Atlanta is set to soon launch its very first bike share program following cities across the country, including New York City, that already have their own bike share programs in place. These are exciting times for bicyclists, and there is a lot of support for the bike sharing program because it will help reduce some of the congestion on Atlanta’s notoriously busy streets. However, Atlanta should take the results of a new study seriously, which finds that cities that have implemented bike share programs are actually seeing an increase in the number of head injuries.
In May of 2014, the Atlanta City Council announced that it had approved a resolution for the establishment of the bicycle share program. The vendor has already presented the proposal to launch the city’s first bike share program, and once the program is fully underway, Atlanta residents will be able to rent bicycles 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
However, the study found that the proportion of head injuries that was relative to all bicycle accident-related injuries actually spiked significantly in cities that have implemented similar programs. The occurrence of head injuries in those cities actually increased by 14%, while there was no corresponding head injury rate increase in cities that had no bike share program in place.Researchers say that the findings confirm their worst fears; cities are implementing these programs without giving proper consideration to the role of helmets in preventing injuries. It has to be noted here that the study focused on head injuries, and not brain injuries. Every head injury does not automatically lead to a brain injury, which is much more serious.
It appears that in many of these cases, cities have been happy to move forward with implementing the infrastructure and making bicycle rentals available to all users as conveniently as possible without taking into account that many of these bicyclists may be new to biking, and may not realize the importance of wearing a helmet while riding. Researchers are also unwilling to draw a very clear association between failure by bike share programs to mandate helmets for all renters, and head injury rates. However, the findings of the study definitely do point to a higher risk of head injuries in cities with these programs.
Whether you are using a rental bicycle from Atlanta’s bike share program, or riding your own bicycle, wearing a helmet is an absolute must. It is undisputed that a bicycle helmet may be the only thing standing between you and catastrophic injuries or death in the event of a collision with a motor vehicle or stationary object.