From helmets to courtesy to critical mass: A conversation about bike safety in St. Louis
The month of May is National Bike Month, and St. Louis just launched a bike-share initiative, with two companies – LimeBike and Ofo – now operating dockless systems in the region.
On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh led a conversation on the topic of bike safety in light of the recent arrival of the bright yellow and green bikes around town and the presence of more cyclists in general on local streets as temperatures climb.
Joining the conversation were Taylor March, advocacy and education manager for Trailnet; St. Louis Public Radio digital reporter Kae Petrin; Sam Sadle, director of strategic development for LimeBike; and Lori Winkler, an injury-prevention nurse and coordinator of Safe Kids St. Louis at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
Sadle, whose company now has a bike-share presence in more than 60 communities across the country, said he and his colleagues have been “very pleased” with LimeBike’s reception in the Gateway City thus far.
“We’re seeing people across the community riding bikes – everything from college students, high school students, to people in their 40s, 50s and even people in their 70s,” he said. “It’s been frankly one of our strongest communities, and we’ve seen very quick uptake across the city.”
When asked about how safe the LimeBikes have proven to be around the U.S., Sadle said the company tracks all accidents and those have been “really quite few.”
“The bikes do not go as fast as a typical road bike,” he explained. “They are also heavy bikes, so people tend to ride them in a very safe manner. And also, they’re bright green, and people and drivers thankfully see them.”
Petrin, who has been covering the recent bike-share developments, said that in general St. Louisans are “pretty excited” about seeing bike share come to town.
“But a lot of existing cyclists do have some concerns, particularly seeing so many new riders on the street,” Petrin said, adding that there are also questions about whether St. Louis’ infrastructure can support more bikes on the road.
“There’s a mix of concerns there,” they said, “but other people are pretty optimistic about it and have seen that, in other cities, getting so many more cyclists has really created a push toward getting some of these things that St. Louis doesn’t have all over the city.”
Winkler, who noted that Cardinal Glennon’s emergency room saw about 53 children in the emergency room with injuries related to biking and 42 children classified as pedestrians in 2016, has done a lot of work in the region providing free helmets for younger riders.
She said she’s passionate about encouraging helmets because of studies that show they reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury by 80 to 88 percent.
“The cyclist, whether it be an adult or a child, they can have some devastating long-term effects from that,” Winkler said. “As far as adults wearing a helmet, they serve as a role model for their child, and even though these statistics are prevalent, only about 45 percent of children will wear a helmet. So trying to get that [message] to the child when the adult doesn’t wear that helmet is a major, major barrier.”
March, with Trailnet, concurred with Winkler on that point.
“Whenever Europe has tried to implement more helmets on kids – because the developmental stages with children are very different than adults and there’s just a lot more risk involved – the parents play a pivotal role in that,” March said.
But he added that, at the same time, other countries have found that there’s “actually a decrease in overall ridership in countries with a lot of biking” when helmet regulations are implemented.
“So trying to kind of weigh those two things back and forth,” March added. “But certainly for children, helmets are something that every parent should be encouraging.”
The overall increase in the number of two-wheeled contraptions around St. Louis with the launch of LimeBike and Ofo systems will improve safety as well, he said.
“As we see more people on bikes, the safety for everyone – not just those people biking but also people walking and people driving – increases,” March explained, “because it kind of works to slow things down.”
What: Ride and Walk of Silence
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Where: Missouri History Museum
What: National Bike to Work Day
When: 6:30 a.m. Friday, May 18, 2018
Where: All across the region
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.