Whether you’re toying with the idea of giving up a car in the city or you just enjoy a short bike ride from time to time, a bike share program is a great way to incorporate regular biking into your life without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a new bike. As bikeshares become more popular around the country, especially in bigger cities, riders, drivers, and pedestrians alike are all navigating new costs, new safety rules, and more.

To help you get an idea of what it takes to be safe while using a shared bike program, let’s break down the costs of bike sharing:

Minimum Costs to a Safe Rider

To decrease the chances of getting into an accident while biking, a biker needs to invest in some basic safety equipment for the road, such as a helmet ($25-75), bike shoes ($60-70), sunglasses ($50-200), and reflective items (a sheet of reflective stickers can be as little as a few dollars, while jackets and messenger bags can be over $100).
The actual bike itself also requires equipment for maintenance and safety. Water bottles ($22) and water bottle cages ($12 for two cages) will keep the biker hydrated, while rear and forward lights ($80), a rear view mirror ($15), and a tire patching kit ($3) will help improve visibility and repair any wear and tear on the bike’s tires.

Cost of Bike Sharing Services in Major US Cities

Major cities across the country are beginning to adopt bike sharing services, with membership options and fees ranging from 24 hours to an annual membership. In Chicago, a Divvy annual membership costs $75, while a day pass is $7. New York’s bike share, Citi Bike, costs $95 a year, $25 for one week, or $9.95 for one day. Capital Bikeshare of Washington D.C. has many options for membership and payment, starting with $75 per year, or, if payment is spread over monthly installments, $84 per year. A monthly membership is $25, while a daily key that allows you reloadable 24-hour access costs $10 plus a $7 charge per day added. Capital Bikeshare also offers a three day pass for $15 and a 24-hour membership for $7. Finally, Hubway of Boston costs $85 for an annual membership, $20 for a monthly membership, $6 for a 24-hour pass, or $12 for a three day pass.

Costs to Unsafe Riders

Bicycles are considered vehicles in most places, meaning that the rules of the road and liability apply to bikes just like they would apply to cars. If your bike is damaged in a collision, repair cost will vary greatly depending on how bad the damage is. If the bike is totaled, a replacement bike can cost anywhere from $100 to a basic bicycle to $10,000 for a professional, top-of-the-line bicycle.

On the flip side, the average cost to repair a car after any type of collision is $4,000, and the average cost of a Collisions don’t just happen between cyclists and cars; pedestrians may be injured as well. In New York, one thousand pedestrians hit by cyclists require hospital treatment every year, and the average lifetime costs of injuries incurred by a pedestrian/cyclist collision (non-motor vehicle involved) are $96,098 for the pedestrian and $17,831 for the cyclist.

(Note: These numbers reflect all collisions between non-motor vehicles and pedestrians; bicycle-pedestrian collisions contribute to these costs but do not account for all costs)

Pedestrian/Cyclist Collisions

On an individual basis, the average cost of injuries to cyclists in the United States is $38,009; the total cost of injuries to cyclists in the U.S. is a staggering $5 billion per year. If the cyclist retains a personal injury attorney, the standard rate for such a lawyer is 33% of the settlement (in general, settlements vary greatly and are kept confidential, making it difficult to come up with one number for an average cost).

Bike Share Costs

Defective equipment is the greatest cost to a bike share program. According to most bike share user agreements, riders must inspect a bike for defects before renting it; if a bike is defective, there’s usually a way to report it at the station. Rented bikes are the responsibility of the rider while outside the docking stations or the direct control of company representatives.

Since bike sharing is still a relatively new industry, there is still a lack of data regarding the costs involved in bicycle insurance liabilities in cases of injury and defective equipment. Also, crashes remain relatively rare incidents; Boston’s Hubway has reported only one serious crash, in which the cyclist was not at fault; Capital Bikeshare in DC reports only 64 crashes in 4 million rides.

Cost of Insurance

The average cost of bicycle insurance is $250-300 per year; while stand-alone bicycle insurance is available to cover medical costs, repairs, replacement, and more, a combination of homeowner’s and health insurance will often cover these, and stand-alone policies are generally unnecessary for otherwise well-insured people.
Bike share programs will charge riders for damage to or loss of bike share bikes; for example, Hubway charges $1,000 if a bicycle is not returned within 24 consecutive hours after rental. If the bike incurs damage while a rider is using it, the damage payment is equal to the cost of the repairs.

Cost of Injury

Cyclists can suffer from injuries and pain such as knee pain, head injuries, neck/back pain, wrist/forearm pain or numbness, urogenital problems, and foot numbness and tingling. The costs of these injuries can add up; a 2010 study in Finland found that 216 cycling injuries  treated in the emergency room cost 580,000 euros, which is more than $800,000 (2,700 euros or $3,737 per patient). Most of these injuries were the result of crashes, and only 13% of those injured were wearing a helmet.

Safe Riding Tips

  • Every cyclist should know basic bicycle hand signals for stop, left/right turn, pothole warning, gravel/debris warning, hazard at shoulder, move over, and pull through. Most bike sharing services will not allow rental to minors under sixteen years of age.
  • If cycling during a rainstorm, bikers should wear waterproof and insulating clothing to stay warm while using glasses or goggles with clear or yellow lenses for low light conditions. Rainbow patches in puddles indicate the presence of oil and possibly slick conditions. After a rainy ride, make sure your brake pads are well-maintained, especially if it’s been raining for a couple of days. Also, use extra or heavier duty lubricant on your bike chains; they’ll rust easier if they’re not taken care of.
  • During the winter, use flat pedals so you can wear proper winter boots while riding and avoid packing your pedals with snow and ice. Let a little air out of your ties so that they’ll sit flat and provide more grip; you can also use snow tires. When biking, don’t try to shift gears as often as you would in normal conditions; instead, find a gear that works for you and spin your tires occasionally if necessary.
  • At night, wear bright or reflective clothing. Use LED lights, attached to either your bike or your clothes (or both) to increase your visibility to other motor vehicles. At busy interactions, hop off your bike and walk through crosswalks to minimize the risk of accidents.
  • If you’re behind the wheel of a car, keep in mind the vulnerability of a cyclist; even if they’re wearing a helmet and are otherwise protected, they’re no match to a driver in a car. Also, even if you’re not a frequent biker yourself, know the rights and responsibilities of cyclists on the road; this will better help your judgment when driving alongside a cyclist. Make certain to check for cyclists when turning- especially when turning right, where a bicycle lane will typically be found in relation to car lanes. Give cyclists at least three feet of clearance, and look before opening your door to exit your car to avoid hitting bicyclists with your car door.

Bike sharing is a wonderful way to travel at a low cost and without having to purchase and care for a bike; by purchasing the right safety equipment, following the rules of the road, and practicing safe riding, you can minimize your risk of accident and your potential liability in case of a collision.  If you do get in an accident and want to know what legal options you have, contact Cooney and Conway today for a personal injury consultation.