The following article came out about a month ago, but it’s worth a read. It’s about a preliminary study conducted in the Washington D.C. metro area, where low-income commuters were asked a series of survey questions about “mobility barriers” and how cycling fit into the overall picture:
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau offers encouraging news for cyclists: Nationally, bicycle commuting increased 61 percent between the 2000 Census and a 2008-2012 survey. But there’s considerable work to do before we bike ride into the sunset. Our research shows that in some places, the people who ride are mostly wealthy and white.
Take Washington, D.C., for example. American Community Survey data show that D.C. bicycle commuting increased an astounding 208 percent between 2000 and 2012. Yet biking to work is far less common in the lower-income areas east of the Anacostia River. Despite the recent additions of substantial cycling infrastructure, many mobility challenges remain.
The highlights are pretty interesting, even if not much of a surprise to many of the article’s commenters or anyone who follows transportation policy. Take a look at the full article by clicking here.
I have long had real concerns about the development of bike infrastructure in many cities, and have seen firsthand that a lot of new bike lanes, bike racks, and other bike-friendly amenities tend to pop up in more affluent areas and business centers. That same infrastructure rarely penetrates into lower-income neighborhoods. Despite Tampa, Florida’s poor track record with bicycle fatalities and a general disregard for two-wheeled travelers, some of the city’s main cycling thoroughfares (laned roads and ample signage) serve low-income neighborhoods within the “urban corridor”, and this was part of the design all along, not just a coincidence. This is a positive development, obviously, and I have seen similar initiatives in neighborhoods closer to where I live (suburban DC metro area). Still, the focus on developing bike infrastructure tends to be on areas that are more affluent.
Also, as the article points out, the car is still a powerful status symbol in American culture. The dream of owning a private automobile is strong among lower-income populations, and that’s a harder problem to address. So, it’s not as simple as just building bike lanes and saying, “ok, now get on your bikes and ride”. Along with that infrastructure must come tailored programs to educate people on the benefits of bicycles-as-transportation…something to break the car-centric stranglehold.
Your thoughts on this? We’d love to hear them — just hit us up in the comments below.