Can Seasoned City Cyclists Learn a Thing or Two from Indego Riders? 

Photo via Indego

Photo via Indego

Last summer, after witnessing one too many oh-so-baffling moves made by riders of Indego — Philly’s bikeshare program that, at that point, had just recently launched — I wrote a piece titled, “Dear Indego Riders, Please Don’t Give Philly Cyclists a Bad Rap.” 

And I know: After reading that title, you might think I hate Indego. But I don’t — I think it’s an awesome resource. I’d just seen way too many Indego riders acting like fools on city streets, and I wasn’t the only one who’d witnessed riders do things that would make a person shake her head. As I wrote then:

I was hesitant to write this piece, mostly because I thought maybe it was just me. Maybe I’d just happened to see a lot of Indego riders riding recklessly: a couple using both lanes to ride against traffic up 18th Street (why?), a rider nearly causing a crash while crossing traffic without thinking to look around first, people riding on busy sidewalks, and the stories go on. But when I mentioned that I thought I’d seen a lot of Indego riders doing things so wrong during a morning meeting at the office, there were plenty of nods and more stories to tell.

Indego has been around for nearly a year now, and I personally have witnessed way glaring mistakes made by riders on a way less frequent basis since I wrote that piece back in June. But still, the findings of new research, published in the report, “Bikesharing and Bicycle Safety” and reported on by our friends over at Citified, surprised me quite a bit.

As Citified reports: “Overall, the researchers wrote in their report, ‘bikesharing safety is at levels similar to or better than bicycling safety of the general population.” So, simply put, bikeshare riders tend to be safer riders than bike owners.

Something about that sentence just makes you tilt your head a little bit, doesn’t it?

That conclusion stems from findings that bikeshare riders sustain fewer injuries than bike owners, which researchers attribute to a number of factors. (You can hop on over here to see Citified’s full post on the study.) But the one that stuck with me most was the researchers’ suggestion that bikeshare riders simply engage in less risky behavior than bike owners. The researchers even chalk some some of that cautious behavior up to the fact that many bikeshare riders are less experienced than bike owners when it comes to riding. Now, that might sound a bit backwards, but it makes sense when you think about it: You probably wouldn’t have the confidence to weave through traffic, a risky (but common) move for experienced bikers, if the last time you’d strapped on a helmet was 10 years ago.

The argument that Indego riders are more cautious doesn’t necessarily line up with what I’ve witnessed, but it does line up with the data: As I mentioned earlier, bikeshare riders have lower rates of injury and, since bikeshare networks launched in the States, no bikeshare riders in the U.S. have died.

So my question is this: Could us bike owners take a lesson from Indego riders when it comes to safety? Could we stand to have a bit more of that newbie caution?

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