D.C. Bikers Continue to Ride Despite Rising Safety Risk

Genesis Rodriguez hops on a Capital Bikeshare Bike to take a quick tour of the National Mall (Photo: Graham Swaney)

By Graham Swaney, JCampLive Reporter

An explosion in the number of bike riders in Washington D.C. over the past decade has left the D.C. streets crawling with bikers. While the increase in bikers cuts down on D.C.’s carbon footprint, it is also augmenting the risk associated with biking.

The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) has reported a steady increase in the number of annual bike incidents.Between 2007 and 2013, the number of DDOT reported bike crashes went from 230 to 628. This marked a 273% increase in bike crashes in only a five-year period. In 2010, the year Capital Bikes went into business, there were 182 more bike accidents than there were in 2009.

Trish O’donnell pays for her bike rental at a Capital Bike rental station
Trish O’donnell pays for her bike rental at a Capital Bike rental station

Part of this increase may be accounted for by D.C.’s infrastructure which was designed for motorized vehicles, not cyclists. Pittsburgh native Trish O’Donnell, who was touring the city with her daughter Caelen commented her first D.C. biking experience “We observed many people on the bikes and we thought it would be safe, though as rush hour occurred it wasn’t, we turned the bikes in because it was too difficult to get around,there weren’t enough bike lane and the sidewalks weren’t great for biking.”

In addition to lacking bike-friendly infrastructure, D.C. may prove difficult to navigate for tourists who are unfamiliar with the language, or simply have less experience travelling by bike in a fast paced city. Tourists riding bikes may also be at greater risk to injury because helmets are not available at Capital Bike stations.

Despite the growing risk, at a time when environmental concern is on the rise and the local Metro system has a reputation for mechanical failure, tourists and commuters continue to gravitate towards the bikes.

“You can actually see everything,and you’re working out at the same time,” said Genesis Rodriguez, visiting from Atlanta. “I’m a sporty girl so I like that idea.”