Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM) conducted ten interviews for the League of American Bicyclists in June with people in the community who regularly ride a bicycle (who will be referred to as cyclists only for brevity) and with people who are regarded as influencers and local leaders in policymaking and community organizing. This project is part of the League’s Equity Initiative.
MCM identified cyclists: people we have interacted with our programs in the past, were within reach in the communities we work in, and/or belong to groups who have been detached from mainstream and existing bicycle advocacy efforts. On the other hand, the influencers were sought out because they are key leaders whose work on many levels impacts the community members we serve and the cyclists we interviewed.
Findings from Cyclists:
Cyclists interviewed represent low-income, people of color, including people who identify as young parents, queer, and at-risk for gang violence at some point in their life. They all ride regularly and would be considered as avid bike commuters. They were asked about bike laws and have general knowledge and awareness of bike maintenance and light requirements. They shared their joys related to biking as well as their concerns, which centered on their disdain for distracted driving, disrespect from drivers, and uncertainty about what to do if they were hit.
One of the most memorable quotes was from Big C about drivers, “They see us but then they don’t see us.”
The cyclists were also asked about their sources of medical care, which ranged from preferring home remedies to having a primary care doctor available to them. While biking has risks for them, they talked about its value for their independence, well-being, connected to their environment, and economic benefits.
Good air quality and the presence of green space, bike infrastructure, affordable and quality housing, and better jobs and better wages are tied to community health.
Another major issue is law enforcement, criminalizing low-income people of color and those who are vulnerable on a bicycle or riding public transportation.
Findings from Influencers:
Influencers working in different sectors had public health related priorities in common. According to the influencers, there is a need for collaboration, coordinated efforts, and non-traditional partnerships to create progress.
In Los Angeles, our low-income communities are burdened by chronic diseases and increased risk for car-related injuries and deaths. It’s critical to take on structural changes; address social determinants and recognize the role of the built environment and policies affecting community health rather than solely focusing on individual choices or genetics. Good air quality and the presence of green space, bike infrastructure, affordable and quality housing, and better jobs and fair wages are tied to community health. A commitment to Vision Zero and action to move toward zero deaths is a step in the right direction. There is a need for political will and elected officials to champion these causes, to make the right decisions in favor of health for all and for the lives of those who walk and bike. While the pending bike share system is causing a buzz around the thriving Downtown area, there are major concerns about other bike-related issues left untouched and lacking attention from transportation agencies.
Equity remains an issue. Better serving those who already bike as a necessity is just as important as getting more people to bike. Another major issue is law enforcement, criminalizing low-income people of color and those who are vulnerable on a bicycle or riding public transportation. The prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline are major concerns. Providing a quality education and engaging youth to shape and lead their communities is essential to creating a better present and future Los Angeles.
The findings, along with a power map, were presented on July 16, 2015, in Minneapolis at the National Brotherhood of Cyclists Conference at the session: “The League of American Bicyclists Equity Advisory Council Project: Equity in Motion.”
This research project was sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists as part of their Equity initiative. Members of the Equity Advisory Council and invited consultants from six cities across the United States will present research from interviews and power mapping projects to uncover new perspectives on the power dynamics involved in bicycle advocacy.
Tweets from the event:
— MPLS Bike Coalition (@mplsbike) July 16, 2015
— RIDE:In Living Color (@RIDEInLivingCol) July 16, 2015
More tweets: #NBCMPLS
Los Angeles Issues and Highlights
- Criminalization of low-income people riding bicycles and using public transportation
- Prison industrial complex
- Police brutality
- Inequities related to bike programs and infrastructure (bike share, bike lanes, etc.)
- Legal issues and resources for people
- Physical safety when biking
- Vision Zero
- Medical coverage and costs
- Air quality
- Strength of communities
- Access to bicycles
- Access to bicycle infrastructure
- Competition between active transportation and car use
- Stigma of riding bicycles
- Narrow and limited participation in advocacy
- Need for broadening participation through groups outside of traditional active transportation advocates
- Perception of bicycle as an interest of only a minority of the population
- Land use and affordable housing
- Engineering, and “engineering as 24-hour enforcement”
- Absence of data/research
- Identifying high-need cities/neighborhoods to receive funds to improve health
- Elimination of or lack of green spaces
- Cities with high-need and low-income residents negatively affected by corruption
- Housing costs, displacement, and long commutes
- More coordinated efforts between county health and cities
- Empowerment as additional League “E”
- Wage theft
- Mental health
- Image of typical cyclist and more diverse image of actual cyclist
- Bike theft
- Disregard for 3-foot Law
- Bicycles for independence and experiencing surroundings
- Distracted driving
- Holistic wellness methods versus commercialized health care
- Riding bicycles to deter people from gang involvement
- Bike clubs as a positive activity
- Acquiring bicycles as a gift from friends, supporters, family members
- Infrequent bus schedules as an inconvenience
- Sidewalk riding due to terrifying street conditions
- Mobility and safety concerns for queer and trans people higher when walking than when biking
- Street harassment and assault
- Need for driver education
- Driving under the influence
- Institutional racism
- Autonomy and superhero feeling when biking
- Good feelings associated with riding a bicycle and the physical benefits of biking
- Bicycle is economical
- Respiratory concerns related to biking due to pollutants and vehicle emissions
- Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) coverage for low-income residents
- LGBT health center for primary care
- Uncertainty about medical care if hit by a car
- Respect on the street among all road users
- Stress on the road
- Car sharing and carpooling as alternatives when needed
- Violence in communities
- Pot holes
- Challenges of riding public transportation with young children
- Social element of riding bicycles with others