Eight "mutual assistance programs" that can build support for biking as transportation on the part of low income communities
Flag Wars," about "gentrification" in the Olde Towne East neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, full of huge Victorian frame houses, how the neighborhood was experiencing an influx of white, mostly Gay residents, in an area that had been historically black.
One of the problems for older poorer residents is that the houses are huge and costly and expensive to maintain, even for people who are well off.
One of the sub-themes was how certain "new" residents were very active in calling housing code enforcement on households, usually older and black, where the properties weren't being properly maintained or had "outsider art"-like elements.
For a variety of reasons, there was tremendous animosity towards the new residents on the part of the legacy residents.
Journey Christian Church volunteer Don Biggs and other church members donated their efforts to work on the house of Estherine Bell in Richmond's Fulton neighborhood as part of the 50 home daylong annual event by Rebuilding Together of Richmond. - JOE MAHONEY, Richmond Times-Dispatch.
I wondered why instead of fostering animosity, couldn't the new residents have worked to build better relationships with older residents by helping them out and organizing a home repair assistance program, a kind of "Amish barn raising" program or the equivalent of the housing improvement programs done by various Rebuilding Together affiliates.
That would have gone a long way towards community building and would improve the neighborhood for everyone, without regard to household income.
The same goes for biking as transportation. Given that I've been biking for transportation since 1990, I don't believe there is some big white conspiracy involved in creating bike lanes in cities ("Can some big D.C. churches fight off a bike lane?," Washington Post), even if people less enlightened on transportation policy think so:
“This ain’t London, this ain’t Europe. The United States is built on the automobile and we need to respect that,” said Michael Green, a deacon at New Bethel Baptist Church.which I have written about more generally here, "Urg: bad studies don't push the discourse or policy forward | biking in low income communities (in DC) edition,"
The reality is that biking for transportation is still at the early adopter phase, and in innovation diffusion theory, for the most part the less well off generally are not at the forefront of the adoption of new technologies, people need help to change their routines and adopt new behaviors ("The Power of a Gentle Nudge: Phone Calls, Even Voice Recordings, Can Get People to Go to the Gym," Wall Street Journal).
The best way to build bridges with people of color and/or low income communities on sustainable mobility practice is to develop what we might call "mutual assistance programs," designed to help make biking more inclusive.
In "Urg" I wrote:
Comparatively speaking, bicycling take up is low for all demographic segments, regardless of income, but even lower for most lower income segments (with some exceptions, like Hispanics, see "Spelling out bike safety in Spanish" New York Times).
These barriers are not unique to low income populations, but lower income households likely need additional programmatic support to assist the adoption of bicycling as a regularized mode of transportation. What we need are focused policy solutions to move change forward.
Because most people are not particularly adept at thinking in terms of systems or structural solutions (you can call it "platforms" or "product-service systems" if you want), most new "studies" are merely a form of "biking in place," instead of moving discourse and policy forward when it comes to these questions.Here are eight ideas for a more comprehensive approach:
Community Cycling Center of Portland has a program that outfits low income residents with bikes and all the requisite support equipment and training, so that they can cycle safely to work.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch ("Notable Gifts: Capital One donates 20 bikes, gear"), Capital One is supporting a similar program there. From the article:
Twenty bicycles donated by Capital One will provide greater access to jobs for participants in the Workforce Pipeline Program at Richmond’s Center for Workforce Innovation. Capital One volunteers assembled the bicycles with assistance from RideRichmond. Capital One donations also provided safety gear such as helmets for the riders and lights and locks for the bikes.
... A regional study found that nearly 1,000 additional businesses and 18,000 additional jobs are located within 1.5 miles of the end of the bus line, Manion said. “We have had several participants that have lost jobs or been unable to get jobs because of this short distance.”2. Integrating community bike programs into public recreation centers. I don't have any good examples of this "in real life" but I suggested doing so in the draft bike and pedestrian plan I wrote for Baltimore County, Maryland.
There are two kinds of community bike promotion programs that are top of mind, bike co-ops and youth bike programs, that ought to be integrated into public recreation and community centers as a matter of course, especially in lower income areas,
Instead of forcing community bike programs to come up with space and the money to keep it going, why not integrate such programs into community recreation centers, which would also make their services more widely available and provide a lot more visibility for biking.
A Bikeable Feast blog.
In the DC area, bike co-ops include The Bike House in Petworth, the Mt. Rainier Bike Co-op just over the DC border in Maryland, and the VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia. Bike co-ops usually help people fix bikes, teach basic bike repair, and may hold community rides.
Youth bike programs generally use biking as a way to teach life skills.
Some programs that come to mind are Gearin' Up Bicycles in DC, Phoenix Bikes in Arlington County, Virginia, Recycle-A-Bicycle in New York City (in the past, they've sponsored a national Youth Bike Summit), and Neighborhood Bike Works in Philadelphia ("Well Being: Ride of Dreams takes them far" Philadelphia Inquirer). NBW is now an independent organization but originally it was a program of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
A program I find particularly impressive is the Ghisallo Bicycle Initiative in Austin, Texas. It's definitely a model of national best practice. One of their programs sets up "Bike Club" after-school programs at specific schools, but they have many more equally awesome programs, for all age levels.
Another example, the Major Taylor Bicycle Clubs. Major Taylor was an African-American bicycle racer. One active club is in Seattle (Young people find cycling gets the wheels turning", Seattle Times).
3. Bike donations for children. The Austin American-Statesman ("Build-A-Bike lunches at ABGB: Eat, drink, donate bikes to kids") reports on an interesting holiday fundraiser for the Ghisallo Bicycle Initiative. From the article:
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., or ABGB, is teaming with the Ghisallo Cycling Initiative to host Build-A-Bike holiday lunches during the first three weeks of December. Groups can purchase one or two bikes for donation.
Party goers show up for pizza and beer, and mechanics from Ghisallo help them assemble bikes that will be given to children at Perez Elementary School, which serves families hard hit by the latest round of flooding on Onion Creek. The bikes, SE Soda Pop models, will cost the group the discounted price of $170 each and Ghisallo will provide a helmet, bell, lights and lock for each one. Party goers pay for their own food and drink.What a great program!
4. Bike bundling programs in public housing. I've suggested this to a couple of public housing organizations but never got a response. The idea would be to develop programs similar to bike sharing programs offered by some colleges and universities, where rather than deploying technologically complicated and expensive sharing systems like Capital Bikeshare, instead they assign a student a bike for a semester for a small fee (or even free), along with a lock and helmet, and usually repair services are included.
How to: Bike Parking" guide by David Baker Architects.
At UCLA they call it the Bike Library ("Bikes all rented out at UCLA Bike Library," Daily Bruin) while at North Central College in Illinois, use of a "rental" Cardinal Red Bike is free, but they have a small number of bikes.
The idea is that public housing residents could get bike access in a similar way, and it could be bundled into the cost of renting an apartment. Of course, there would need to be protected and very secure bike parking installed as part of the program.
5. Integrating community bike programs into public housing. Larger public housing programs could integrate bike co-op/youth cycling programs comparable to those discussed above in point #2.
6. Discounted bike sharing memberships on a means-tested basis. More bike sharing programs provide discounted memberships for low income residents. the second least expensive program is Boston's which charges $5, but Montgomery County Maryland goes further with their MC Liberty program, which provides free membership (for a limited number of participants).
The City of Boston does this through their Roll It Forward program, and recently Philadelphia did something similar ("City crews collect 73 abandoned bikes," Philadelphia Inquirer) but not as systematically.
8. Credit union loans to buy bikes. A few months ago I wrote about a new program by the Virginia Credit Union in Richmond, where they make loans as low as $100, for people to buy bikes.
Bank on DC program.
Programs like this have a kind of microcredit/microfinance element and can be an inducement to join such programs.
Labels: bicycle and pedestrian planning, bicycling, car culture and automobility, change-innovation-transformation, low income households, social change, sustainable transportation, transportation planning