Still No Deaths on Citi Bike, 2.5 Years In

Bike sharing's extraordinary safety streak shows how well the project has fit the city

With AFP Story by Brigitte DUSSEAU: US-Transport-Bicycle-Share-CitiBike A couple get their Citi Bike bicycles from a station near Union Square as the bike sharing system is launched May 27, 2013 in New York. About 330 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn will have thousands of bicycles for rent. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA
Citi Bike in May 2013, the first month of the program. (Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images) Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Citi Bike opened to riders in May 2013. Since then, there still hasn’t been a single death on one of the blue behemoths, a spokesperson for the company confirmed for the Observer Monday.

Perhaps counterintuitively, all those baffled tourists futzing around Manhattan with CitiBank’s branding between their legs may be making the area safer for all cyclists. It’s well established that more cyclists on the road decreases the chances of serious bike accidents, as the journal Injury Prevention first reported in 2004. Peter Jacobsen, the paper’s author, wrote in its abstract, “Policies that increase the numbers of people walking and bicycling appear to be an effective route to improving the safety of people walking and bicycling.”

And Citi Bike has put a whole new group of people riding around the city’s core, and that core appears to have become safer to ride in. Only one of the 20 cyclist fatalities here last year occurred inside the Citi Bike zone, as Gothamist reported.

That correlation could just be chance. It is just one year, and it wouldn’t even be worth reporting, except for the fact that the result squares with what bike advocates have already known: there’s safety in numbers. And where Citi Bike operates, the supply of cyclists is naturally higher.

New York City has proven to be a case in point. Cycling has been on a dramatic upward increase for fifteen years. The Department of Transportation’s intermittent counts of cyclists have estimated that bike riding has quadrupled since 2000. Meanwhile, the odds that any given rider will have a serious injury have gone down proportionately. The DOT analysis shows a rider has a quarter of the chance of getting hurt badly here as he or she did in 2000 (in other words: the raw number of accidents has stayed basically the same while the total ridership went way up).

Bike sharers, collectively, appear to be doing their part to contribute to the positive trend. Citi Bike is going to do more, too. Ridership during the peak season was up for the system by 21% over 2014, according to a release. Additionally, the system will double in size by 2017.

Bike share kiosks have moved farther north into Manhattan, despite the fact that many of the residents there had organized in opposition.

Citi Bike declined to comment further for this story.

SEE ALSO: Fearmongering cyclists to sell light up backpacks.

Shortly after Citi Bike opened for business, the New York Post wrote an editorial saying it was heading for a fall. Financially, it was close. The project had extraordinarily bad luck in its first year or so. Further, the city’s comptroller found that Citi Bike didn’t keep up with maintaining the system in accordance with its contract, during an audit conducted over a few days in May 2014.

Even still, from a safety perspective, Citi Bike’s results have been nothing short of extraordinary. Even the biggest bike boosters would have been crazy to predict the safety record would stay this good this long.

In fact, it’s been going unbelievably well across the country.

Still, it would be irrational to think that the day that someone dies on a bike share bike won’t come. When it does, it won’t prove that anything has gone wrong. It will only bring a sad end to an incredible streak that shows how well the program has fit Gotham from the start.

Still No Deaths on Citi Bike, 2.5 Years In