What Bike Planners Are Missing When They Design Projects in Black and Latino Neighborhoods

Bike infrastructure matters,  but in communities of color, concerns about personal safety and police profiling also affect the decision to get on a bike. Rendering: Rutgers
Bike infrastructure matters, but in communities of color, concerns about personal safety and police profiling also affect the decision to get on a bike. Rendering: Rutgers

If your local police force has a reputation for harassing people who look like you, and your neighborhood gets a new bike lane, would that infrastructure be enough to make you feel comfortable riding?

Charles Brown, a researcher at Rutgers, has studied biking attitudes in disadvantaged communities.
Rutgers researcher Charles Brown.

It’s a question that gets to the heart of new research from Charles Brown at Rutgers University. In a groundbreaking survey, Brown and James Sinclair asked New Jerseyans about their attitudes toward biking and broke down the responses by race.

Bike infrastructure matters — bike lanes or off-street trails are one of the key features black and Latino respondents said they’d need to start biking or to bike more often. But it’s not enough on its own, says Brown. “The infrastructure piece gets too much attention and the social and cultural pieces are missing,” he told Streetsblog.

In the survey, black and Latino respondents were more likely than white respondents to cite fear of racial profiling or crime as a deterrent to cycling. After traffic crashes, the risk of robbery or assault was the second most common barrier to cycling cited by black and Latino respondents. Racial profiling was third.

“The challenges [for these groups] are more associated with social context than the infrastructure,” Brown told listeners during a NACTO-sponsored webinar yesterday.

Reporting on his findings in the ITE Journal last September, Brown asked readers to consider how a new bikeway, sited only with consideration for traffic-related factors like crash risk, could provoke “an increase in frustration among residents if the design leads them to the very parts of town that they seek to avoid.”

Brown recommends that the public planning process take into account these perspectives from the outset, and that tools used in Vision Zero efforts, like mapping pedestrian and bike deaths, be overlaid with crime maps, so that both types of safety concerns can be addressed in tandem.

Representation also matters. The Rutgers survey found that before-and-after renderings of projects depicting people of color help increase support for bike infrastructure projects.

In general, support for bike lanes and bike-share among black and Latino respondents is high, but confidence that they can secure these improvements from local government is not. In the survey, 53 percent of black respondents said it was unlikely or very unlikely that their city would make investments in cycling.

“We’re not discussing power and access to power and how that impacts who gets infrastructure in their communities,” said Brown. “Those discussions are not happening within the cycling context.”

74 thoughts on What Bike Planners Are Missing When They Design Projects in Black and Latino Neighborhoods

  1. Just because cyclists haven’t killed any motorists ‘yet’ doesn’t mean it can’t happen, or that bicyclists should get a free pass on the rules and laws of the road. But quick – riddle me how many pedestrians were killed by cyclists?

  2. And now we’ve gone into the straw man zone. I’ll buy you a pop if you can show me where I said anything to the contrary.

    Oh wait – but I didn’t. Argue with yourself all you want, pal. Doesn’t change the stats, or the fact that a 2,000 lb object is inherently more dangerous than a 20-40lb one.

  3. I can tell you for New York City. How many people have bikes killed since 2009? 3. How many do cars kill? Close to half a dozen *a week*. The number of car deaths per year in the US about equals the number of gun deaths, on the order of 30,000. Rules for cars exist because cars kill. And clearly they are not strict enough. So there’s no need to move the goal post; it’s just fine where it is.

  4. You keep trying to move the goal posts to EXEMPT bicyclists from and responsibilities and following rules & laws.

    The lopsided number game is definitely a trademark of bicycle advocates. The numbers are much lower then motor vehicles. So they will spin the numbers between the two and make you believe that bicyclists are blameless, never cause trouble, or ride illegally, it is them awful motor vehicle drivers that are the problem.

    The real big issue is that bicyclists are NOT educated how to ride their bicycle safely on the road way. Pedestrians are not educated how to use the right of way properly, or where to cross.

    You can’t just keep getting more and more strict on driving and expect different results. The goal is to deter driving and get people out of their personal vehicles and on a bicycle and or public transportation.

    I remember there was news that a bicyclist in new york was caught on a dash cam that hit and run a person. Too bad there was no license plate on the bicycle.

    The bolder bicyclists ( and the bolder bicycle advocates get with anti-car legislation ) get the more people will be on the look out video recording like I do to expose bad bicyclists.

  5. You asked a question, I answered, and yes, again, you move the goalpost. So cyclists cause .3 deaths a year, and drivers 300, and you think bikes are the problem? Going after bikers, whether with with education or enforcement, is an effective strategy and a good return on investment? Sure then, make it proportionate, devote 1/1000 of the resources managing cars to managing bicycles. I think we spend more than that already. So yes, driving a private automobile is hands down the most dangerous mode of transportation, causes the most harm, and is where you can make the most improvement in safety, so therefore needs the strictest regulation, and sure, better drivers ed to boot.

  6. So saving more lives by educating how to bicycle safely on the roads isn’t a good return on investment!? Wow just wow! Looks like you are moving the goal posts again.

    If bicycles have the same rights to the road they should have to follow the same rules, as well as be educated just as much. Or else they will have to not be allowed on the road if they want ‘special rights’

    Regardless you can still injure or kill a pedestrian with a bicycle, just because it is under reported doesn’t mean that it can’t or doesn’t happen.

    This is my last time I am going to respond to you as you can’t and won’t see it any other way except your own.

  7. I will not saying you did not earn where ever you are at, but I will say that you started the game on the easy setting.

  8. Interesting,… my son goes to college in Wisconsin (not Madison) and reports that Wisconsin drivers are by and large complete intolerant jerks with no idea how to show the slightest courtesy to other road users (cyclists of pedestrians) – so maybe it’s you.

  9. “They are killed, on occasions, because of bad behavior” You mean like the Black people at Church in Charleston? I hate to break it to you, White Supremacists do still kill people because the color of their skin. And sometimes (once is too often), police draw their guns and use excessive force against people of color.

  10. I have never been to madison and likely don’t plan on it unless I win the lottery. Bicyclists and pedestrians are impatient, intolerant jerks as well. I caught another cyclist, cycling with no hands on the handle bar near traffic. Very dangerous. When the cyclist loses control the bicycle advocate in Wisconsin will blame the driver as cyclists are blameless because ‘vulnerability’

    Check out my youtube channel stop bad bicyclists wisconsin and look at the bicyclists I caught on video doing stupid dangerous illegal things.

  11. people. in every town. in the us. for some reason. hate cyclists. of all colors. The number of things that we endure that are the result of white trash arrogance, ignorance and aggression is crippling. I’ve ridden my bike for over 30 years. I cannot name one instance of harassment and endangerment from the hundreds of unprovoked interactions that didn’t involve white, mostly male drivers. I have never had a minority person give me any trouble while riding, ever. Arrogant white drivers always demand that cyclists “learn the rules” etc. The reason the rules don’t matter is that the first thing you learn when you learn to drive is to expect the unexpected and that you are responsible for reacting to the conditions ahead of you. The people ahead of you were there first. It’s why when you hit a car from behind, it’s your fault, every time. You can’t tell people to learn not to make surprise moves. That cyclists can be arrogant even irresponsible is not a justification for endangering anyone with your car, it’s a prejudiced rationalization. It isn’t an argument you are trying to win, you win already. You as a driver have to hang back and wait and pass safely, every time, every person, for the rest of your life, regardless the lines painted on the road, the attitude of the people walking or riding, the law, the sun, the time, the politics…If you use your car as a weapon of your attitude, the pedestrian or cyclist will die every time. If the cyclists are breaking the law, let law enforcement handle it just like all the speeders who pass you by, they are not your domain or responsibility. If all cyclists are arrogant annoying liberals, then be the adult in the room and do the right thing, let the universe and Jesus sort it out if your so right.

  12. Well, what a wonderful racist and stereotyping comment. I live and work in a majority minority city with a lot of “rednecks” on the periphery. Within the city I routinely see (and sometimes receive) overtly hostile and aggressive driver behavior from blacks. In fact I’ve had several hostile encounters as a pedestrian with black motorists that acted dangerously and aggressively while I was legally crossing the street. Some to the point of getting out of their cars and threatening use of force after nearly hitting me.

    In the rural and suburban areas it is typically more white drivers, but the level of hostility is typically not as great.

  13. Maybe I am a little racist against my own kind if that’s even possible. I will edit my comment. But I didn’t choose the interactions, they chose me. If my reality seems shocking to you, that’s one thing. But I can’t help the fact that as a rural and city commuter for my entire 30 plus year cycling life in the south and west, I’ve never had anyone but white people give me trouble. Perhaps I’ve had a stereotypical experience that isn’t reflective of other cyclists’ experiences on the whole.

  14. What’s especially odd about these fragile white people who melt into puddles at the slightest criticism is that they have no clue where “snowflake” comes from. A character in Fight Club, representating a drill sergeant form of toxic masculinity, uses the term to suppress individuality.

  15. Nope, whinging that it’s “not UK [sic] to talk about” things like crime is not a lampoon by any stretch. Nor does this particular whinge make one iota of sense in response to this article.

  16. @Al Mundy – The phrase “All _____ Matter” seems noble on the surface, but when it gets brandished as a rebuttal or retort, it has the opposite effect. The point of “Black _____ Matter” is to point out that we are falling short of “All” when it comes to disproportionate neglect of Black lives, Black cyclists, etc.

    The “Black _____ Matter” phrase is not one in need of rebuttal or qualification. Especially in an article like this one, where the phrase you attempt to rebut wasn’t even uttered.

  17. @Bike Planner – When non-“intersectionality” rich people like Woody Allen don’t want bike lanes, what impact does that have on your process?

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