The New Majority: Report Documents Diversity in Bicycling

As we bid goodbye to May, we also say farewell to National Bike Month – but New York City’s new bike sharing program is just getting started. And according to a new report released by the Sierra Club and the League of American Bicyclists, the use of bicycles has doubled in the last decade, with particular growth among people of color, women, and youth. The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity documents the increasingly diverse face of bicycling communities across the country, and highlights leaders and organizations that are working to make bicycling accessible to and safer for everyone.

While bicycling infrastructure has gained more attention and funding in many cities in the past decade, planners have largely overlooked many communities of color when establishing the new bike lanes and facilities that make this mode of transportation safer. One startling result of this disparity is higher fatality rates for cyclists of color than for white cyclists – 30% higher for African American cyclists, and 23% higher for Hispanic cyclists. As with too many other resources, bike lanes tend to appear in more affluent neighborhoods before (or if) they reach underserved communities, which the report calls “transit deserts.”  This means that the health, economic, and environmental benefits of bicycling are also less accessible to these communities.

Groups across the country are making strides to address this unequal access to safe infrastructure. Red, Bike and Green, a community-building collective of Black urban cyclists, began in Oakland but now has chapters in Chicago and Atlanta as well. The collective organizes rides and uses public education and advocacy tools to empower communities to “improve the physical and mental health, economy and local environment of African Americans by creating a relevant and sustainable Black bike culture.” Here in New York City, the Biking Public Project is working to “expand local cycling advocacy discussions by reaching out to underrepresented bicyclists around New York City including women, people of color, and delivery cyclists.” Their website features numerous events they’ve hosted around the city, and brief profiles of New York City cyclists sharing why they choose to cycle.

As the cycling community becomes increasingly diverse, funding for the transportation infrastructure that makes bicycling safe must be applied more equally across our communities. And at a time when many Americans feel more strapped for cash than ever, it makes sense to increase the accessibility of this cheap, healthy alternative to other modes of transportation.  The benefits of bicycling are many, and should be made available to anyone who wants to give it a try. Here’s hoping the release of The New Majority nudges lawmakers and transportation planners in the right direction.

Comments

  1. I am such a h8er when it comes to bikers, but this article damn near changed my mind completely. Also: super well-written. McCray is such a journalist.