Thoughtful bike infrastructure and promotion can expand access to vital services, improving lives in many ways. When not executed properly, however, bike infrastructure can exacerbate disparities and leave marginalized communities further behind.
Biking is efficient, relatively inexpensive, reduces traffic congestion, reduces air pollution, and it touts a slew of health benefits. With half of all urban trips being less than 2 miles, and a third of all rural trips being less than 2 miles, biking is a realistic option for many city residents.
Many see biking as an intriguing transportation option but have concerns about safety for those riding. It is clear these concerns highlight particular safety inequities for cyclists of color, who face disproportionately higher fatality rates than white bicyclists. These disparities are coupled with the principle that transportation should increase and improve physical mobility for all people, so they can take advantage of economic and social opportunities. Centering equity in bike infrastructure planning is thus crucial to eliminating disparities and making cities better places to live.
What Cities Can Do
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Many cities are forming bicycle committees as a way to tackle bicycle-specific issues. The Bicycle Advisory Committee in Minneapolis, MN passed a resolution to prioritize equity in its work.
City data can offer a wealth of information about who is underserved in a community, and who would benefit most from more resources. Charlotte, NC conducted a survey on bike participation that offers guidance for achieving bike equity in the city.
Pittsburgh, PA became the first U.S. city to offer free bike share to its transit riders. Anyone with a transit pass can access bike shire free of cost, which eliminates cost as a potential barrier for many to bike.
Bike Trail Improvements
Keene, NH’s mayor oversaw major improvements to its bike trail network, prioritizing expanding the network to lower income neighborhoods to expand access to vital services such as hospitals and schools. Keene is also the first U.S. city with a Bicycle Mayor, whose mission – among other things–is to educate the public on bike safety.