Is Riding A Citi Bike In NYC Safer Than Riding A Personal Bicycle?

Citi Bike

Citi Bikes. Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2023

The question of Is Riding A Citi Bike In NYC  Safer Than Riding A Personal Bicycle can really only be answered by looking at statistics. Since the pandemic, New York City has begun to resemble the city of Amsterdam in The Netherlands in the number of bikes on the road. Food delivery drivers have turned to bikes to deliver as many meals as they can per hour by using bicycles all day and night long. Pedestrians now have to be extra careful when crossing the street so they are not hit by a bicyclist usually ignoring traffic lights. All these new bike riders along with the city bike riding programs have changed the feel of the city dramatically. Has it made it more dangerous for biker riders? Does it matter what type of bike one rides in New York City? 

On June 5th, 2016, a 36 year old male was killed while riding a Citi Bike in Manhattan. However, according to Citicorp, the June fatality was the first one in the bike riding program that has seen over 43 million trips taken throughout the program’s four year existence. For anyone who makes a living driving in New York City, or just simply drives in the city on a consistent basis, it may seem surprising that only one person has been killed riding a Citi Bike in the past four years.

There are usually between fifteen and twenty cyclists killed a year in New York City. So that begs the question are Citi Bikes safer than a cyclist’s personal bike, or is it just a question of the number of riders per Citi Bike versus the number of riders utilizing their own bikes? Do people who ride Citi Bikes ride more carefully in fear of damaging the bike and having to lose that hefty credit card hold payment that is put on their cards when they rent a Citi Bike? Or perhaps, the bright blue colors of the Citi Bike are more noticeable to motorists.

Many of the thousands of cyclists who ride their personal bikes in New York City are utilizing them for work. A good majority of cyclists are messengers and delivery people. Are people who are speeding to deliver a lunch more careless than a cyclist out for a leisure ride? On the other hand, one could argue that a delivery person who rides a bike every day has far more experience than leisure riders, therefore, making them less prone to accidents.

In the end, it always comes down to statistics. New York City DOT Records show that in the year 2015, 14 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles, while there were zero fatalities for cyclists in accidents that did not involve a motor vehicle. There were also 4,433 injuries to bicyclists that involved an accident with a motor vehicle.  In accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists, there were zero fatalities for both cyclists and pedestrians. As far as injuries go, the pedestrians took the brunt of it as the DOT recorded 361 pedestrian injuries as opposed to just 22 bicyclists injuries in pedestrian and bicyclists accidents.

One might assume that the highest fatality rate would have occurred in Manhattan. However, it was the borough of Queens that recorded the highest cyclist fatality rates. Brooklyn came in second, Manhattan and the Bronx were tied for third while Staten Island proved to be the safest ground for cyclists recording only one fatality for the year 2015.

So what causes fatalities involving Motor Vehicles and cyclists, and have Citi Bikes really been proven to be the safest ride in the city?  Every cyclist fatality must be looked at on an individual basis to really determine the answer to that question. Nonetheless, the statistic that shows there has only been one Citi Bike fatality in 43 million trips is quite astonishing. Our guess is that people are indeed more careful on Cit Bikes and are in less of a rush.

Citi Bikes were not made for speed, therefore those who are riding the Cit Bikes are doing so at much slower paces enabling them to handle emergency situations more carefully. The tires are also wider which can prevent getting stuck in cracks or potholes. Just the strength and durability of the Citi Bikes prevent accidents from happening due to brake failure or any other mechanical failure as opposed to a cheaply made bicycle.

The bright blue colors of the bikes and Citi Bike label may also play a role in being seen easier by motor vehicles. One could argue that the sheer fact of having the name of one of the largest banks in the nation in bright letters on the bike may serve as a deterrent to someone cutting off a cyclist. There is also the fact that riders utilize the bike lanes more that connect many of the Citi Bike stations.

There have been studies done over the last decade comparing bicycle motor vehicle accidents between bike shares like Citi Bike and personal bikes. The  Mineta Transportation Institute which was created by Congress in 1991 delivered a 67-page report arguing that cities that provide bike share programs like New York City’s Citi Bike have shown dramatic drops in bicycle fatalities.

The study utilized cities like Washington D.C.  San Francisco, California, and Minneapolis Minnesota. The 67 page report concluded with a very simple analysis stating “Bike sharing appears to be operating at a reduced injury/fatality rates as compared with personal cycling.” 1

While riding a Citi Bike may be safer than one’s personal bike, cyclists still need to be aware of their surroundings. In these modern times of cell phones, motorists are so often caught looking at their phones instead of the road that the risk of being hit by a car had probably tripled alone just because of these cell phone issues. It’s pretty dangerous out there on the road. Stay alert, no matter what type of bike you are riding.

Citi Bike

Citi Bike Parking Station. Photo: Brian Kachejian ©2023

  1. http://transweb.sjsu.edu/PDFs/research/1204-bikesharing-and-bicycle-safety.pdf

Is Riding A Citi Bike In NYC Safer Than Riding A Personal Bicycle? article published on ClassicNewYorkHistory.com ©2023

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