Making Hubway safer
It’s no surprise that fewer than 1 in 5 bicyclists wore helmets when they rented from Hubway, the city’s new bike-sharing service. The system caters to tourists and spur-of-the-moment travelers.
Nonetheless, the statistic is troubling, and the city should tackle the problem with the same creativity it showed in creating Hubway itself, which now encompasses 600 bikes at 61 rental stations. With a little ingenuity, it seems eminently feasible to make helmets as accessible as the bikes themselves.
One solution the city will test this year is a vending machine that dispenses adjustable rental helmets for a $5 deposit, and then sanitizes them once they are returned. It’s a promising approach. But if the machine proves unworkable, the city could try soliciting sponsors to provide helmets at rental sites — perhaps in exchange for ad space on the helmet.
The public health interest in helmets is clear. Proper headgear dramatically lowers the risk of head and brain injury from bike accidents, which claimed 630 deaths nationwide in 2009. Thus far, Hubway has been a safe and successful experiment. A renewed effort to get riders wearing helmets will help keep it that way.