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Honolulu rolling out bicycle sharing program: how have other cities fared

Honolulu rolling out bicycle sharing program: how have other cities fared

February 21, 2014

Residents of Amsterdam are forever being commended on their preference for riding bicycles rather than driving cars to save gas, reduce personal injuries, protect the environment and live a healthier and more active lifestyle. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 1,000,000 bicycle riders in Amsterdam – and only about 250,000 cars.

The resolve of these “Venice of the North” inhabitants has been making its way to other cities around the world – in the form of bike-sharing programs. One of those cities is Honolulu. However, determining whether it will succeed requires a quick look at how other U.S. cities, such as New York City, have fared using the same program.

THE HONOLULU BIKE SHARING PROGRAM: COMING IN 2015

According to the Pacific Business News, Honolulu is moving forward with plans to roll out a bike-sharing program by 2015. Up to 180 stations would be placed across the city, from Chinatown to Waikiki to the University of Hawaii, which would hold up to 1,700 bikes for residents and tourists to use – either on an annual, weekly, daily or hourly basis. The city plans to install a bike lane on King Street and parking would be moved so bikers can ride between the parked cars and the curb. The city also plans to paint a bike lane onto Beretania Street.

The program would be operated similarly to the bicycle sharing program now in place in New York City, which has 330 stations. Charges in NYC are $95 for an annual pass, $25 for a weekly pass and $9.95 for a daily pass. Many questioned whether the program, instituted in 2009, would be successful. However, the program seems to be working. Very well.

According to a City of New York January 2014 Study Entitled Bike Lanes & Bike Share Program = Bike Safety, despite major concerns about bicyclists colliding with taxis, not wearing helmets and generally not following safety precautions, the study found that city bikers were progressing on safety issues and very few accidents are occurring now that people are more comfortable with the process. Specifically, the study showed that the number of riders who:

  • Were observed going through red lights without stopping or pausing had decreased 10 percent down to 34 percent from 2009.
  • Were observed riding against traffic in the street or a bike lane had decreased 5.8 percent down to 7.4 percent from 2009.
  • Used helmets rose from 29.9 percent to 49.8 percent.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE BIG APPLE

It seems as though New York’s experience with bike sharing has been very successful overall. If Honolulu can draw any lessons from New York’s plan, it might be to put in place the rules that must be followed from the start – such as helmet use, riding on the correct side of the road and following applicable driving laws and making sure to fairly and consistently enforce those laws.

Bicycle accidents can lead to serious injury or death – due to the simple fact that bicycle riders are less protected than those in vehicles. Assessing liability in these types of cases can be difficult – especially when the bike that you’re using doesn’t belong to you. In effect, many of the legal issues surrounding rental car accidents would likely come into play in this situation, including:

  • Was the bike properly designed and manufactured?
  • Was the bike properly maintained?
  • Who was ultimately responsible for bike maintenance on a continual basis?
  • If there was a known defect about the bike, who was responsible for telling “the next” user?
  • Who had the right of way, were traffic signals working, etc.

As you can see, determining liability isn’t as clear-cut as many people believe. While we think the bike sharing program will be good for Honolulu in general, good for our environment and promote safer and healthier lifestyles, the bottom line is that accidents happen.

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