Neil Sandler, editor and publisher of Spokes magazine is concerned that Capital Bikeshare's decision to sell helmets for $16 will be taking business away from legitimate bike shops, according to TBD.
While it's true that having the government subsidize a product can hurt the commercial businesses that sell it, there are several reasons why this is probably not a concern.
For starters, Capital Bikeshare is limiting who it will sell to. It will only sell then to new or renewing members. Most cyclists/potential customers in the DC area probably aren't even members, and being able to buy one day a year is a real inconvenience. Most cyclists will continue to buy their helmets from stores.
In addition, CaBi will limit the kind of helmets it sells to one kind. And that kind is unsuitable for racing or children. And it is one style - the red helmet with yellow lettering - so if you want something with a little more style, you won't find the CaBi helmet appealing.
The buyers of these helmets will probably be people who don't ever ride a bike other than CaBi and who probably wouldn't drop $50 on a nice one anyway.
Bike shops might lose a few sales. But they've probably gained a few sales from CaBi members wanting a nice nutcase helmet or a stylish riding helmet. And once people have owned a helmet, maybe they'll be encouraged to buy their next one or even upgrade.
I haven't heard from bike shops, but I'd be surprised if they're worried. If I wrote a magazin instead of a blog, I'd probably call a few and find out what they thought.
As long as Sandler is going after this, perhaps he should also go after helmet give aways, like the one run by the brain injury law center or countless police departments. They can't even claim that they're encouraging cycling. Why do they hate bike shops?