September .19 .2013

Bike Helmet Law and the Success of Van-City's Bike Share Program

Vancouver's bike share program is expected to launch by Spring 2014. The program will include 1500 seven-speed bikes spread across 125 automatic docking stations around the city. Riders will be able to buy daily, weekly, or annual memberships.

The city has agreed to spend $6 million to get the program up and running, followed by $500,000 in yearly maintenance costs. The program will be privately owned and operated.

There are currently an estimated 500 bike share programs worldwide. Some of these programs are fraught with challenges that Vancouver hopes to overcome.

In Toronto, taxpayers are paying the price for an undersized, underused system. In New York, the bike share system is popular, but facing technical difficulties that occasionally leave cyclists stranded without functional docking stations.

Melbourne and Brisbane launched bike share programs in 2010. They are the only two cities facing mandatory helmet laws similar to those in Vancouver. The Australian programs were not set up with a helmet rental system in place and have had "embarrassingly meager usage rates ever since," reports the Globe and Mail.

So what's Vancouver's solution to the helmet law hurdle?

helmet vending machineSolar-Powered Bike Helmet Vending Machines

City council plans to include helmet vending machines at all docking stations so that even the most ill-prepared cyclist can jump on a bike while being mindful of the law - and of their own well-being.

Many are skeptical that the rental system will work. Some say the best chance for success is to amend helmet laws allowing adults to ride with or without a helmet.

UBC professor Kay Teschke argues that the benefits of cycling outweigh the risks of riding without a helmet. She says the focus of cycling safety should be on building an infrastructure that prevents accidents in the first place.

But the city remains confident. City councilor Heather Deal believes Vancouver's future bike docking stations will one day be as commonplace as a bus stop or SkyTrain station.

We want to hear from you:

  • How likely are you to use Vancouver's bike share program?
  • What do you think about the helmet-sharing plan?
  • Would you rent a helmet from a helmet vending machine?

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