Twenty cyclists have been killed in New York City so far this year, double the number of deaths from 2018. In response, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled in July a plan to spend roughly $58 million over the next five years to make streets safer for cyclists by adding protected bike lanes and redesigning intersections. This week the mayor said his office is looking into some new ideas: requiring Citi Bike riders to wear helmets and making bikers obtain licenses (h/t Gothamist).
A reporter on Wednesday asked de Blasio about the idea of requiring helmets for users of Citi Bike, which first launched in 2013 and has seen about 85 million rides since.
“I have thought about that. And that’s something we are talking about inside the administration,” the mayor said. “There are different viewpoints on what would work and how much impact it would have. But I think it’s a real valid issue so it’s something we are studying right now.”
According to Gothamist, since Citi Bike’s launch six years ago, the system has seen just two fatalities, both caused by vehicles. Julie Wood, a spokesperson for Citi Bike, told Gothamist that the company has a “remarkable safety record.”
“There is extensive evidence that what keeps cyclists safe are protected bike lanes, enforcement against dangerous driver behavior, and more people riding bikes–not mandatory helmet laws,” Wood said.
Research suggests mandatory helmet laws discourage adults from biking, making city streets less safe overall. As CityLab reported in 2017, cities that require users of a bike-share program to wear helmets are not making the streets safer, but make people avoid cycling at all. The article points to cities in Australia where it is illegal to ride a bike without a helmet. Three bike-sharing companies pulled out of Australia last year after low ridership.
Another reporter on Wednesday asked the mayor if he thought about requiring bikers to obtain licenses to ride in New York City. “I have not, but I think it’s also a valid discussion,” de Blasio replied.
Marco Conner, the deputy director for Transportation Alternatives, a transit safety advocacy group, said requiring helmets and licenses furthers New York’s culture of prioritizing “cars over people.”
“Citi Bike is the nation’s most successful bike share system and boasts more than 10 million trips annually in New York City,” Conner said in a statement. “Forcing all riders to use a helmet and/or obtain a license would threaten this critical piece of New York City’s public transit system.”
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also weighed in on the mayor’s comments. “I am all about safety, but we need to be encouraging cycling, not creating obstacles,” Johnson tweeted on Wednesday. “These ideas won’t help us increase bike riding in NYC.”
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- Citi Bike will add 2,000 bikes and 140 new stations this fall