Bike sharing programs in North Carolina are relatively new compared to their popularity around the United States and Europe. Bike sharing programs allow residents and tourists alike to "share" (rent) a bicycle from vending-like machines and return them to other machines around the city.
Currently there are Triangle bike share systems in development. Charlotte launched North Carolina's first bike share only one year ago. Now there are over a dozen sharing stations in Charlotte. Many cities are becoming more bicycle-friendly. Not only are people concerned about pricey gas expenses, but the benefits for both the environment and one's health are big factors for bike riders.
Although bike shares create an affordable, environmentally-friendly and healthy transportation alternative, they also create risk for those who use the bikes. Community bike program liability and insurance issues include:
- Bike maintenance - If bicycles are damaged and not repaired or are not routinely maintained, operating the bike could be dangerous. Many bike share programs require individuals renting the bikes to 'ride at their own risk' and make it clear that the bike sharing organization assumes no liability. Verify what type of liability the bike share company maintains. If you are concerned about possible accident coverage, you can also purchase bicycle insurance that will help cover certain expenses if you are in a bike-related accident in North Carolina.
- Collision with an automobile - Whether you are riding your own bicycle or using one from a bike share, you are vulnerable to the risk of a car accident. Bike share companies are not likely going to offer riders biycle insurance. Look into policies to help protect yourself in the event of an accident, a hit-and-run, or a collision with an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Bicycle accidents with motor vehicles are typically serious, if not fatal.
- Helmet availability - Shares do not automatically include a helmet with a bike rental, which leaves riders responsible for providing their own safety gear - and many riders may not have easy access to such gear if they are using a bike share while on vacation. New services like HelmetHub are focusing on rider safety with a helmet dispenser program aimed at complementing bike share program locations. Although every location's helmet laws are different, wearing a helmet in general helps reduce head injuries.