BIXI by ChristineTran
BIXI by ChristineTran

Bike sharing is slowly coming to North America, and King County is kicking off the conversation in Seattle with a Expo today at the SLU Discovery Center (10am to 6pm) and tomorrow at Redmond Town Center (noon to 8pm). DC had the first bike sharing system in North America, but it failed to deliver due to a small and dispersed bike station network. This summer Montreal unveiled the first real bike share system in North America. Called Bixi, the system has 3,000 bikes and 300 stations. Bixi is similar to Paris’ Velib and other bike share systems in many ways. Hallmarks of the most successful systems are:

  • Electronic, subscription based systems that make riders accountable for bicycles while they are checked out (see Copenhagen’s city bike program for why)
  • Fare structures that encourage short rentals and thus high turnover (rentals shorter than 30 minutes are typically free)
  • A large, dense network of biking sharing stations (Paris’ stations are spaced at internals of 1000 ft)
  • Privately operated by advertising companies that are given adverting monopolies in the city (two big companies are Clear Channel and JCDecaux)
  • Unique, well maintained and theft determent bikes (Bixi won several design competitions for their bikes)
  • Real time management of the number of bikes at each station (from personal experience I know Barcelona does this very poorly while Paris does much better)
  • Implementation accompanied by significant investment in bicycle network infrastructure

Metro has already sent out a Request For Information so hopefully this event won’t just be a tease and something will come of it. Stop by today or tomorrow and check it out.

81 Replies to “Bike Share Expo Today, Tomorrow”

  1. Which pedal system? Anything much longer that a walk or what should be a bus ride I’m not doing in street cloths and flats. Free bikes? Not the equipment most people that ride are interested in. They already have there ride at work. Folks that don’t regularly ride? Not likely to ride it anyway. Freebee more like a shopping cart problem than a transit solution.

    1. Flat pedals or rattraps allow people to ride in any sort of shoes. Flat pedals even work barefoot; rattraps give better grip when wet.

      If you even know how to use clipless pedals, you’re not the primary target market.

  2. Note that the Bixi system is run by the City of Montreal parking authority — no advertising contract.

  3. Copenhagen’s system was AFAIK the first anywhere. Of course it helps that Denmark has a coin in circulation (DKK 20) that is often worth more than $4 U.S. which is used to unlock the bikes and is then available to anyone who returns the bike back to the rack.

    Overall, I think the cost to run “Bycycklen” is lower than Velib.

    P.S. A great way for Obama to save some money would be to stop printing dollar bills and move to the dollar coin!

    1. Yes but the city bicycle programs is much inferior to systems like Paris’. Copenhagen’s bicycle are about to fall apart and unless you get one early in the morning it is incredibly hard to find one.

  4. Hello There.

    I’m a first time poster to this blog but I have read it with interest for several months especially with regard to the link project. I live in Montreal were the bixi bike sharing system has been in operation since the spring. I’ve never actually ridden one since the stations are not in my neighborhood (hopefully they will be in phase 2).

    Fees are divided into 2 parts: subscription and usage.
    – The subscription can be yearly, monthly or just 24 hours.
    – The usage fee is charged on a sliding scale: ½ hr: free, 1 hr: $1.50, 2 hrs: $10.50, 3hrs: $22.50 (I don’t think there is a daily maximum!)

    As you can see, they don’t want you to go on a big excursion around the island!

    The system is designed for people that need to go from A to B in a direction not easily served by a bus or metro. You could take your car (if it is already downtown) but then you would have to find a parking space again. Many times, these kinds of trips can be made quicker on a bike than walking or bus/metro once you include the waiting and transfer times.

    Advantages:
    – For the yearly or monthly subscribers you get a “bixi key” that allows you to take the bikes with minimal hassle (insert key, take bike – all in about 10 seconds).
    – The bikes are very robust (a bit heavy) with 3 speeds which is enough to get you around the city as long as you don’t plan on climbing a mountain.
    – There is no cash exchanged. You register your credit card (for the 24hour subscription) or associate the “bixi key” to your credit card.

    Disadvantages:
    – Occasional users (24hour subscription) have complained that it is too complicated to use
    – Despite the bikes being very robust, there still has been vandalism
    – Many times the bixi stations are either all full (can’t bring it back) or all empty (can’t rent one). Optimization of the locations of the bikes during the day is a critical success factor.
    – The Montreal system has been criticized as being too expensive compared to similar systems in Europe.
    – The yearly subscription is really only for 6 months because during the winter, the equipment will be in storage.
    – The Bixi system does not rent out bicycle helmets so its practicality and success will be limited in jurisdictions where bike helmets are mandatory.

    Here are some Montreal links that talk about it:
    My blog: http://transport514.wordpress.com/
    http://blog.fagstein.com/tag/bixi/
    http://spacingmontreal.ca/cycling/

  5. I do wonder how practical such a system will be in a jurisdiction with a mandatory helmet law. Unless they have a system in place to rent out clean, sanitized helmets in a variety of sizes, the helmet law would be a significant deterrent to casual use. (As an aside, while I’ve been a regular helmet unser for more than 20 years, I think mandatory helmet laws for adults are foolish and counterproductive. In a nation with pandemic obesity and rampant diseases of sedentary lifestyles, cycling without a helmet is still better for your health than driving — the excess deaths from accidents pale in comparison to the health benefits of the exercise. Yes, helmets are a good idea, but a helmet law that encourages people to shorten their lives by driving instead of riding is a terrible idea.)

    1. I agree. I’m pretty fanatical about wearing a helmet myself, but a helmet law could easily kill this, and I can’t imagine helmet sharing catching on.

      1. Seattle already has a helmet law. They are required in the City of Seattle, and King County. However, there are some municipalities in the area that do not currently have a helmet law.

      2. Yes, that’s the point. We have a helmet law, and as far as I know every jurisdiction where a bike-sharing scheme has done well has no such law.

  6. I’d love a system like this. But there are two problems with bringing these to Seattle:

    1. Helmet law. The only real fix for this would be to kill the helmet law, which I’d certainly vote for. There’s no way to implement this system well with a helmet law in place.

    2. Hills. As James says, these bikes are meant for moderate hills and generally have few gears. Yes, we can just ride the long way around many destinations (downtown go all the way south or north then turn around) to avoid steep hills, but people will quickly get frustrated.

    If we do get these, I highly recommend placing racks right next to stop signs on residential streets throughout the city. We’ve discussed this before, but this spot is often (illegally) used for car parking and makes crossing the street dangerous.

    1. That placement idea is really good – pedestrians and drivers will be able to see over and through a rack full of bikes much better than the average SUV.

    2. Hills can be addressed with gearing.

      If you’re targeting casual users, not cycling enthusiasts, you can have gears of low, lower, and really low — simply selecting a smaller chainring in front will allow you to optimize gearing for non-athletic riders who just want to go faster than walking.

      If you really need a wider gear range, you don’t have to stick with 3-speed hubs. Versions up to 8 speed internal hubs are modestly more expensive than 3-speeds, but hardly a deal-killing cost, and they’re as simple and reliable to operate as 3-speed versions. (I commute from King Street Station past Pac Med every day on the way to Mercer Island; even carrying a heavy load I never need to drop below 4th gear on my Bianchi Milano on that route. 1st gear is low enough for climbing the Queen Anne counterbalance.)

    3. The hills aren’t going to be a problem as long as you’re going downhill — just think, riding repeatedly at breakneck speed from Beacon Hill to Mount Baker and taking Link back* until all the bikes at Beacon Hill are gone. Ha. Gearing on the steepest of hills won’t help that much, but two things could help: first, if the bikes had some kind of RFID chip identifying their location, they could make it free or even give you money back if you end up at a higher elevation station than where you started, and the rates could be adjusted constantly so that it would incentivize bringing the bikes uphill but not create a group of people who make their living taking bikes uphill and bring them all up — it would work like a HOT lane based on current demand at the top; second, a “bike lift” like the one in Trondheim, Norway. (My opinion is that no one could ride it successfully here, but there’s only one way to find out.)

      *In the next snowpocalypse, Link and the Beacon Hill elevator are going to be my ski lift — a $4 all-day lift ticket!

  7. I was in Stockholm about a year ago and used their City Bikes program. Like everything in cities over there, it was incredible. I used it constantly for three days, in conjunction with their bus and rail service

    The price was negligible: I think about $18 for three days or $30 bucks for the whole season. You get a card that let’s you check out a bike at any of the stations around the city.

    The main feature was that you had the bike for three hours. You could return the bike at any time to any rack and grab a new one right there. If I wanted to take a longer ride, I’d just switch up bikes whenever I saw a rack along the way.

    I saw many local folks using the bikes, and frequently racks were empty or almost empty when I returned a bike.

    Every rack was also a giant advertising space. Ugly, but necessary.

    The bikes were OK. Easy to ride, if not terribly fast.

    Of course, Stockholm is a bike city, like Amsterdam. Its part of the lifestyle. I don’t know if it would work over here. I’d love to see us try it.

    1. I spent a few months in Stockholm last year, too, but I wouldn’t say it’s a bike city. I mean, by US standards, sure, but not even close to an Amsterdam or a Copenhagen.

      But that was actually encouraging to me — it wouldn’t take a quantum leap to get Seattle cycling usage to Stockholm levels — just some lanes and trails making non-spandex folks feel safer riding. And since Stockholm has as many hills, colder weather, and less winter light than Seattle, we really have no excuse for not catching up.

  8. Great comments everybody.

    I think the big problem with this is that Seattle is a terrible city for cycling. As it is only dedicated and courageous people bike anyway. Who’s going to use these things? From where to where are you going to ride them? I can’t think of any trips in Seattle where this would work. Maybe from one end of Broadway to the other. Capitol Hill to downtown (but not the other way around)? But I’m all for it. Maybe once we have it we’ll want to built the cycling infrastructure to make it work.

      1. That’s mainly because we count them. Most cities don’t have an annual count of commuters. So no one really knows how many bicycle commuters there are per general population. Check out the Cascade Bicycle Club’s website to see the sad state of affairs for most cities.

    1. Seattle is a good city for cycling. Not great, but good.

      It’s not much on segregated infrastructure, but most streets are suitable for cycling and (despite what you read on the PI Soundoffs) most motorists respect cyclists’ right to be on the road, even if they’re a bit fuzzy on the details.

    2. Lake Union to Pikes Place Market…. mainly flat

      One end of the waterfront to Pioneer Sq….

      If you follow the curve of the waterfront it’s actually pretty flat around here.

    3. I’m an avid bike commuter. I love bicycling in Seattle. I think people use whatever excuses they can find.

  9. Seattle is not a terrible city for cycling. I do it every day. The key is to get more people out there (it’s a symbiotic relationship; more cyclists = safer riding) and better infrastructure. Our hills and weather is a deterrant, but not an insurmountable one for beginning cyclists. It’s getting better to cycle here every year. My biggest concern with implementing this bike sharing system is that Seattle is not ready for it. Portland, OR yes, they are ready. Portland has vastly surpassed Seattle in it’s bike infrastructure so many new cyclists feel like they can get out on the street. Here, not so much. Sharrows don’t cut it for new cyclists. The hills may be an issue with these bikes. Using it along the new route around Lake Union, to get to Fremont and maybe some places downtown (and along Broadway as stated above) is a pretty good idea but any further and the hills will be a problem with a heavier, gear-challenged cycle. Do these have fenders?

  10. Yes, it appears they do have fenders in that picture. I’ll have to check one out on my way home today since it’s sort of on my way home.

  11. It would be really nice if they would extend these type of eventsinto the evening. Many of us can’t easily get to the SLU Discovery Center before 6pm (or earlier, assuming it all shuts down at 6pm).

  12. 1) Hills: There are seven speed internal hub gears that we could use instead of the basic 3 speed. It’s almost enough range. There is a 14 speed one as well, but it’s probably too expensive and finicky.

    2) Helmets: Bring your own…crimermy! It’s not heavy, just use a carabiner and clip it to your backpack when you aren’t wearing it.

    3) Helmet laws: Do you really want to go there? This argument has been hashed out in the world of motor cycles and the riders lost the option because too many were stupid. We might as well argue about seat belt laws. Live with it.

    4) Weather: Fenders, mudflaps and a chain guard do wonders for cutting down the water spray. Take it from someone who rode in today in the pouring rain… once I hit the wet only streets of Seattle it was fine. Besides as the NYTimes says, Seattle is full of people with goretex who aren’t afraid to use it. And as anyone who has lived here a long time will notice, it rarely rains all day long. A bike would still be useful for a mid day trip even in the rainy November season.

    5) Lights! Really with all the complaining about riding in the rain, these bikes would need a decent set of hub generator lights to be useful for 50% of the year.

    1. “Bring your own” helmet assumes that someone *owns* a bike helmet — right there, you’re greatly limiting the target market for casual urban riders. If you want this system to really work, it needs to work for ordinary business people downtown who don’t have backpacks or carabiners at the office, let alone a spare bicycle helmet.

      Take a look at pictures from the Dutch or French systems, these systems aren’t for cyclists, they’re for run-of-the-mill people.

      Experience and medical data clearly show that cycling without a helmet may be slightly more dangerous than cycling with a helmet, but it’s safer than not cycling.

      1. yeah but when we install sidewalks we assume you own shoes.

        Owning a helmet to rent a bicycle isn’t that big a hurdle.

      2. What percent of the population doesn’t own shoes?

        What percent of the population doesn’t own helmets?

        Just because you make one assumption doesn’t make a different assumption reasonable.

    2. I’d also strike the helmet law. Copenhagen did an extensive analysis on helmets and city bike riding and they concluded that a helmet law would significantly reduce bike riding if mandated. Of course their bike culture is more chic than ours, so maybe helmet laws wouldn’t be as much of a deterrent here.

      1. According to recent research out of Macquarie University’s Actuarial Studies department, a mandatory helmet law would have a health cost impact of around $1.9 billion per year in the Netherlands — that is, it would *increase* public health costs by $1.9 billion.

        Abstract:
        A model is developed which permits the quantitative evaluation of the benefit of bicycle helmet laws. The efficacy of the law is evaluated in terms of the percentage drop in bicycling, the percentage increase in the cost of an accident when not wearing a helmet, and a quantity here called the bicycling beta. The approach balances the health benefits of increased safety against the health costs due to decreased cycling. Using estimates suggested in the literature of the health benefits of cycling, accident rates and reductions in cycling, suggest helmets laws are counterproductive in terms of net health. The model serves to focus the bicycle helmet law debate on overall health as function of key parameters: cycle use, accident rates, helmet protection rates, exercise and environmental benefits. Empirical estimates using US data suggests the strictly health impact of a US wide helmet law would cost around $5 billion per annum. In the UK and The Netherlands the net health costs are estimated to be $0.4 and $1.9 billion, respectively.

    3. I have one of those 14-speed hubs, and it’s been impressively low-maintenance (i.e. I’ve done a few thousand miles without having to _think_ about that component). They are significantly more expensive than the 8-speeds though, so may well be too expensive for this project.

      1. I’ve heard good things about the 14-speed hubs elsewhere as well, but not enough that I’ve taken the plunge. Maybe if my 8-speed ever gives up.

        Internal gearing + a good chain guard = very low maintenance. I have oiled my commuter’s chain once this year, that’s been my only drivetrain maintenance. It looks like the rental bikes have at least as much chain protection as my Milano.

  13. why do they use open racks as opposed to more of a bike locker system… yeah it would be kind of bulky looking but would eliminate vandalism, theft and protect them from the weather. I’m assuming most of these problems occur when the bike is sitting exposed and not in use at the rack.

    I dont see the point in making them free for under 30 minutes. Whats most attractive about bike sharing is the conveinence or being able to easily and quickly grab a bike when you want one get where youre going and then can ditch it at another rack and never have to see it again. So essentially this is a bike system for pedestrians as opposed to being for bicyclists.

    I do see the hilly topography of Seattle being a problem, but this system just needs to be concentrated to the areas where biking makes the most sense.

    I love the idea and look forward to trying it out one day.

    1. If I read the description correctly, it’s free for under 30 minutes for subscribers, who pay some other sort of subscription fee.

  14. Hills aren’t a problem. Au contraire. In Paris, people love riding Velib’ down Montmartre. You don’t find many going up though, so JCDecaux is always carting bikes up the hill!

  15. I don’t think the hills and the rain are impossible, but they are an Obstacle for new cyclists. Now that I’m used to it (have been riding for 10 years now) it’s no big deal, but to get in shape enough to climb the hills (and learn how to the cycle gears) and to figure out the clothing and accessories necessary for both rider and bicycle does involve a learning curve. It’s simply “easier” to get on the bus at first or simply drive. I’m thinking of those people who do not ride regularly, who have almost zero experience bicycle commuting or only ride on MUPs.

    I think I’d rather be in France too, but we don’t have funiculars to help with climbs (or the bike funders carting bikes up the hills for us – JCDecaux is a major sponsor, correct?) and rarely is the climb a major cycle destination in which one just rides up and down the hill. Paris is pretty flat – this hill is a joyride not necessarily part of one’s daily commute, no? Grades generally run from 9% to 17% here for commonly encountered hills. Bike rentals are a great idea, but I still think, even as a cyclist, this may be Seattle getting a head of itself (mixed feelings…)…

    1. I’ve found that walking up a hill pushing a bicycle isn’t all that time consuming nor difficult. Once you swallow your pride and realize that your knees aren’t what they used to be, just get off and walk… It’s really not that big a deal. And for trips around town it really doesn’t add that much time to the trip.

      What Seattle needs to do is fix the bike lanes. Put parked cars out in the street and put the bike lane between the cars and the curbs. It makes it way more safer, no more driver door prizes. You have the parked cars blocking the traffic.

      1. Putting bike lanes to the right of parked cars is extremely hazardous unless there’s a solid barrier preventing people from opening passenger-side doors into the bike lane.

        Motorists are at least used to looking for cars before opening driver’s-side doors into traffic. On the passenger side, people look for fixed obstacles like parking meters or power poles, but they don’t look for vehicle-speed traffic.

      2. If I’m going to have a bike lane I prefer one to the right of traffic but to the left of parked cars (hopefully with enough room to avoid “dooring”). That said my two favorite bike lanes on busy streets are the left-side ones on Ravenna and 2nd Ave downtown.

      3. I’ve seen those, and I’ll reiterate — they can be safer *if* there’s separation from the passenger side of cars. Where they’re essentially a parallel trail, not a lane of the street, segregated facilities can be a quite pleasant commute alternative as well as being safe. But I don’t see Seattle investing in that sort of infrastructure any time soon.

        If the implementation of the bicycle master plan to date is any indication, they would install bike lanes narrow enough to be entirely within the door zone of parked cars, with minimal signage, then not enforce parking regulations anyway so the lanes would be routinely blocked.

      4. Well last night I came within a hare’s breath of winning the door prize… Driver’s side. Passenger doors would be no more or less dangerous. I’d rather take the door prize than be hit in the rear by a car any day.

      5. You can decrease the risk of both by taking your place far enough into the lane. Riding too far to the right significantly increases your risk of being rear-ended as well as your risk of getting doored.

        I simply don’t ride in door zones. I try not to drive in them, either, but at least in a car getting doored causes property damage, not bodily injury, and if the person opening their door isn’t insured, it’s covered by my UM insurance.

      6. It was narrow two way street, parked cars on both sides, on coming, but slow moving car… fortunately for me the driver’s timing was off and I had time to slow down and avoid him. But he never even looked up…

        I’ve been commuting for over 35 years. I know where it’s safe. I’m just saying your argument about drivers looking before they open their door doesn’t jive with my experience. And that most of the cars I encounter are SOV’s, no passenger to have a door to open and thwack me.

        On car spacing, sure, make the bike lane far enough to the right to give the cars room to open doors etc. Lots of the photos in the video showed a planted median. Which I also like because it keeps the cars from parking in the bike lane as well.

      7. “Motorists are at least used to looking for cars before opening driver’s-side doors into traffic.”

        HA! That, sir, is funny.

  16. Everyone here has some great points and pretty much everything I am about to say has been addressed but a few more things I wanted to add:

    1) The helmet laws will have to go. I’m sorry but the truth is that no one wants to carry a helmet around all day just because they may or may not ride a bike for 10 minutes. Its just not going to fly. What you need is to get rid of the helmet laws and essentially create pedestrian zones throughout the neighborhood. Not places where cars cant go but where they are NOT the main mode of transit. I think Terry Street in SLU will be a good example of this kind of thing.

    2) Placement will be key. I see a huge opportunity in the Rainer Valley and up on Beacon Hill to widen the rail station areas. For example, you want to get to Jefferson Park from the Light Rail station, hop on a bike. You want to get down to Rainer Beach High School or Seward Park, hope on a bike from the station.

    Also I see the function as mainly neighborhood oriented. Thus, you wouldn’t use it so much from downtown to the U-District (you will have great rail for that!) but instead you might use it to go from the top of the Ave to the Bottom, or from U-Village to the medical center, etc. For a place like Ballard (Ballard Blocks to Ballard Ave, Market to 65th) or Capitol Hill (Broadway to 12th, Boston to Pike/Pine) , these would be incredibly useful. It would allow our bus sytem to concentrate on getting people between neighborhoods not served by rail and then let the bike system handle internal neighborhood stuff. Again though, pedestrian/cycle zones within the neighborhoods would be crucial.

    As far as hills, my guess is that WAY more people will go down then up. So just making sure the bikes get back to the tops of these hills is critical. But this in itself could be a great tourist attraction. For example, a nice marked bike route that zig zags down Queen Anne would be amazing. Similarly, there is a really scenic route from Jackson down the Mt. Baker Ridge to the Mt. Baker or Columbia City Light Rail Stations.

    3) The most important factor in making this effective is giving it %110 (I know stupid statement but true). We can’t just put a few here and there and trial and error people using them. We need to spend serious money to get a lot of neighborhood involvement, bicycle club input, and simply marketing. I mean something like the Light Rail in terms of getting the word out and making sure people know where these things are and how they are best used. We also need to put some serious money into creating safe, easily navigable cycling zones that a mother would feel comfortable letting her 12 yr. old daughter use…without a helmet. Thats going to take not just money but a lot of political will also. But if we put some real transportation resources into this and create a full on cycling campaign this would be one of the best things for the city since, well, light rail :)

    1. Helmet laws get stupid people to do the thing that costs the rest of society a lot of time and money. Who pays for all that therapy from a head injury? Who pays for the medi-evac flight to Harborview? It’s rarely the person’s health insurance.

      I don’t buy that carrying around a helmet is that onerous a requirement. Mine weighs less than a pound has nice straps for clipping to my messenger bag which makes bike travel easy. You might hate helmet laws but catering to a few tourists who don’t own them to provide cycles isn’t going to get that repealed. Cost $25. again not a big deal.

      We don’t rent swimsuits to swim at beaches…you bring one. We don’t rent shoes to walk on sidewalks,…you bring your own. If people knew that they could count on a bicycle being available they’d bring a helmet.

      BTW, have you signed your organ donor card?

      1. I don’t think shoes are actually legally mandated, though I could be wrong. And I’m guessing Seattle has a super high shoe ownership rate.

        And I’d darn well not be paying any tax money for medevac flights to Harborview from points within Seattle’s city limits! Do such flights actually ever happen?

        I signed up as an organ donor hen I got my drivers license, but is there a different card to sign? If there is, I haven’t signed it or seen it — does that mean a lot of people who think they’re donors need to take a little-known additional step?

      2. Actually, a lot of people who think they’re organ donors should take one additional step: TELL YOUR FAMILY. The drivers license declaration should be sufficient, but if you’re brain dead the hospital might not know about it.

      3. You need one more thing, a “Durable power of Attorney” and a declaration in it to allow them to turn off life support. Without it any family member can hold it up.

      4. I second that. Besides, you put these racks near businesses, I guarantee you they will opportunistically start selling helmets.

      5. Gary your arguments are not consistent with reality. Please keep in mind that helmets are not preventative. That means that there is absolutely no evidence that they reduce accidents (some studies suggest they even increase them) and even no evidence that they reduce serious injury in accidents(ie. incidents that would require emergency staff). That is because bicycle helmets, unlike motorcycle helmets which cost much more, are not designed for high impact collisions. This means that when a car and a cyclists collide the helmet will fail catastrophically, and all of the impact will be adsorbed by the skull. What helmets are designed for are minor accidents which could result in concussions and cranium stitches. They are not designed to save your life .

        Study after study show that requiring helmets reduces your cycling population. It may not seem like a big deal to you personally but I can guarantee that without repealing this law we will be significantly reducing the number of people who would use this system. Comparing a helmet to shoes or a swimsuit is silly. The fact is, a helmet is not your wallet and it does create a barrier to cycling.

        But again, to get rid of the helmet law we would also need to invest heavily in cycling infrastructure and education and I think the only people with the political will to do this would be McGinn and OBrien.

      6. Ask anyone who’s raced bikes (road, track or mtn) and see how many first hand accounts they can give you of helmets that have saved a life or prevent serious injury. The helmets are designed to fail catastrophically to absorb impact at low speed. It’s like an open wheel race car flying into little bits when it crashes.

        http://www.bhsi.org/stats.htm

      7. “Data” is not the plural of “anecdote.”

        The British Medical Association in the 1992 Oxford University Press book Cycling Towards Health and Safety calculates the benefit to risk ratio of cycling to be 20:1. They recommend radical changes in transportation policy to make both health and environmental benefits of cycling into realities.

        (Note that in 1992, helmet use in the U.K. was rare among any but the most safety-conscious avid cyclists.)

        Assessing effects over a longer span of time, a frequently cited Copenhagen study of over 30,000 people ranging in age from 20 to 93 took place over 14.5 years and found that bike commuting an average of 3 hours per week decreased risk of mortality by about 40% over the control group that did not bike (Andersen, 2000).

      8. It’s not just that you need a helmet to help prevent your death from being hit by a car, it will save you from a regular fall.

        I had a co-worker whose brother was riding to work. He hit a storm grate, it grabbed his front wheel and he did a header onto the curb. DOA. A helmet would have saved his life.

        My neighbor’s kid, not paying attention, rode right into a parked car. Helmet cracked, he walked away. Not even a trip to the ER.

        Bicycle helmets are a one time use item. The foam is designed to crush when you hit. The plastic bits are to hold the foam in place.

        Besides, its a (m * v^2)/2 problem. You only have to slow down a little to have the impact forces be reasonable for a bicycle helmet to save you.

        You can forget the helmet law repeals in WA. Motorcyclists who are way more organized than Bicyclists have tried for years and it doesn’t work. You have physics working against you.

        And I never claimed that a helmet would reduce accidents. I claim that it reduces head injuries. And for $25 it’s well worth it.

        The barriers to cycling is the interaction with cars. More people are scared of being hit. That’s why moving the bicycle lane to between the parked cars and the sidewalk is the way to go.

      9. The barriers to cycling is the interaction with cars. More people are scared of being hit. That’s why moving the bicycle lane to between the parked cars and the sidewalk is the way to go.

        Only if it is out of the range of the passenger side car doors would I support this. Also if there is no barrier or curb morons will just park in the bike lane.
        Actually I think the best thing is a very wide bike lane anywhere from 1/2 an auto lane width to a full lane. See the bike lanes on Ravenna, nice and wide so you can stay well away from the cars.

      10. There is no state law requiring bicycle helmet use, only local laws. In my opinion helmet use should be a personal choice, just like the thousands of other personal choices we make in regards to our personal safety and health.

        You are just as likely to sustain a head injury as a pedestrian, and more likely to sustain a head injury as a motorist, should we mandate crash helmet use for them too? There are far better ways to make cycling safer and actually prevent injuries than making people ride around with a little piece of foam on their head. It’s just that the government would rather not do this because it puts the onus on them to build and maintain safe infrastructure, mandating helmet use is the cheap way out.

      11. But you compared it to the motorcycle helmet law, which is a state law. It would be much simpler to get the bicycle helmet law repealed in Seattle.

      12. Repeal helmet law… go for it.

        I bet it loses big time. There aren’t that many libertarians in Seattle who vote. Besides if you bothered to take a look at the list of cities/counties which have the law in WA, only one has repealed it. I’d be interested if you have any statistics on the increased number of riders in Snohomish once they repealed their law.

      13. It doesn’t require a vote, it’s a city ordinance and part of the health code, the city council could change it tomorrow if they wanted to.

      14. The law wouldn’t force you to NOT wear a helmet…simply making it optional. No helmet law = more cyclists on the road = drivers notice more cyclists so they drive safer = less accidents per capita? Helmet law = fewer cyclists = no change in car driving culture = same amount of accidents?

        Also, as a driver (and probably a bad one for admitting this)…but if I saw a helmetless cyclist on the road, I’d be sure to drive extra EXTRA cautiously when around them. Vs a hardcore cyclist with their helmet and shades on, racing around me, I probably wouldn’t be AS cautious…

      15. Bicyclist safety does not equal “bicycle related head injury”. There is so much more to bicyclist safety than just that and studies like this do not account of changes in rider behavior and risk aversion.

      16. Helmets reduce head injuries, there’s no doubt of that.

        The question is, are head injuries from cycling a significant risk, and is the reduction in head injuries from helmet use sufficient to outweigh the increased risks that come with mandated helmet use.

        According to articles in the Journal of the British Medical Association, the answer is unequivocally no — the excess mortality from all cycling accidents, including the minority of accidents in which a helmet could save a life, is dwarfed by the health benefits of regular cycling.

        Does that mean riders should not wear helmets? Of course not — helmets do reduce injuries.

        But it does mean that mandatory helmet laws are inimical to public health.

        Those who refuse to see a difference between “helmets are beneficial” and “helmets should be mandatory” simply refuse to treat the costs of the mandate as seriously as its benefits.

      17. By that measure we should ban the use of high fructose corn syrup in foods. The obesity as a result of it is surely killing people.

        On helmets it’s pretty clear I’m not going to change your mind on the mandatory use vs optional use. I used to be more of a libertarian about it, but since then I’ve fallen and seen the benefits of wearing a helmet…(with one on.)

        And as a fiscal conservative, I’ve seen the cost of therapy for head injuries and the ease of preventing them and the rise of helmet wearing with a mere $25 fine (It’s a health violation) for not wearing one.

        This argument reminds me of the WW1 use of helmets, where after issuing them the number of head injuries went up, and the number of deaths went down because fatal injuries became non fatal by wearing a helmet.

        As a parent it was incredibly easy to get my kids to always wear one with the general statement of “It’s the law…wear it.” That made it universal compliance in the neighborhood, so there was no peer pressure to ignore a family rule.

        The Tour-de-France used to make it optional. Riders complained that falling was rare, and as being experts they knew best when to wear one. They were hot, unnecessary on the long climbs. Then a rider died on a descent where having worn a helmet he would have lived. Now it’s no longer an issue.

      18. Fine, so as a fiscal conservative, you’d be OK with a $5 billion net *increase* in health care costs if we imposed a national helmet mandate?

        Just because doing something is good for you doesn’t mean that mandating it is also good for you.

        You’ve paid attention to the cost of head injuries, they’re rare but expensive and attention-getting events. But have you paid as much attention to the cost of helmet mandates? Obesity isn’t rare, a sedentary lifestyle is a very slow, non-dramatic killer, but the costs are much higher. They’re just spread out and harder to see.

      19. The point is not that it’s terribly difficult to buy and carry a helmet. It’s that these schemes work best when they are made as easy and convenient as possible.

      20. “Helmet laws get stupid people to do the thing that costs the rest of society a lot of time and money.”

        I think you inadvertently got it right — helmet laws get stupid people to do something expensive for the rest of society, which is avoid cycling and drive instead.

        Who pays for all the diseases of our sedentary lifestyle? Those costs massively outweigh the cost of relatively rare head injuries from cycling.

        If helmet laws could be enforced without creating a significant deterrent to casual cycling, that would be a different story. But that’s not what has happened in any jurisdiction on earth that has adopted mandatory helmet laws for adult cyclists — MHLs discourage cycling and encourage behaviors that increase public health expenditures.

        Those of us who ride already can carry an extra helmet in case of a spur-of-the-moment bike ride. But for those who don’t otherwise ride, it’s only slightly more reasonable than asking that they carry an ice axe in case of a spur-of-the-moment glacier climb.

        The head injury exposure is minor, the health benefits greatly outweigh the head injury risk, and data from around the world show time and again that mandatory helmet laws reduce cycling.

      21. It’s not just that the chance of injury is minimal, it’s that when it comes, it’s severe. You don’t appreciate the risk you advocate my friend.

      22. The risk I advocate is cycling with a helmet. The risk I would be willing to tolerate is cycling without a helmet. I understand the risk. I also understand that it is a smaller risk than discouraging cycling.

        Death is a very severe injury. Cycling, even helmetless, reduces mortality vs. not cycling.

  17. I referenced this link in a different comment but near the end of the article they have this little tidbit:

    Beijing will establish approximately 1,000 bicycle-rental stations, with a total of 50,000 bicycles available for rent. Walk-only and bicycle-only street lanes will be opened across the metro area.

    For Seattle to do this on the same scale adjusted for population it would be around 1,400 bikes at about 30 stations. One advantage Beijing has is the older population still remembers when bikes were the predominant form of transportation in the city.

  18. Getting back to the BIKES. Yesterday I went to the little “expo” and rode all three, the BIXI, BCycle and the Bikeshare Group bike. The BCycle was my favorite hands down for comfort, style and handling, but I think the BIXI may have a wider, broader audience built in. BIXI has many locations already and you can use the rental key at any other BIXI location, anywhere, which is very cool. But the bikes were heavy. I didn’t feel that any of the bikes there would be comfortable climbing the larger hills nor would I want to ride them on a busy street (speed and handling) but they felt good on the level and on a sidewalk ride. The bike lockers for the Bike Share Group were excellent. The BIXI and the BCycle had a three gear system and the BCycle had disc brakes. The Bikeshare Group bike is locally made but it was in a testing stage rather than having a final bike model. Most people there were already cyclists though there were a few pedestrians too.

    1. I’m guessing these bike sharing companies are on national tour because they are doing an expo in Portland on Friday in Waterfront Park and also on Sunday at Sunday Parkways.

  19. I just walked over to the RTC Expo after reading about this. Looked at BIXI, and the first question I asked the rep was “I notice there’s no locks. If I rent a bike, step into a market to buy a soda and come back and the bike is gone, what happens?” “You’re liable.” *blink* There was no followup answer. It took me talking to a rep from another group to determine that the intent here is point to point rides between their docking stations, which results in a chicken and egg problem: I’m not going to use one if there’s no station at my destination, and without usage, how can they fund installing stations?

    Then I walked over to BCycle, who do have locks integrated into their bikes. I mentioned that to the BCycle rep, and the guys immediately said “yeah, so if you want to get a soda at the market, you can just lock it up outside.” Plus, BCycle has large integrated baskets, so I could actually carry stuff.

    I’d use these downtown, if they were available and I didn’t already have my own bike. But if I had to choose between the two, I think it’s obvious which company I’d prefer.

    1. If they’re advertising funded, they might not need any usage to fund installation.

      With no usage, they’d have no bike-shuttling expense and relatively little bike-maintenance expense. The bikes themselves aren’t very expensive, and they could start with a smaller number of bikes at launch, adding them as demand warrants.

      All they would need is advertising rights guaranteed to last long enough to cover launch costs. If no usage develops, the stations just sit there as billboards until the ads cover costs, then the test system could be removed.

      My guess is, if the system sat there for even a couple of years for ad revenue, some regular usage would develop.

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