Equity Reports and Resources
Report: From Groupthink to Democracy in Bike Advocacy
How do we ensure we don't overlook the voices of leaders as important but not imperative? And how do we make sure traditional advocacy organizations value and genuinely incorporate their perspectives — even when it exposes our blindspots or runs counter to our experiences? And those are exactly the questions Dr. Adonia Lugo examines in Who Participates in What Processes: From groupthink to democracy in bicycle policy advocacy — a report based on Lugo's academic expertise, personal experience and participation in the 2015 Youth Bike Summit.
Report: The New Movement
There is a diverse bike movement in the United States. In "The New Movement: Bike Equity Today" we showcase the work of many people and projects around the country leading the way in building a bike movement with social equity at its heart. When diversity becomes a valued part of decisionmaking in bike planning and design, we will have moved closer to bike equity. This report updates our foundational 2013 report "The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity" by fleshing out what demographic shift can mean for the bike movement. Download the report here.
Report: Ciclovías Imagine Equitable Streets
Can a temporary street closure have lasting effects on everyday transportation habits? The social psychology concept of “unfreezing” habit suggests that it can. What the ciclovía model offers is a way to take our mindset, as people who currently walk and bike, and project it onto the much bigger screen of the street. It’s a way to show skeptics what we have in mind; it’s a way to build a human infrastructure for walking and biking that supports active transportation not as a symbol of luxury or privilege, but as a method for creating healthy and civically engaged communities. Download the report here.
Report: Integrating Equity at Bike Organizations
Here at the League, we've been working on defining what bike equity means for an organization like ours. Today we are releasing a report, Integrating Equity in Bike Advocacy, that shares the process we've been developing. This report includes a timeline tracing the evolution of our Equity Initiative, our framework for integrating equity into each League program, and some lessons we have learned. Each of our staff work plans now has at least one equity, diversity, or inclusion related task to be completed in 2014.
Report: Together in the Streets
Bicycles have long been a vehicle for social change in the United States, from the Good Roads movement to today’s community rides. But for many of those we’d like to reach, the bicycle’s potential can be dismissed with a few key descriptors: unsafe, privileged, entitled. Our work as advocates often focuses on remedying the historical shift from human-scaled streets to highways, but this exhibit draws attention to another form of separation that is intrinsic to U.S. history: segregation by race. To move forward together, we must understand our shared heritage. Download the report here.
Report: Engaging Youth
Equity Advisory Council member Devlynn Chen worked with the League and the Local Spokes' Youth Ambassadors program this summer to create a case study on the motivations for youth in riding, and how they view bike advocacy. The result? A new report, "Engaging Youth in Bicycle Advocacy," which includes key findings and the promise of further research and engagement with a national survey. Read the full report.
Report: The New Majority
A first-of-its-kind report released in May 2013 by the League and the Sierra Club, "The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity" highlights new data and analysis that show the new majority that elected a president is also playing a key role in shifting transportation demand toward safe, accessible and equitable bicycling in their communities.
"The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity" showcases stories of powerful local efforts opening up new lanes to bicycling in communities too often overlooked by traditional transportation planners and bicycling advocates — and highlights an increasingly powerful and growing constituency that is cultivating new campaigns and bike cultures that address the needs, serve the safety and improve the health of all residents who ride — or want to ride. Read the full report.
Using a glossary from the UC Berkeley Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Initative as a starting point, in spring 2013 the Equity Advisory Council defined equity, diversity, and inclusion as informed by their work as bike advocates.
Just and fair inclusion into a society in which everyone can participate and prosper.
The goals of equity must be to create conditions that allow all to reach their full potential, erasing disparities in race, income, ability, geography, age, gender and sexual orientation.
Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.
The acceptance of members from different types of self identified groups into an organization or unit.
Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender — the groups that most often come to mind when the term "diversity" is used — but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.
The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.
Inclusion integrates the fact of diversity and embeds it into the core mission and institutional functioning of an organization. It is the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity — in communities with which individuals might connect — in ways that increase one's awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.
Bike equity means believing the stories people have to share about what it's like for them to be in the street. There's more to safety than being seen, and we need to believe when people tell us about insecurity beyond traffic violence. As a national organization, we have a role to play in convening tough conversations. Can we build common cause for safe streets that includes the fears of racial discrimination keeping so many people in their cars? What do enforcement-based approaches to traffic safety look like when they respect and address the realities of police mistrust? The Seeing & Believing project explores how to answer these questions. Using insights gathered from bike/ped advocates in summer and fall 2014, Dr. Echo Rivera crafted images that shed light on why race matters in active transportation.
On October 31, 2014 the League hosted a live discussion about the term "invisible cyclist" with Dr. Stephen Zavestoski, of the University of San Francisco; Najah Shakir, of Boston Bikes; Do Lee, of the Biking Public Project; and Erick Huerta, of Multicultural Communities for Mobility.
Here is a recording of the webinar.
Questions and Comments from Listeners
Meetings and advocacy have sometimes been out of reach for people with lower incomes due to jobs, child care, etc. Creating a safe and accessible space for communication (as well as on the road) is a messaging task. I am reminded that the League used to be Wheelmen.
- Ellen in Redwood City, CA
Do's response: I definitely agree. And all too increasingly, a lot of community groups face public participation burn out when the city or governing body asks for a lot of public input but ends up ignoring it. It’s a way to grind down opposition through fake participation. So yes, I think it’s absolutely important to reach out and work together with communities to create safe and accessible communication spaces, but also that this communication has to have meaningful impact on what happens and is not just a checkmark off a equity or participation checklist.
Can you all come to speak on this subject at the Youth Bike Summit in Seattle in Feb. 2015? It is hosted by Bike Works and involves youth all around the country talking about these sorts of subjects...it would be great to have your voices at the conference for them to hear as well.
- Tina in Seattle
Do’s response: Tina, I wish I could make it, it sounds like a terrific event. I’m unfortunately already committed to a couple of conferences in the spring which is all I can afford to do on a grad student budget. But I’d be happy to keep in mind future youth bike summits.
Adonia's response: I'll be there!
Just make sure you discuss the gentrification issue.
- Bill in Minneapolis
Steve’s response: We did not touch on this during the webinar. It’s a complex subject that needs more attention. Many of the chapters in Incomplete Streets address the dynamics of gentrification in case studies in Minneapolis, New Orleans, Oakland, CA, and elsewhere. We also have a couple books in the works in the Equity, Justice and the Sustainable City series I co-edit with Julian Agyeman that tackle the topic head on.
Do’s response: Yeah, I’m surprised it didn’t come up. It is, as Steve mentioned, a complex topic. But I do think that gentrification is an element of the “invisible” cyclist concept - because as many people like Adonia have talked and written about, a lot of cities are focusing their efforts on building bicycle infrastructure to attract new cyclists (aka the “creative class”) rather build it for low income folks who already bike. This promotion of the creative class cycling is definitely linked to gentrification. In this way, cities are basically saying that “invisible” cyclists do not belong within their rebranded vision of a city for and by the so-called “creative” class.
This article from Streetsblog seems relevant--wonder what the advocates here think?
- Mark in Redlands, CA
Steve’s response: Thanks for sharing this link. I hadn’t seen this article. It’s an outstanding set of recommendations for going beyond “outreach.”
Do’s response: I liked this set of recommendations. “Meet people where they are” is particularly important because setting have different meanings and power to different people. Formal meeting spaces are laden with power and privilege that not everyone feels comfortable in and so it can be really intimidating for those not used to having power or privilege. Going to where people are can help level the playing field between expert and community knowledge. These are a lot of really great recs.
The term comes from a 2006 Bicycling Magazine article, which is available here.
- John in McAllen, TX
Should we focus on "crash sites" where people are the most vulnerable?
- Josh in Kansas City, MO
Steve’s response: Dr. Rachel Aldred in the UK has been working on an interesting “near miss” project where cyclists have been asked to document time, location and other details of near missed (cars that came dangerously close or caused a cyclist to take evasive action).
There are some obvious limitations to what the data, collected through volunteer cyclists self-reporting in a one-day diary any near misses during the day, can tell us. But I think it gives us an example of how we can be more creative in trying to understand overlooked dimensions of bicycling for transportation.
Wasn't there also a sense of how these cyclists "want" to be invisible? to hide from the police persecution Do mentioned, and to in general stay "under the radar". Not to say the term should still be used. Specifically I know some people who bike prefer not to have lights, because they don't want to be seen. Not to say that all low income men of color who bike think that.
- Juana in Minneapolis
Do’s response: This is a really good point that indicates the nuanced complexity and diversity of how people can experience cycling in the street. If certain cyclists are being profiled and targeted for over policing and surveillance, then a person could be motivated to become less visible (e.g. no lights) at the cost of decreased safety - and this might be a trade off a few might be willing to take if the consequences of policing are dire enough (e.g. documentation status, paying hefty tickets/fines, or even being arrested). This attempt to make themselves less visible does still point a problem where “invisible” cyclists are visible, but in bad ways. At least in NYC, many so-called “invisible” cyclists have been made to be more visible through a city council ordinance that requires delivery cyclists to wear bright reflector vests with identification of their employer (and they have to take safety classes too). As far as we can tell, this ordinance has primarily targeted and been enforced with food delivery cyclists, who are often Latino and Chinese immigrants, but not other delivery cyclists (like bike messengers). The intention of this ordinance was to crack down on the “bad” cycling of delivery cyclists and make them more visible to pedestrians and drivers, but I would argue that it also makes these delivery cyclists, mostly immigrants, highly visible for surveillance and policing. And it marks these delivery people as cyclists who need to be controlled and disciplined and hence they are different from other, more privileged cyclists. A report by Levine and Siegel (2014) that was highlighted in a recent Streetsblog article found that the NYPD were issuing high volumes of summonses for biking on sidewalks in neighborhoods of majority Black and Latino populations as compared to other neighborhoods with majority white and other populations.
I think for me, one big issue here is that the so-called “invisible” cyclists have not claimed the name for themselves as representative of their lived experience, but rather it describes how others with more privileged perspectives and power have chosen to ignore these cyclists for distributing bicycling benefits and to overlook abusive policing.
Building the human infrastructure helps to build political will. People aren't likely to go to a typical public meeting, but if there are enough people upset about X, they may force a change in the decision.
- Juana in Minneapolis
Do’s response: Absolutely. And supporting the development of human infrastructure is a very different project than physical infrastructure. I think too often we get into a mindset that physical infrastructure and design will solve everything. But design and physical infrastructure is only as good as the human infrastructure that uses these spaces and mobilizes to rethink how we can use our streets.
But in a way, don't too many of those in political, financial, planning, DOT power (even most drivers) treat consider cyclists as invisible, until they (any cyclists) are VIEWED as an irritant?
- Scott in El Paso, TX
Do’s response: I think this is a good point - those in power won’t just open the gates to welcome outsiders just because they show up. But there are big and unequal differentials in the power and ability of people from different backgrounds to be a source of irritant that is taken as legitimate by those in power.
And here is a recap of the Twitter discussion we carried on during the webinar.
As more cities install bike share systems to promote cycling, we should consider how accessible they are to diverse user groups. Does bike share bring the benefits of bicycling to more people? If public funding is to be secured for these systems, how can equitable systems that are designed to include a range of needs? In spring 2014, a group of researchers, advocates, and bike share stakeholders convened to create a set of recommendations for equitable bike share systems. Learn more here.
On June 27, 2013 the League and Sierra Club hosted a live, online video discussion (Google Hangout) to discuss "The New Majority: Pedaling Towards Equity" report. This event was moderated by Hamzat Sani, co-author of the report and member of the League's Equity Advisory Council, and featured both local and national leaders working on equity in bicycling, including:
- Allison Mannos of Multicultural Communities for Mobility in Los Angeles
- Anthony Taylor of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club of Minnesota (and member of the League's Equity Advisory Council)
- Rob Sadwosky of the BIcycle Transportation Alliance in Portland, Ore
- Andy Clarke, League President
Read key highlights from the discussion and watch the videos below.
What does pedaling toward equity mean to you?
Allison: For us it’s really, how do we use bikes to address social justice issues? How do we reach communities of color and low-income communities who may already be riding bikes but aren’t currently part of the mainstream movement. That’s always been the starting point for us here in L.A. In 2008, when we started as a program, for us it was about how do we become more inclusive of a movement and how do we address bigger social issues with bikes as a starting point.
Anthony: One thing we’ve talked about is that, as this movement happens — as public policy is made, as federal funds are spent and as infrastructure is developed — there’s a very specific effort to enlist and engage those communities, especially communities of color. As far as transportation is concerned, from a historical perspective, transportation infrastructure development has not worked out for black and brown people in terms of the state of the community when it was done. Right now, as we look at cycling and transportation infrastructure development, this is an opportunity to do that, so equity relates to the ways communities will be engaged, enlisted educated and brought along as an integral part of the conversation as growth in the movement happens.
Rob: We don’t look at it from a clearly social justice issue as they do in Los Angeles; we look at it from a reality perspective. Populations are changing and we traditionally reach older white men. The reality is that older white men are becoming fewer and fewer, so, from a reality perspective, if we want to survive, we have to be able to reach multiple constituencies.
Andy: I’d certainly echo what Rob was saying: If we’re not a representative or more representative movement that affects our political capacity to get the job done at the federal level.
Rachel: Sierra Club is all about making sure people have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink and biking is a great way to make sure that we have clean air — and transportation equity is making sure everyone has access to that…. The reason Sierra Club is so invested in transportation and biking and bike equity right now is that streets are not safe for people to get out to walk and bike or take public transit to where they need to go. For us, to have clean air and a safe climate, we need to make it easier for everybody to access those types of transportation choices and the benefits that go along with them. Bike equity means the ability to make choices and have access to the types of transportation that keeps people healthy and keeps the planet healthy.
If you had to sum up in one word or phrase how to start taking action on equity…
Rob: Partnerships — You can’t enter into this discussion, dialog or even sense of reality without first partnering with people who are doing this work day-to-day, the community-based organizations, the churches, the institutions that are much better and integrated into communities of color than we, as the bike movement, are.
Allison: Organizing — We need to actually invest in staff. We need to bring an organizing mentality to this work so we can actually bring communities of color in as constituents and staff.
Anthony: The key thing for us is this idea that equity is not diversity; it’s not equality. That’s important. Equality is making sure everyone has shoes, whereas equity is making sure everyone has shoes that fit. So as we develop partnerships and strategies and organizing we really are looking at this and doing initiatives that are genuinely created by, owned by and reflect the culture and philosophy and mindset and vision of the communities we’re working in.
What’s working — and what challenges do you face?
Rob: One thing to frame this conversation about equity: For us there’s a difference of color and race and nationality, which is different than economics. But we also look at equity in terms of geographic representation. One of our goals in our organization is to get to 25% mode shift. We could probably best do that by focusing on the southeast side of the city, which is mostly white folks, but we’ve integrated into our mission and values statement that geography matters and demographics matter. It’s not enough to focus on one community; we need to have lens of equity from a variety of perspectives and that dictates all of our work… We recently participated in a local and regional equity retreat that helped us start to establish the basics of an equity audit to look internally and externally at what we’re doing. One of the results of that has been closer partnerships with community-based organizations, community development organizations and groups working on public health. The key piece in what’s working for us is when we’re able, as an organization with a high level of sophistication and funding, to bring dollars to the table, resources and assets to that community organization. We’re partnering with Rose CDC — a community development corporation on the east side. Financial resources from the regional MPO came to us, but we’re staffing staff at their office and helping pay for the overhead and management expenses to provide that assistance. That really helps to open up a lot of doors. They don’t see us as another group asking for our needs to be met by them; we’re asking them for help and bringing resources that can help them as an institution.
Allison: Our challenge is little different than Portland. Although people of color are the majority here in LA County, we have a lot of poverty and not a lot of resources to deal with transportation issues. We’re one of the first programs or organizations to explicitly address equity in bicycle programming, so it’s been a challenge trying to create more dialog at the national and local level —not just with environmental groups but also social justice groups who might feel their populations could be negatively affected by bicycle facilities. We’ve had an interesting challenge trying to bring together both sides into a unified perspective of helping low-income populations. Also, there’s not a lot of resources put into this, so the support from the other groups is great, but without economic resources behind that, grants or funding, it’s challenging to do robust programming that’s meaningful and really grooming people of color to become leaders, whether immigrant cyclists, youth or within staff we want to grow. We need to be able to start targeting more resources to this work to make it long-term and change the face of who’s in this community… Within the past year it’s been an amazing trajectory just to see our city politicians and mayor get behind transit and bike expansion in the city… but now we have to be very vigilant that these bicycle and transit expansion opportunities actually are equitable and don’t just displace people. We’re work with coalition partners to make sure, for instance, that transit-oriented development has affordable housing opportunities, because, the last thing that our group wants to do is advocate for bike lanes in these areas and then not have a way for people to thrive and stay in their communities and not benefit from the facilities we worked so hard to win.
Anthony: With the National Brotherhood of Cyclists we have a relationship with over 40 significant clubs in major markets in this country — and these are not people who need you to give them a bike. What I see with many of them, which are primarily African American, in terms of their development, it’s still about being a club and about riding. Our work right now is helping them learn to become advocates and that has not been easy. Our club in Minnesota, we’ve really tried to be a model… We’re working as a club to keep ourselves in the mix of what’s going on in the transportation community. We assign club members to be part of different efforts going on, like the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota or the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, and Women on Bikes initiative. There are lots of things going on here and we’re trying to stay involved in that way. The clubs themselves [nationwide] have started to grow organically, so, about five years ago, we began to connect them to one another into a national network of clubs. We have own national summit and we’re trying to get them to become advocates and participants in the change that’s happening in their communities.
Andy: And I think we’re going to see change happen really quickly. The League has woken up to the fact that we need to deal with this issue properly. We need to take it seriously; devote actual staff, resources, time, energy and effort to make a difference with the work we’re doing… This is a conversation that’s been going on within the League for a couple of years now and I’ve been in the movement for 30 years, so it’s not a moment too soon. And part of our responsibility is to listen and find out what role we can most usefully play to support groups at local level making a difference in their communities.
Hamzat: As a movement, we’re in a good place in terms of developing some framework on how to engage in new communities and make sure that issue of leadership is addressed. A lot of organizations are coming out of these local communities but connecting them to the larger national conversation and local organizations; and making sure the work of those organizations goes beyond just infrastructure to concrete engagement with communities they’re looking to put a bike lane through. I think that from the equity perspective, making sure there are actual resources out there for groups to be able to develop their own programming, whether those resources are toolkits or reports or conferences or conversations like this — or at end of day, money and staffing to make sure these things are actually happening. There’s a lot of opportunity. Just the title of the report, “The New Majority” highlights that shifting, that changing of the guard on a lot of different levels. So it’s really important that the bicycling community doesn’t fall behind and, not only take a hold of that, but be the innovators and trailblazers in terms of that.
Anthony: I think that one of the things that has to happen is that it’s not infrastructure first. That’s something that’s a very big piece of this. If we can do this in a way that infrastructure becomes part of a solution for something the community wants for itself we will find that is something totally different…. Purely looking at it from a transportation perspective leaves that piece out of it. We have these really cool ideas and things that happen but the community is not enlisted, is not brought along. There’s a perspective change that has to happen for some communities we’re working with, and transportation is not it. It may be health improvement; it may be safety on the streets. As you mature and really look at it, then it becomes transportation, but in the beginning it’s health improvement. I don’t have any data on this but health improvement may be the number one driver in the African American community, the number one thing they’re excited about biking and walking and then, once they’re reintegrating biking and walking into their lifestyles, they want to changing their communities so they can do it more safely, more often, more easily. One example: We get a call from the Church Olympics, an organization that’s going to get a lot of churches involved around a bike ride. I go to the first meeting and they look at us and say, “We got this bike ride thing handled. We just want you to be there to help us.” These guys planned to put all the church members on a bus, drive seven miles, ride around the lake, jump back in the bus, come back and call it a day. They live in the community but were unaware that there was an entrance to the bike route that leads to that lake less than a half mile from where we were having the meeting. So there’s lots of pieces that organizations need to change and understand. It’s not infrastructure first. It’s relationships first, understanding the culture and motivations first and then infrastructure is a solution.
Rob: The first key is listening. If you don’t start out by listening you’re not going to be able to engage. That’s something a lot of us have trouble with. We go in and say, “You need to do this. Why aren’t you on bikes?” For us, the key is just listening and hearing what concerns and issues are in the communities and safety and health are the key. We did focus group studies in Portland and San Francisco. Words not to use: green, sustainability. Words to use: safety, wealth and heath. So we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about biking as being key to accessing American wealth values, particularly in the African American and Latino communities.
Anthony: The listening piece is so important. I just feel like saw this in Austin, Texas. The Austin community, in the traditionally African American community, they saw this well thought-out infrastructure change, reconnecting areas to downtown, as something happening to them, going through their community, not happening in their community. That’s what it looks like when we focus on infrastructure: something goes through a community, it happens to them so those people can get from their homes to their jobs. So the listening piece has to happen because you will find what solution these infrastructure changes will create for them.
Allison: In LA, we’ve had sort of sector of the bike advocate movement that’s wanted to see paint striped on any street, no matter what. And because they’re not thinking about community impacted by it or where the most effective proposal would be based on which communities’ streets have bike lanes and what will actually get used… A campaign we pushed for two years, to get the first road dieted bike lane here in LA is going through the communities we’re targeting that are very dense, with a lot of immigrants and people who are very dependent on bikes and transit and don’t necessarily own cars. On 7th Street, we got the bike lanes and it’s one of the more heavily-used bike lanes in the city. Many of the bike lanes are not in strategic areas, just places that were maybe easy to do and the bike advocate said, “Yes, another mile of paint” — but its not a meaningful type of facility or in the right area where it’s going to be best used.
What are some tangible next steps on the local and national level to continue to move this forward?
Rob: Our funded partnerships with two nonprofits are the first step in the external piece. From the internal side, we’re in the middle of an equity audit. So those are two concrete examples of things we’re doing. At the national level I think need to look at a real analysis external and internal, beyond just pictures, at what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong.
Anthony: Ours is really to continue to be engaged in the public policy and infrastructure development and be part of the conversation. We love to ride and a lot of our people will ride anyway, but we’re trying to educate ourselves and get connected so that we can make an informed contribution to how that development happens. Part of that is holding our public policy makers accountable, which we’ve not done a good job of. I feel strongly that when we get organized and build capacity we should be able to make a phone call to our network and we should be able to touch someone in a legislative seat or city council somewhere because we need to let them know that people are listening. Being organized like that, I’m really learning what a difference that makes. From a statistical standpoint, I know that if we have strong relationship sin top 25 TV markets in this country, which our network does, we can get to over 50% of African American people in the country. That kind of effort will matter. When we wield that kind of influence that matters. So that’s our next step.