were more than 1,300 bikes and 400 pedal-assisted electric bicycles available. People used them for about 50,000 trips a month.

Before the introduction of the bike share program, the rate of bicycle-car accidents had been gradually increasing. By May 2015, the month after the introduction of the program, the rate was twice that of January 2010.

But the researchers, writing in the American Journal of Public Health, found that from that time through the end of 2018, the rate decreased by an average of 13 percent a year, despite the increases over those years in the number of bicycles on city streets, and even though Philadelphia made no major infrastructure changes, like adding many protected bike lanes.

The lead author, Ghassan B. Hamra, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that it appears there is safety in numbers: the more bikes on the road, the more car drivers adapt to their presence, and the safer cyclists may be.

“We all know that bike riding is a healthy activity, physically and mentally,” he said, “but there might be concerns that if you introduce a bike share program there will be negative consequences. We saw no evidence of that in Philadelphia.”