Renting a Risk

Tobias Hope-Young


You can find them sprawled across lawns in the suburbs or on street corners in the cities. They are bikes without homes, and they present a multitude of safety and legal issues.

These bikes are part of the dockless bike sharing system, where anyone can rent a bike, ride it wherever they choose and park it once they are done. They are plentiful, they are convenient and it seems as if they are here to stay.

However it’s important to ask ourselves: Is this new bike sharing system really all that it’s cracked up to be?

A Law Disregarded

A major issue to take into account is the law.

In King County, it is illegal to ride a bike without wearing a helmet. Those who ignore the law could find themselves facing a fine of up to $81.

Whether or not a policemen will actually write a ticket for an offender is up for debate, the decision is ultimately left up to the officer in question.

For instance, Det. Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department, said in a 2017 interview that the police were more likely to give out warnings than tickets — for some cash strapped individuals, this might not be worth the risk.

While the legality and safety of the bike sharing system may at times be called into question, it’s clear that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

A Rusting Graveyard

Nonetheless, SCC student Halona Ma seems to think that bike-sharing works. Ma was enthusiastic about bike rental systems despite her past encounters with them.

Ma comes from China and witnessed firsthand how the deluge of rental bikes piled up in the streets obstructing street traffic, creating man-sized mounds of metal and rubber. “They got to be such a problem,” Ma said. “Some people just threw them into rivers.”

A Heady Problem

However, one issue that keeps emerging is the fact that casual users of the shareable bike network will probably have to ride without using a helmet. This is due to the fact that no one carries a helmet around with them at all times, so if one were to rent a bike while running errands, they would have to do so without protection.

This is incredibly dangerous. Despite Washington ranking in one of the most bike-friendly states in the U.S., accidents do happen; especially if the user is out of practice.

Chase Schrink, another SCC student, took a particular issue with the rental bikes’ lack of helmets. Schrink claimed that it was a helmet that prevented him from getting injured when he was younger. He said that when he was a child his bike slipped out from under him as he went down a hill and he slammed his head into the ground.

Schrink remembers his helmet cracking from the impact and says that if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet, he might have been seriously injured. As Schrink puts it: “Whoever provides the service needs to keep their customers safe.”