News | PSR Researchers Make Recommendations to Address Biking Inequities

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As an environmentally sustainable and low-cost mode of transportation, biking is a potential tool for addressing social equity. However, that potential has yet to be realized due to disparities in policy and infrastructure. In the 21st century, biking trends have seen a significant shift as more people of color rely on their bicycles. Where prior trends in commuting only indicated that 0.3% of African Americans used their bikes compared to White Americans at 0.5%, there has been a significant increase from 2001 to 2009 in bike usage among African Americans (100%). There were increases in other ethnic groups as well--Latinos (80%) and Asian Americans (22%). Sarah Rebolloso McCullough, Associate Director of the Feminist Research Institute at University of California, Davis, Adonia Lugo, Interim Chair of the M.A. program in Urban Sustainability at Antioch University, and UC Davis doctoral researcher Rebecca van Stokkum conducted a PSR-funded research project titled, "Making Bicycling Equitable: Lessons from Sociocultural Research," that focuses on sociocultural issues of equity and inclusion within bicycle transportation.

In this white paper, the researchers examined biking policy and assessed prior transportation research through the lens of equity, diversity, and inclusion by drawing from disciplines that are not commonly included in the field of transportation studies such as communication, anthropology, and cultural studies. The researchers highlighted how social identities such as race, gender, class, ability, and age impact the bicycling experience and used social theories of power to explain these differences. With this data, the researchers were able to assess the nature of inequity in all aspects involving biking. Not all communities are equally represented and prioritized by developers or targeted in biking promotions. Not all communities have access to safe areas to ride bikes, including street pavement, adequate lane width or presence of bike lanes, and appropriately lit streets. Not all communities live close enough to their places of work to allow biking to be a feasible transportation option.

Based on their findings, the researchers make actionable recommendations that can be followed to improve bike transportation usage through increasing the accessibility of biking. Increased accessibility will enable the health-related, economic, and social benefits of bicycling to expand and reach a broader set of potential riders. Findings were summarized into four recommendations:

1. Challenge situations in which decision-makers do not reflect the demographics of those affected by including and prioritizing the perspectives of community leaders who do.

2. Prioritize policies and practices that make streets safer beyond reducing traffic accidents and ensure that these policies account for social factors like race, gender, and class.

3. Include local communities in leadership structures for planning, policy, and advocacy and provide compensation for their expertise and time.

4. Recognize that planning, policy, and advocacy processes and practices should address past local and national inequalities or, at a minimum, not exacerbate power differentials.

This is a timely and relevant study because of the growing recognition of the issues of equity and justice within the transportation industry. Incorporating this list of recommendations into biking advocacy and transportation policy and planning would promote greater equity in the distribution of resources. The implementation of these recommendations will greatly improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in bicycling.