TRCLC 14-1

Explorations into the Equity Dimensions of Bicycle Sharing Systems

  • PIs: Smith, Oh – Western Michigan University
  • Project Period: July 1, 2014 – August 1, 2015

Historically, lower-income communities and nonwhite populations (i.e., Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, mixed or other race and/or ethnicity) have been left out of (motorized) transportation planning decisions in the US. Despite the widespread adoption of environmental justice and other social policies that aim to reduce disparities in planning processes and outcomes, transportation inequities persist across income, racial and ethnic groups. Continuing this trend, the recent active transportation and active living movements have targeted primarily middle- and upper-class communities despite the fact that low-income, Black, and Latino communities tend to experience: (1) lower rates of mobility/accessibility; (2) higher rates of obesity and related health risks; and (3) higher rates of pedestrian- and bicycle-related fatalities. And while diverse communities are embracing non-motorized transportation, there is valid concern that nonwhite populations will again be marginalized or unable to share in the benefits of existing and future bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented planning efforts. This project evaluates medium to large, fixed-station bicycle sharing systems (BSS) across the United States through an environmental justice lens in two phases. In phase one, general transit feed data and BSS (i.e., station and capacity) information is used to examine the degree to which race, ethnicity, income and other socioeconomic characteristics explain spatial variations in bike stations (and bike station capacity) and multimodal accessibility. Phase two carries out an in situ assessment of select BSSs. This field-based research component is used to contextualize earlier findings and characterize the relative and nuance internal practices of bicycle use within lower-income and non-white communities.

Final Report