A Bird e-bike.

Don’t give Dr. Annie Onishi and the others that make up the medical teams at St. Charles any impromptu work, if you can help it.

Wear a bike helmet.

Most people we see riding do wear a helmet. What Onishi is concerned about is everyone should, as you can see in the letters to the editor today.

“Helmets are non-negotiable,” she writes. “My partners and I have taken care of quite a few patients with devastating (and I mean devastating) head injuries from unhelmeted e-bike misadventures. A pleasant afternoon enjoying the local breweries and wineries can quickly turn tragic.” Letter writer Marcia Houston makes similar points.

Bend has relaunched its bikeshare program with those nifty, blue, Bird e-bikes that you may have seen around town. They are pedal assist and with some quick use of the Bird app you can be riding in no time.

No helmet is provided. Oregon law doesn’t require one. The city pointed out the law to us almost as fast as riding a bike down Pilot Butte.

The city recommends people wear a helmet, of course. Bird does, too. If you look on the Bird bikeshare website, everyone pictured that we saw using a bike is wearing a helmet.

Tobias Marx, Bend’s parking services division manager, who worked to restart the bikeshare program, told us Bird said providing helmets was difficult.

Bird emailed us a response to our questions. It didn’t get into the details of why it is so difficult to include helmets with bikeshare. You can probably figure that out yourself ... sizing, storage and so on. It also didn’t go into detail about what it has tried or might try in the future to provide helmets at the point of rental.

“Safety is our top priority, and that’s why we strongly encourage all riders to wear helmets,” Bird said in part. “To help ensure all riders have equal access to helmets, Bird provides them to riders for free during local safety awareness events and through our app; we have given away tens of thousands of free helmets.”

That’s good. But we don’t know how many tourists or casual users of the bikeshare will be carting around their own helmets.

There have been attempts to analyze helmet use in bikeshare programs and if a lack of helmet use contributes to injuries. It seems logical that it would be an issue. There seems to be evidence it is an issue. One study is here:

We think Bend’s bikeshare program is a great way for more people to get around town that is greener and makes parking a breeze. We are happy to see it rolling again. But not without a helmet.

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(3) comments


Aside from the obvious need for riders to wear helmets, the entire idea of an e-"bike" ride sharing program is ridiculous. Who are using these bikes? Certainly not folks who live in town and don't have cars or use an e-bike to commute to work, because they have their own. They've figured out how to ride their heavy e-bike safely in traffic with experience. These community e-bikes are going to be rented by, let's be honest, tourist families with kids and drunken groups of bachelor/bachelorette party folks from out of town. They will ride them fast in a dangerous manner (as they do currently) on crowded paved bike paths. How has this not been predicted? Sadly it will take a preventable and predictable tragedy for these elected officials to scrap this program.


Requiring helmets is a good way to kill a bikeshare, this has been shown in the past. I think we should spend more time focusing on WHY wearing a helmet is such a good idea: unsafe and inattentive driving due to poor street design and aggressive and violent driving culture. If we got our priorities right, wearing a helmet would be less essential.


I don't see how a requirement could be upheld in a ride share situation like this, particularly now that I see the bikes parked willie nillie all over Bend. Where to drop off the helmets. I sure wouldn't want to wear one not knowing if it has been cleaned properly.

On the other hand, having imaged plenty of head injury patients, and having seen what comes from a head injury, even at a low speed, wear one. The MD speaks truth to words.

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