Build Bike Share for Equity First

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By Executive Vice President Tracey Capers

Around the world, in communities large and small, bike share has taken root as a convenient and affordable transportation alternative. United States municipalities are learning what many of their European counterparts have long recognized: bike share is an ideal means of facilitating mobility and providing connections between public transit options. At the same time, the landscape continues to evolve with dockless and pedal-assist bikes, and with for-hire vehicle companies like Lyft and Uber claiming a share.

However, when bike share first came to New York City, and to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant — a neighborhood with more low-income residents and residents of color than any neighborhood where bike share had previously launched — I was skeptical. As a senior executive at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation — the nation’s first community development corporation — it is my job to support the organization as it relentlessly pursues strategies to close gaps in family and community wealth, to ensure all families in Central Brooklyn are prosperous and healthy. When Citi Bike and the New York City Department of Transportation asked Restoration to encourage neighborhood adoption of bike share into Bedford-Stuyvesant, I wondered, with some doubt, how a bike could address resident displacement or economic disparity, or help build wealth. Residents felt this skepticism, too, having never asked for bike share while the program simply popped up in their backyard. Was bike share meant for them, they asked, or for the new residents moving into the neighborhood in droves?

I decided to suspend my disbelief, and with early funding made possible by the Better Bike Share Partnership and the help of Citi Bike, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the Department of Transportation, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation launched a multi-tiered engagement campaign to promote bike share in Bedford-Stuyvesant. The campaign involved promoting riders of color, weekly guided rides led by community leaders, community-wide events with helmet fittings and giveaways, discount programs and corporate subsidies to make membership more affordable, and innovative pilots providing free memberships for select patients and students.

Read more at vision zero cities journal