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Citing Legal Risks, Pol Wants to Make Bike Share Users Wear Helmets

Comptroller says allowing program to go forward without safety devices puts city at risk.

As the clock continues to tick down to the , one official sounded the alarm about possible lawsuits against the city as and Manhattan hit the streets.

The program , but it is coming to spots nearby, such as the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center subway station and spots along Fulton. 

"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."

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.

eveostay June 26, 2012 at 08:15 PM
You forgot an option: No! The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks 20 to 1, so discouraging cycling with a mandatory helmet law would be a net loss.
Amy Sara Clark June 26, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Very good point Eveostay. I just put the poll up, so I'll go ahead and add in that answer.
eveostay June 26, 2012 at 08:56 PM
You're awesome!

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