Bikeshare = Displacement Debate

I’m currently in the middle of drafting a data-driven post comparing Australian and Californian cities, but I decided to just jot some thoughts on a news article I saw on twitter tonight:

Bikeshare expansion blocked in the Mission over gentrification fears

Let’s talk about this.  First, this should come as absolutely no surprise to anybody.  The idea of bike lanes as painted white “lines of gentrification” has been around since at least 2010. Covering Portland, Lubitow and Miller noted frustration by North East Portland (OR) Black community members regarding the City’s sudden concern for safe cycling only after white folks started moving into the area.  As one respondent says,

‘‘You say you want it ‘safe’ for everybody, how come it wasn’t safe 10 years ago? That’s part of the whole racism thing.we wanted safe streets back then; but now that the bicyclists want to have safe streets then it’s all about the bicyclists getting safe streets.’’

Page 123 of Lubitow and Miller

This is something that all the critics of Calle24 and the anti-displacement movement need to understand.  It’s about whose needs are prioritised.  It’s not that Latinos don’t bike.  It’s that bike share systems probably do not cater to the needs of those who do, and that those who do likely never asked for this to begin with.

Take jobs for example: does the older long time resident of the Mission who lives in a rent controlled apartment cycle down to the CBD to work everyday?  Probably not. Because if her/his job was located in the CBD, then when s/he started work back in the 1990s it wasn’t a hospitable mode of travel.  So s/he began taking the bus or BART.  And that became a habit. It’s also likely s/he works in a field like construction, hospitality, or other services that are not concentrated in the CBD or anywhere near a bike share station anyways.

But there’s also something even more obvious that apparently needs to be said: if s/he is an avid cyclist, they probably don’t need bike share. S/he probably already has a bike.  So again: whose needs is the Bike Share system serving?

The literature on the bike shares suggests systems vary widely in terms of the users’ reasons for traveling.  On page 16 of that same literature review, they note something astounding about DC’s Bike Share system:

“Results showed respondents were disproportionately Caucasian (78% compared to 34% in the Washington DC Census). Only 5% of respondents were Black/African American, compared to 50% in the Washington DC Census. When looking specifically at annual members however, only 2% are Black/African American.”

Page 17 of Fishman et al.

Why might this be? Here’s a big hint (from the same lit review):

“Finally, in the previously cited large scale study by Shaheen et al.
(2012), bike share users in North America were found to be more likely than the general population to live closer to their work, and this is consistent with known determinants of commuter cycling, on private bikes (Heinen, van Wee, & Maat, 2010).” emphasis added.

Page 17 of Fishman et al.

Who in San Francisco is living close enough to work that bike share makes sense, but not so close that walking is a better option?

Should anybody be surprised–should it even be news–that groups worried about displacement do not want Bike Shares in their neighbourhood?

Just saying…

Published by mattdpalm

Doctoral Student UC Davis USDOT Graduate Eisenhower Fellow 2014-2015

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