Green does not always mean “GO”! At least not without a helmet.


* Readers of this article should be aware that helmet laws vary from state to state

Cities across the nation are jumping on an exciting idea. Bike sharing. These are short-term bike rental programs, which allow network members to take bikes from any station and return them to any other. Washington D.C. launched the nation’s first large-scale urban network in 2008, Boston launched Hubway in 2011, New York City launched its Citi Bike Program in 2013 and there are now more than 34 other networks in operation across the U.S.

A Green Solution

Bike Sharing Networks are a green solution to traffic congestion and carbon emissions, increasing the availability of public transportation without increasing traffic. Short trips in cars or on buses can now be replaced with short rides on bikes. Equally attractive are the resulting reductions in auto emissions. Additionally, studies show that people who make the shift from passive to active transportation are fitter, leaner, less likely to be obese, and had better triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and insulin levels than those who passively commute to work.

This Green Life, a journal article on The National Resources Defense Council website states that:

“Bike share programs combat car traffic, carbon emissions, air pollution and obesity without straining city coffers. What’s not to like? “

This Green Solution May Throw Up Red Flags

While each municipality has its own safety regulations for cyclists, the most controversial are the helmet laws. New York’s Bicycle Helmet law only requires ANSI approved helmets for riders 14 and below. In Boston the age is somewhat higher, requiring approved helmets to be worn by all riders 16 years of age or younger. This gives adult bike network members the freedom to make their own decision regarding helmets. A study of cyclists in Washington and Boston by the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, revealed that more than four out of five people who borrow bike-share bikes don’t wear helmets, increasing by an estimated 88 percent the likelihood that they will suffer head injuries if they’re in an accident, compared to riders who wear helmets.

Additionally …

  • Approximately 54 New York State residents are killed in bicycle crashes annually.
  • Approximately 2,000 New York State residents are hospitalized due to bicycle-related injuries annually. Of these, about 38 percent involve a brain injury.
  • Head injury is the leading cause of death and permanent disability in bicycle crashes. Head injuries account for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions, and about one-third of hospital emergency department visits for bicycling injuries.
  • Brain injuries are usually the most serious injuries a bicycle rider will sustain. Helmets prevent many of these injuries or reduce their severity.
  • Studies in the U.S. and elsewhere have shown that bike riders wearing helmets are less likely to suffer brain injuries than those who don’t.


So while adults have the freedom to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, there is much evidence to support helmet usage. General bike safety rules recommend that you:

  • Always ride with traffic.
  • Ride one to a bike.
  • Follow all traffic lights and signs. Signal all turns.
  • Ride single file.
  • Use a horn or bell.
  • Make sure your bike is in good working order.
  • If you’re riding at night, make sure your bike has reflectors and a headlight and taillight. Use additional lighting and reflective bands, vests and clothing to increase your visibility.
  • Keep to the right, but leave enough room to steer around road hazards and avoid car doors that may suddenly swing open.

And while not a requirement, short-term bike rental programs do recommend helmets and are finding ways to offer helmets easily and cheaply. In November of 2013, Boston’s Hubway service debuted the helmet vending machine, while New York’s Citi Bike offers a map of helmet vendors near Citi bike locations with a $10.00 coupon toward purchase or a free fitting and helmet at Department of Transportation events across the city.

Bike-Vehicle collisions

There are both economic and health benefits to urban bike sharing programs, but do they outweigh the risks? The most common car vs bike accidents are the result of low visibility which increases on a busy urban street with a high number of parked cars. Common among these are “Right-hook collisions- a bike enters an intersection going straight and gets hit by a right-turning car and “Left hook” collisions, left-turning drivers focused on avoiding oncoming cars, miss a cyclist in the oncoming bike lane.

Accident statistics show that:

  • Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas
  • 75% happen at, or near, a road junction.
  • 80% occur in daylight
  • 80% of cyclist casualties are male
  • Almost one quarter of the cyclists killed or injured are children
  • Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries.

And in spite of taking precautions, accidents still happen to cyclists through no fault of their own which can result in death, temporary or permanent disability disfigurement, lacerations, broken bones, injuries to the spine or even simply time out of work to recover from pain and severe bruising.

Decisions you make after a vehicle-bike collision may affect how much you are compensated for your injuries and damage to your bike. Always wait for the police to arrive. In the aftermath of the collision you may not realize the extent of your injuries and if you skip the police report, you may not be able to identify the at fault driver.

Be sure to get your version of the accident into the report, including all injuries no matter how minor. Remember seemingly minor injuries can later develop into something more serious. Be sure to get Driver and Witness Contact Information, if you are too injured to do so, get a bystander to assist. You cannot assume that the police report will contain all this information. Seek immediate medical assistance to document your injuries and preserve all evidence of the bike-vehicle collision, documenting it in photos and leaving your helmet, bike and clothing in their damaged state. Finally, seek advice from a professional. Many accidents between bikes and cars involve complex legal issues.

Free consultation

If you, or someone you know has been seriously injured in a cycling related accident, please contact Charnas Law Firm, P.C. for a free case review. We may be able to help you recover full and complete compensation for your suffering and loss, for both you and your family, as a result of a serious bicycle accident. Scott Charnas can review your case and advise you on how to proceed, negotiate with your insurance company and represent you if there should be a lawsuit to redeem compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, disability, pain and suffering.