Photo by Tania Lo
View from the Bike Summit Equity Panel
In the last five years, we've seen cities come online with cycling-friendly initiatives. Decision makers are now getting used to the idea that biking infrastructure is important and we see that through bike share and bike lanes being a part of most cities' transportation plans. We've also seen our city officials urge state and federal decision makers to take funding cycling infrastructure more seriously, and it's starting to happen.
Even with these advances the use of the bicycle in our cities has yet to reach its full potential. Why is that? So far, the population that has taken up riding a bike regularly does not reflect the diverse populations that make up our great cities. And why is that? We haven't invited these people, in a meaningful and engaging way, to try riding.
Adding a bike to an individual's life doesn’t necessarily mean that the same motivations that worked for you are the ones that worked for me. The equity conversation with respect to advocacy is about starting conversations and developing understanding with people who often hold different cultural, geographic, socio-economic, and health perspectives. If we want to increase the diversity of those who adopt riding more often, then we need uncover the reasons why they would choose a bicycle by asking, "How can we help you gain an active lifestyle?" "How can we get you to your destination in a faster, more efficient, and less costly manner?" "How can we help you spend more time with your friends and family?" "How can we help your tax dollars go further?" Experience has shown that the bicycle can be a great part of the solution to these questions and achieving these goals. However, in advocacy, we're still at a point where people continue to undervalue the bicycle or it is an altogether untapped tool.
If we want biking to become an accepted and attractive part of our entire cultural fabric, then it's time we approach this issue from the ground up and make sure that all stakeholders in our communities are included. "Build it and they will come" isn't enough when it comes to attracting all communities. As bike advocates, we must approach these communities with accessible resources that allow us to share the joys of cycling while addressing their often broad and unique needs. We need to get bike knowledge out into the hands of community leaders pushing for better access to jobs, better access to health care, and better access to their own cities. Our goal is to have people that want great things in their lives want to welcome bikes as a means of achieving these desires. #bikes4all