Here in Seattle Bicycles are booming. Ridership has dramatically increased in the last several years. Just around the corner is Pronto Cycle Share brought to us by the same company that operates CaBi, CitiBike, Divvy, and many other systems throughout the US and abroad. It is a great time to be involved in the biking scene. But there is one serious problem I notice: biking is a class privilege. I usually put it this way: Seattle is on its way to be a biking city, but only if you are a “hardcore” cyclist with a bike worth as much as a used car. Or a hipster. Or both…(laughs)
It is not all hopeless. Bike Works is an amazing organization working to build community through bicycles and education. Operating in Seattle’s south end, Bike Works specifically targets low-income youth through its many programs including Earn-A-Bike where youth learn to repair bikes and receive a bike of their own after completing a number of volunteer hours. Cascade Bicycle Club’s Major Taylor Program introduces low-income youth from diverse backgrounds to the fun of cycling. Pronto Cycle Share will have an affordable annual membership that is on par with just one month of bus fare. Things are happening. But what about the culture? Will low-income and diverse communities take up cycling through these many initiatives? Is this something they even want?
Many of us who advocate cycling for its power to enhance social justice seem to think so, but a survey of low-income and predominantly non-white communities around Washington D.C. shows different. I am willing to bet Seattle is not so different, and we could learn a lot by changing our approach to thinking about cycling as an equitable means of transportation.Read CityLab’s full article for a good look at this topic. Here are some of the article’s main points about cycling and low-income, diverse neighborhoods:
- Poor respondents spend more time commuting.
- Most people, poor and non-poor alike, still want cars.
- Cycling just isn’t popular among the urban poor (yet).