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Will Citi Bike program lead to more accidents in NYC?

Bicycling is believed by many to be one of the healthiest and most efficient ways of getting around New York City. For that reason, the city launched a bike sharing program this summer that allows residents and visitors to borrow bikes at numerous locations and take them out for 45-minute rides.

However, there is no doubt that New York City can also be a dangerous place to ride a bike. With speeding cabs, trucks making risky maneuvers and congested sidewalks, bicycle accidents are common in the city. This is true even with the city's new 300-some miles of bike lanes that have been laid down.

Even though the bike lanes -- marked in green -- are for bikes only, they are often crowded with vehicles, pedestrians and other obstacles, forcing bicyclists to swerve into the dangerous roads. In fact, a study from 2009 determined that bike lanes in New York are blocked by more often than they are clear during an average 10-minute span.

Additionally, bicycle accidents are often a result of negligent drivers not paying attention to cyclists, even though they have every right to be one the roads.

That's why many were surprised to learn that the new bike sharing program, called Citi Bike, does not require bike riders to wear helmets. According to a public policy professor at Rutgers University, the number of fatal bicycle accidents could double or triple in the first year of Citi Bike's operation just for that reason.

But city officials say that implementing a helmet requirement would be too difficult to enforce. They also point to other bike sharing programs throughout the country and world that do not require users to wear helmets.

Even so, it is obvious that helmets save lives in bike accidents. Data from 1996 to 2005 shows that 97 percent of riders killed in bicycle accidents during that time in New York City were not wearing helmets.

Whether a bicyclist is wearing a helmet or not, all drivers on the road have a duty to exercise due caution. When fatal accidents occur, negligent drivers can often be held liable in personal injury lawsuits for the injuries they caused.

Source: The Province, "No helmets required for bike-share in busy NYC; experts anticipate rise in injuries, deaths," Bethan McKernan, July 1, 2013

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