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Bike-sharing startup Wheels offers discounts if riders use its helmets

The company is addressing safety concerns over shared bikes.
Georgina Torbet, @georginatorbet
December 10, 2019
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Bike sharing schemes make it convenient to rent a bicycle for a short trip, but they can give rise to safety concerns as riders aren't provided with protective equipment like helmets. To tackle this issue, bike share company Wheels is introducing helmets to go with its bicycles.

To make the helmets shareable, they lock to the rear fender of the bikes and are unlocked for free via the app. They come with a removable biodegradable liner for cleanliness and have sensors that recognize when the helmet is in use. To encourage riders to use the helmet, Wheels offers a 20 percent discount for unlocking and wearing the helmet on their trip.

There have been concerns over the safety of bike sharing schemes in the past, but these have focused mainly on hardware issues with electric bikes or lighting to keep riders safe at night. The issue with helmets for push bikes is that they are not legally required in most places. However, they are advised to promote safety. While most people who own their own bike do also own a helmet, bike share users generally do not.

Wheels compares a shared bike without a helmet to a car without a seatbelt. The company points to a UCLA study which found that the most common type of injury among patients admitted to the emergency room due to electric scooter accidents was head injuries where the rider was not wearing a helmet.

However, there is debate among cyclists regarding how helpful helmets are, especially when it comes to forcing riders to protect themselves rather than making cars and other road users drive more safely.

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