A hot new trend making its way across the United States has finally arrived in Philly: bike-sharing. Bike-sharing programs are currently active or in pre-launch stages1 in numerous cities in the country, and Philadelphians have been hearing about the possibility of their own bike-sharing program for years. Finally, on May 1, 2015, the bike-sharing program in our city went live, run by the company Indego. While bike-sharing immediately proved popular in Philly—with 8,000 riders in the first week alone2—there are some safety concerns and necessary preparations of which all bike-sharers should be aware.
What Is Bike-Sharing?
Indego has placed 67 kiosks around Philly holding a total of 500 bright blue bicycles among them. Anyone can rent a bicycle from one kiosk, ride around the city, and return it to the nearest kiosk that is convenient for them. There are three different options for renting bikes from an Indego kiosk:
- Get an Indego30 Cash membership – $15 per month allows you to rent any bike for free for an hour (and at a cost of $4 for additional hours) an unlimited amount of times during the month.
- Get an IndegoFlex membership – $10 per month allows you to rent any bike for $4 per hour during the month.
- Walk-up – Anyone can walk up to a kiosk, swipe their credit card, and rent a bike at a rate of $4 per half hour.
A nominal fee will allow Philadelphians and visitors alike to use bicycles to get from place to place, exercise, or simply explore the city.
Be Warned: Helmets Are Not Provided
Though bike-sharing is a widely viewed as an excellent addition to Philly, the biggest concern regarding the program is the safety of riders. Many people who decide to rent bikes may be relatively inexperienced riders, which can create a high risk for accidents especially if they are riding on busy streets. Riders may also be at additional risk of injury because Indego bike rentals do not include one very important safety item—helmets.
Bike-sharing programs have long addressed the fact that they do not provide helmets as part of their rentals. First, they would have to provide a variety of helmet sizes to accommodate all riders. Having this many helmets available can be unwieldy and would increase the necessary size of the kiosks, possibly limiting their locations. Additionally, many people may have hygiene concerns wearing helmets that other riders have worn in the same day. It would be nearly impossible for the helmets to be properly sanitized between each use.
Bring Your Own Helmet
Simply because Indego does not provide helmets with the rental bikes does not mean that bike-sharers should not wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet anytime you ride a bicycle is imperative to limit the chances of suffering a traumatic brain injury should you fall off your bike or be involved in a collision. A traumatic brain injury (TBI)3 can occur due to any type of bump or blow to the head. TBIs can range from minor concussions to major and irreparable brain damage, though even relatively minor brain injuries can require medical attention and treatment.
The United States Department of Transportation4 reports that wearing a bicycle helmet limits the risk of brain or head injuries by 85 to 88 percent, making it the primary way to avoid TBI and even death should a bike accident occur. For this reason, absolutely everyone should wear a helmet when riding a bike, even if they are bike-sharing.
Additionally, if you are considering bike-sharing with your family, you should be aware that Pennsylvania law5 requires all children under the age of 12 to wear a helmet while riding a bike. There are not exceptions for bike-sharers to this law, so if you do not provide helmets for your kids, you are not only putting them at risk of injury but also may receive a citation from law enforcement.
In short, everyone participating in Philly’s new bike-share program should be certain to think ahead and bring a helmet to wear. If you do not own helmets, you can often rent them from bicycle shops around town.
What Happens If You Are Injured During A Bike-Share?
If you are involved in a collision while riding a bike around Philly due to a negligent driver, the driver should be held responsible for your injury-related losses. At The Levin Firm in Philadelphia, we are committed to helping injured bicyclists recover, so please call our office at 215-825-5183 for a free consultation.