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John Liu Sounds Alarm Over Possible Bike Share Lawsuits

Comptroller wants to make helmets mandatory.

As the clock continues to tick down to the , one official sounded the alarm about possible lawsuits against the city as thousands of bicycles in select areas of Brooklyn and Manhattan get ready to hit the road.

"In the rush to place 10,000 bicycles on our streets, City Hall may have pedaled past safety measures, a move that risks significantly exacerbating the number of injuries and fatalities of both bikers and pedestrians, especially those most vulnerable like young children and seniors," said city Comptroller John Liu in a statement Monday.

Currently, helmets are required only for passengers under 5 years old and cyclists under 14 in New York State.

Liu was joined by driver advocates such as the American Automobile Association in calling for a mandatory helmet law for all ages, as well as provided "safe street" zones for seniors and improving safety measures at intersections for cyclists.

However, some thought the push for mandatory helmets was a wrongheaded approach to protecting cyclists from serious injuries.

"A plan that forces New Yorkers to wear helmets won't prevent the crashes that put them at risk in the first place," said a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives. "To protect people from gun violence, we don't force them to wear bulletproof vests—we correctly focus on stopping gun violence in the first place."

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Citi Bike Share, which allows visitors and residents to rent bicycles at kiosks located mostly in certain parts of Brownstone Brooklyn, encourages riders to bring their own helmets.

Liu said the prospect of thousands of cyclists—of which many will be inexperienced in navigating city streets—could put the city in a tough legal bind.

The operator of Citi Bike Share, Alta of Portland, Ore., has purchased $10 million in liability insurance, according to Liu. 

However, given the size of the program, Liu said that amount of liability protection may not be enough.

"Aside from the human toll, there is a real possibility that the Bike Share program will increase the number of legal claims against the city," he said.

What do you think, readers? And with the Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill locations delayed, could our neighborhood benefit from safer pickup and dropoff locations? Where would you put the bikes?

Lydia M. Gordon July 16, 2012 at 10:04 PM
I hope it is delayed forever--this is an ill-conceived idea with no mention of how the City is planning to enforce traffic regulations when all these bikes are let loose. As it stands now, cyclists ignore traffic lights and stop signs. The police do nothing about controlling delivery people on bikes, who travel the wrong way on one-way streets, ride on the sidewalks, using the cutout for easy access. I definitely do not like the idea of Citi Bike Share and hope it never materializes.
Mary A. September 19, 2012 at 02:18 PM
If it is implemented, the police will need to enforce traffic laws in connection with bicyclists. They do not do that now. As the person above said, bicyclists run traffic lights, go the wrong way on streets, on on sidewalks, etc. There are never any policemen around to do anything about it. With this program in force, the City will need to deploy policemen on foot on city streets (like they used to walk around in the old days) to issue tickets. I have almost been hit by bicyclists many times. Sometimes it's even children on bikes on sidewalks because their parents aren't watching them.

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