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Biking can be deadly, but not for bike share riders

Riding a bicycle on city streets can be a deadly endeavor. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2012, more than 720 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles. Another 49,000 riders were injured.

NHTSA says that nearly 70 percent of those biking deaths happened in urban situations. In New York in 2012, 18 people were killed. The city's Department of Transportation says 12 died last year and that many again have died so far this year.

Officials say there is plenty of reason to point the finger at both riders and drivers. But it has to be acknowledged that too often drivers are found to have been reckless, negligent, or guilty of failing to share the road. When that happens, they should expect to be held accountable and to provide just compensation.

Despite the official numbers, there is some positive news on the biking front. According to officials of the bike sharing organization Citi Bike, not a single one of its users has been killed in the 14 months it's been operating in New York City. In fact, anywhere such bike programs exist, experts say there have been no related deaths.

It's estimated that some 23 million rides have been taken in all the years bike share programs have been around. The first one started in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2007. They are now in 36 cities and are expanding.

Citi Bike officials claim that just under half of all recorded rides have occurred in New York City since the operation started in May 2013. Despite predictions of mayhem from many critics, there have been no deaths and only 40 people have suffered injuries requiring medical attention.

Experts say there is a reason for the amazing data. They say it's because the shared bikes are built like tanks. They have low centers of gravity, the tires are wide, brake systems are enclosed to keep them dry, and the gearing is such that riders can't get going too fast.

Unfortunately, Citi Bike's financial statistics aren't as positive as its safety record. Talks are said to be underway to sell out to another operator and plans reportedly call for raising membership dues from $95 a year to at least $140.

Source: Reuters, "After 23 million rides, no deaths in U.S. bike share programs," Barbara Goldberg, Aug. 12, 2014

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