The growth of bikesharing in the United States has had a transformative impact on urban transportation. Major cities have established large bikesharing systems, including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, New York City, Salt Lake City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Washington DC, and others. These systems began operating as early as 2010, and no fatalities have occurred within the US as of this writing. However, three have happened in North America—two in Canada and one in Mexico. Bikesharing has some qualities that appear inherently unsafe for bicyclists. Most prominently, helmet usage is documented to be quite low in most regions. Bikesharing is also used by irregular bicyclists who are less familiar with the local terrain. In this study, researchers take a closer look at bikesharing safety from qualitative and quantitative perspectives. Through a series of four focus groups, they discussed bikesharing usage and safety with bikesharing members and nonmembers in the Bay Area. They further engaged experts nationwide from a variety of fields to evaluate their opinions and perspectives on bikesharing and safety. Finally, researchers conducted an analysis of bicycle and bikesharing activity data, as well as bicycle and bikesharing collisions to evaluate injury rates associated with bikesharing when compared with benchmarks of personal bicycling. The data analysis found that collision and injury rates for bikesharing are lower than previously computed rates for personal bicycling. Experts and focus group participants independently pointed to bikesharing rider behavior and bikesharing bicycle design as possible factors. In particular, bikesharing bicycles are generally designed in ways that promote stability and limited speeds, which mitigate the conditions that contribute to collisions. Data analysis also explored whether there was evidence of a “safety in numbers benefit” that resulted from bikesharing activity. However, no significant impact from bikesharing activity on broader bicycle collisions could be found within the regions in which they operate. Discussion and recommendations are presented in the conclusion.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
ELLIOT MARTIN, PH.D.
Elliot Martin conducts research in shared-use mobility, public and freight transportation, transportation energy, and life-cycle assessment. He has conducted advanced research that measures the impact of shared mobility systems on greenhouse gas emissions, modal shift, and household vehicle holdings. He has led a major research-deployment project on truck parking availability within California, analyzed data from urban parking systems, and supported research in advanced- and alternative-fuel vehicles. He specializes in research instrument design and applies statistical approaches to the analysis of freight movement, sensor performance, vehicle activity data, and travel behavior surveys. Elliot earned a PhD In transportation engineering following a dual Masters in transportation and city planning, all at UC Berkeley. He completed his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins University. He previously was an assistant economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
Adam Cohen is a research associate at the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Since joining the group in 2004, he has focused his research on worldwide carsharing and public bikesharing. He has co-authored numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings. In 2008, he completed a dual Masters degree in city and regional planning and international affairs from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a dual Bachelor’s degree in urban studies and legal studies.
JAN BOTHA, PH.D.
Jan Botha is a professor at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at San Jose State University. Dr. Botha has nine years’ experience in transportation engineering practice and has been a faculty member at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, and at SJSU for 24 years. Dr. Botha received a PhD and MS in transportation engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, and a BSc (Honors) in civil engineering from the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
SUSAN SHAHEEN, PH.D.
Susan Shaheen is an adjunct professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) Department at the University of California (UC), Berkeley and is a research engineer with the Institute of Transportation Studies-Berkeley. She teaches a graduate-level course in CEE on transportation sustainability. In October 2007, Susan became a research director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TSRC) and was later named TSRC co-director in Fall 2008. She served as the Policy & Behavioral Research Program leader at California Partners for Advanced Transit and Highways from 2003 to 2007, and as a special assistant to the Director’s Office of the California Department of Transportation from 2001 to 2004. She was honored as the first Honda Distinguished Scholar in Transportation at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis in 2000 and served as the endowed chair until 2012.
She has served as the principal investigator on approximately 60 projects at UC Berkeley on travel behavior, shared mobility, intelligent transportation systems, and alternative fuels. Her research projects on carsharing, smart parking, and older mobility have received national awards. She has co-edited one book and authored 55 journal articles, over 100 reports and proceedings articles, and four book chapters. She has also served as guest editor for Energies and the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation (IJST). She has served on the ITS World Congress program committee since 2002 and was the chair of the Emerging and Innovative Public Transport and Technologies Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) from 2004 to 2011. She is on the editorial board of IJST (2011 to present), was a member of the National Academies’ Transit Research Analysis Committee (2011 to 2013), and named to the ITS Program Advisory Committee of US DOT advising the Secretary of Transportation in 2014.
She holds a PhD in ecology, focusing on technology management and the environmental aspects of transportation, from the University of California, Davis (1999) and an MS in public policy analysis from the University of Rochester (1990). She completed her post-doctoral studies on advanced public transportation systems at UC Berkeley in July 2001.