Bike-sharing plan demonstrates need for awareness in avoiding Fort Lauderdale bicycle accidents

Broward County’s plan to become on of the first in the nation to establish a bike-sharing plan highlights the need for continued efforts aimed at reduce Fort Lauderdale bicycle accidents and serious and fatal cycling accidents elsewhere in South Florida.

Increasing bicycle safety and awareness is a priority among cycling advocates. Florida is the deadliest state in the nation for bicycle accidents — 125 of the nation’s 716 fatal bicycle accidents occurred in Florida in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The proposal in Broward County would establish a bike-sharing system along beaches and downtowns for easy rentals to tourists and residents, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Such bike “libraries” have been popular in Europe for years but are only now catching on in the United States. The popularity of cycling for recreation and fitness has exploded in recent years. Federal statistics show the average age of a cycling accident victim is also on the rise. Men ages 35 to 41 are now the most likely to be involved in a serious or fatal bicycle accident.

A major bike-sharing program will launch this summer in Miami Beach. Denver and Washington, D.C. are also experimenting with new sharing programs and launches are set to debut in Boston and Minneapolis later this year.

Broward County commissioners will vote this summer on a contract with a bicycle supplier. If an agreement is reached, about 200 bikes would be in place by the end of the year with plans to grow to 500 bikes within five years.

Bikes would be placed in locked racks along the beach and throughout downtowns, probably beginning in Fort Lauderdale and then expanding to Hollywood, Pompano Beach, Hillsboro Beach and Deerfield Beach. Riders sign up for a membership, likely about $45 per year — weekly, daily and hourly memberships would also be available.

Customers would use their membership card or a credit or debit card to release a bike from the rack. When they are done riding, the bike can be returned to any rack in the system.

The bikes would include computer chips for tracking lost or stolen bicycles and a rider could also go online to view their mileage, the number of calories burned and how much gasoline they saved by riding the bike.