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New Report: Bike Equity Today

The terms “invisible rider” and “invisible cyclist” have been in circulation for about ten years. In the bike world, we use them to refer politely to the individuals out there riding who have not made their way into policy-oriented bike advocacy. These terms have given us a way to talk about low-income cyclists, immigrant populations, or other groups that bike advocates have found hard to reach.

Have the terms distracted us from the important project of reaching these bicycle users?

Bike advocates who are people of color, women, and youth often hear people who look like us called invisible or scarce even when we are in the room. We are not indicator species to be monitored; we are enthusiastic supporters of bicycling who have a lot of ideas about what bikes can do for our communities. If we stay hidden, so will the paths we are breaking.

As the League found in its 2013 report “The New Majority: Pedaling Toward Equity” diversity in cycling already exists, and the number of people of color biking continues to grow. What we showcase in this companion report is the growing diversity in who is advocating for bikes.

“Diversity” refers to a mix: a mix of people, a mix of experiences. But diversity, on its own, does not guarantee that a mix of perspectives will be included in a final product. Collaboration is an intentional project.

For many bike advocates, the product we have in mind is streets. The spaces where we ride bicycles get produced through design, planning, and engineering; they are also shaped by the people who use them every day. Through our Women Bike program and the Equity Initiative, we’ve been focusing on the role that bike shops, clubs, and community rides play as the social infrastructure for biking.

In our latest report “The New Movement: Bike Equity Today” we share many examples to illustrate that “invisible riders” are only invisible to us if we choose to draw our bike movement boundaries in a way that makes those riders and their experiences irrelevant to producing bike-friendly streets.

The great news is that we have the power to redraw those boundaries. The programs and organizations in this report have started to erase those arbitrary lines and are taking action.

There is a diverse bike movement in America. When diversity becomes a valued part of decisionmaking in bike planning and design, we will have moved closer to bike equity.

We’ll know we’re getting closer to bike equity when we ask ourselves:

  • Who designed the bike projects we want people to support?
  • Whose visions do we include in our advocacy work?
  • Does the mix of people planning and advocating for bicycling represent the diversity of our towns?
  • Are there people biking in your town today who we see out on the sidewalks or streets, but who we have never seen in a bike planning meeting?
  • Are diverse perspectives considered indispensable to the bike lobbying where we advocate for spending public dollars on particular bike projects?

The questions this shift raises are difficult and often uncomfortable. That’s okay. If we want to get beyond this elephant in the room, we need to push beyond our comfort zones, and that might seem new and unfamiliar. If we want bicycling to become a normal part of transportation in the United States, we need to include this country’s diversity in our advocacy strategies.

This report is not a policy manual or a design guide; instead of advocating for particular technical interventions, it illustrates what it takes to start building the human infrastructure that will lead to policies and designs supporting bike users of all kinds. As the advocacy leaders who were interviewed for this report shared, no one has all the answers. Our change processes are ongoing and messy. The beauty of the project to end invisibility is that we no longer have to avoid anybody’s truth. We can shed the light of multicultural sight on our shared future.

How do we bridge from diversity in bike users to equitable bike advocacy?

You might be one of the many people around the country who is already experimenting to see what works. Download the report to learn more about the emerging equitable bike movement and join us in making every cyclist visible.


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