Despite Saturday’s Tragic Crash, Divvy Has a Strong Safety Record

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Travis Persaud.

Last weekend, medical student Travis Persaud was struck by two different drivers while riding a Divvy bike on Lake Shore Drive, a limited-access highway where cycling is prohibited. Persaud, 25, is the only person ever to have been critically injured while riding bike-share in Chicago since the system launched in June 2013.

Around 2:50 a.m. Saturday, Persaud was biking north on the highway near the Belmont exit, according to Officer Ana Pacheco of News Affairs. The 27-year-old male driver of a Mitsubishi told police the cyclist “was swerving between the two rightmost lanes” of the drive, Pacheco said. Persaud then “collided with and was thrown under” the car, according to Pacheco.

Another driver in a Nissan stopped in the second-rightmost lane to try to help Persaud, Pacheco said. However, a third motorist in a Honda was unable to stop, striking first the Nissan, the cyclist, and then the Mitsubishi, she said.

Persaud was taken to Illinois Masonic Hospital in critical condition, according to Pacheco, and was the only person injured during the chain-reaction crash. The Honda driver, a 22-year-old male, was cited for driving without insurance. “Alcohol is believed to have played a factor in this accident, as the investigation revealed that the bicyclist had a high level of alcohol in his system,” Pacheco said.

A passenger in the Mitsubishi, which was in service as an Uber vehicle at the time, told DNAinfo on Saturday that Persaud’s left foot was severed and that there was a large cut on his head. However, an update DNA posted this morning stated that the cyclist did not lose his foot, but instead suffered a broken leg and a dislocated shoulder.

Persaud is currently in a medically induced coma, his father Frank told DNA. “His prognosis is critical, but he is stable… It will be a long road to recovery, but it’s looking upward.”

Travis Persaud is a third-year medical student who had recently moved to Chicago to do a ten-month rotation at Mount Sinai Hospital, his father said. The family told DNA that Travis lives in an apartment near the crash site, and they think he was trying to cross Lake Shore Drive in order to go home when he was struck.

This is the third media-reported case of a Divvy rider on a limited-access highway in Chicago, including a woman who was spotted on Lake Shore Drive in the summer of 2013, and a woman who was seen on the Dan Ryan in October. Several commenters on the DNA articles about Persaud ridiculed the cyclist for his poor judgment in biking on the drive while intoxicated, and argued that this case is evidence that Divvy is inherently dangerous.

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The Divvy rider on the Dan Ryan. Photo: Stephanie Kemen

Biking while drunk is technically legal in Illinois, but it’s obviously irresponsible behavior that can endanger both a cyclist and other road users. However, both Divvy and bike-share in general have an excellent track record for safety, partly due to the fact that the bikes are stable, slow, and highly visible to drivers.

As of yesterday, 3.1 million Divvy rides have been taken since the system launched a year and a half ago. Last month, Divvy general manager Elliot Greenberger told me there had been no cases of riders suffering injuries that were “sustained, caused hospitalization, or were life-threatening.”

Furthermore, last August, Reuters reported that there have been no bike-share-related deaths in the U.S. since modern bike-share debuted in this country seven years ago. A 33-year-old woman who was fatally struck by a truck driver while riding a Bixi cycle in Montreal last April appears to be the only North American bike-share fatality.

“It appears that Divvy riders on limited-access roads are an actual problem, and not occasional one-off events,” commented a Streetsblog reader in response to the news of Persaud’s crash on our morning headline stack. “Apparently, common sense and news stories aren’t enough, and its time to start discussing real solutions to the problem.”

Perhaps better signage at on-ramps would help prevent bike-share users from accidentally wandering onto Lake Shore Drive and the expressways. On the other hand, it appears that only one in a million Divvy rides has involved a cyclist on a limited-access highway — not exactly an epidemic.

Another reader responded that this morning’s headlines also included a wrong-way crash on the Ohio feeder that injured three people, an all-too-common scenario on Chicago expressways. “Your comment would have been more appropriate if you replaced ‘Divvy riders on limited-access roads’ with ‘automobile drivers going the wrong way on limited-access roads.’ The wrong-way driver issue is clearly a bigger problem.”

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Divvy’s data release last month raised as many questions as it answered about bike-share use in Chicago. Chicago Spectrum was the first to point out that there’s a large gap between male and female Divvy members. Women make up 31 percent of the membership, but the trip data showed that women made only 21 percent […]