South Florida officials increasingly promote bicycling both as a healthy tourist activity and an eco-friendly method of transportation for locals. That sounds great until you consider that Florida is often rated as one of the most dangerous states for cycling. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported more than 6,400 bicycle accidents in 2021, and statistics show fatalities from bicycle accidents are on the rise.
Many of these serious collisions involve rental bicycles. For a variety of reasons, tourists and residents riding rental bikes face greater dangers than other cyclists, and they can pose more of a danger to pedestrians and motorists as well.
Broward Bike Sharing
Broward County’s B-Cycle program made headlines when it launched more than ten years ago as the first county program for a type of bike rental known as “bike sharing.” The B-Cycle program allows members and guests to rent a bicycle from any of the 23 BCycle stations in the Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and Pompano Beach areas.
Users renting a bicycle through a sharing program usually rent a bike for a single trip, compared with users renting bikes through other sources where they have use of a bike for a day or week. In addition, B-Cycle users can return their bicycle to any station in the program while those who rent from traditional rental facilities must usually return the bike to the original location or arrange for pick up.
The Problem with Unfamiliar Bikes
Getting through city traffic in Fort Lauderdale or near any Florida beach can be difficult enough for bicyclists riding their own familiar bikes. When a tourist or even a resident is operating an unfamiliar rental bike, they run a much greater risk of losing control and can easily collide with others or hit fixed obstacles. The dangers increase on an electric bike, which is increasingly becoming the most common option available for rentals. In fact, the B-Cycle program features e-bikes.
Riders on rental bikes can be thrown off by:
- Different types of brakes and varying sensitivities to pressure on brake controls
- The weight difference of a heavy rental bike (particularly those with motors)
- Differences in the seat style or height
- Changing gears or managing speed controls
- Different controls for lights
The differences alone may not necessarily cause a bicyclist to lose control, but they could distract the rider and take attention away from their surroundings, which could lead to a collision.
E-bikes can be even more problematic. The feel and operation differ substantially from what a traditional bike rider is used to. Moreover, e-bikes can effortlessly allow a cyclist to ride at high speed so that any collision or fall will result in much more serious injuries.
Liability for Rental Bike Accidents
When someone’s lack of responsibility causes an accident, that person can be held liable under the theory of negligence. Generally, before they can be required to pay damages for injuries and harm, that person must have owed a duty of care to the person injured, and the injured person must prove that the breach of that duty of care is what caused the harm to them.
In the case of a bike rental, the company renting the equipment owes the renter a duty to provide a safe, functioning bicycle. That duty could be said to extend to the general public since the rental bike is being rented out for use on public streets. If poorly maintained brakes prevent a cyclist from stopping and they swerve in the path of a motorcycle and cause an accident, then the company that owns the bike or provides maintenance for the bikes could be held responsible for the motorcycle accident. If the brake failure was caused by a defect in the brakes or one of their components, the manufacturer could be liable.
Those who rent bicycles can be held accountable when their irresponsible behavior causes an accident. By the same token, if a cyclist collides with a motorist who is impaired, speeding, or otherwise driving negligently, that negligent driver can be held responsible for the consequences. It is not clear whether the company that rented the bike can be held accountable for the actions of renters, especially if the rental is offered by a government entity through an automated service.
Get Help After a Rental Bike Accident
Cyclists and others on the road can suffer serious injuries in accidents involving e-bikes and other rental bicycles. If you or a loved one were hurt in an accident, it is a good idea to consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible to learn how to protect your rights and your ability to recover compensation for your losses. To speak to a dedicated legal advisor at the Maus Law Firm, contact us today for a confidential free consultation.