Asking Questions about Equitable Micromobility
It’s crazy to think that on July 7th at 11:30am this year, I was at a kids’ gym with a bunch of children celebrating my son’s first birthday. Three years ago in 2016, at that same moment, I was in downtown Los Angeles at Grand Park with a bunch of elected officials and bike advocates celebrating the kickoff of bike share in Los Angeles.
A lot has changed for me in the last three years. In addition to having a child, I left the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) and the transportation world completely to lead a park equity organization. I came back to the transportation world at the beginning of this year, when I joined Toole Design. I’m so happy to be back, but as I’ve gotten my footing in transportation again, I’ve noticed that, while things appear to have progressed, some familiar issues have largely remained the same.
Everyone talked about making micromobility equitable, but what does that really mean?
The truth is, there are new components that look different, but for anyone who values equity in transportation, the same questions and concerns still simmer just beneath the surface. When I left bike advocacy, we were still trying to determine what bike share would and could mean for transportation within a region. We were still trying to figure out if bike share could be an advocacy tool and a key to accessibility to get more people riding and talking about the importance of bike infrastructure.
Thanks to a grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership, LACBC and I had the opportunity to explore these ideas in partnership with People for Mobility Justice and LA Metro to help make bike share more equitable for all to use it. Our goal was to figure out how students, seniors, and low-income people could better access bike share despite barriers like not having a credit card, or not knowing how to use the system.
Talking with our peers across the country, we learned that we all had the same fears and struggles in watching agencies try to make systems equitable by retrofitting them. What we learned and experienced was that bike share didn’t feel like something that was created by or for people of color. Equity was an afterthought, rather than an element built in from conception.
We also talked to people around the country who felt that — just as with other transportation work — bike share seemed to be led by, or heavily impacted by, people in decision-making positions who were predominately white. Our national network of advocates kept hearing community members say that they thought of bike share as city-run systems with clunky pedal bikes, long planning timelines and low funding. People were never sure these bikes would get them where they needed to go and the overall image was that bike share was still largely a young, white people thing. If you weren’t young, fit, white, and able-bodied, it didn’t seem like bike share was a transportation solution for you.
Read the rest on the Better Bike Share Partnership website