The past year has ushered in a so-called "cycling renaissance" across U.S. cities. In fact, cycling activity increased 11% year-over-year (YOY) on average last fall, with some mid-sized cities like Madison, WI and Charlotte, NC seeing 75% YOY gains in activity.
Despite the increased attention placed on cycling, the transportation mode still presents significant accessibility and equity challenges in major cities.
In a bid to address those challenges and barriers to equity, the Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP), which includes the City of Philadelphia, the National Association of City and Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation, has selected four new "Living Lab" grantees to receive $200,000 over two and a half years.
These cities will join Philadelphia, the original "Living Lab" city, as places where the partners are "testing and refining strategies to eliminate barriers to shared micromobility in low income and BIPOC communities," Zoe Kircos, director of grants and partnerships for PeopleForBikes, said in an email statement.
The four new recipients and their cities include:
- Bikes for Belmont Cragin (Chicago): The Northwest Side Housing Center will work with teenagers from the Belmont Cragin neighborhood to create a community education campaign that focuses on accessing various transit modes via bikes. The neighborhood's youth leadership council will also learn skills related to bike mechanics and handling, which the group plans to use to promote bicycles throughout their community.
- Building the Bike-to-Bus Connection (Detroit): MoGo, a local nonprofit group, will work with partners to identify barriers associated with bus and bike-share trips to create a more connected transportation network in the metro area. The group will collect feedback and data from residents to help pilot their work and inform strategies.
- PDX Prescribe-a-Bike (Portland, OR): The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) and a local initiative, the Multnomah County REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) Program, will aid local health workers with providing access, education and support for the city's bike-share service to clients who receive county health assistance.
- Red Bike Go (Cincinnati): The city's bike-share program, Red Bike, is expanding its Red Bike Go program to two new neighborhoods in order to increase community involvement. The expansion will include partnerships with schools and community-based groups, youth ambassadors and youth-centric programming.
"Being a Living Lab means taking a deep dive into addressing the obstacles that affect access to and use of shared micromobility systems," Tangier Barnes Wright, partnership and program manager at the PeopleForBikes Foundation, a founding partner of the BBSP, said in a statement. "At the end of two and a half years, the Living Labs communities will share unique and replicable approaches to achieving equity in shared micromobility that can be utilized nationwide."
The grantees were selected based on geographic diversity, and initiatives that are both replicable and capable of teaching new lessons about achieving equity in cities, according to Wright. The recipients will also build on earlier work completed in Philadelphia, which has been been a part of BBSP since its inception in 2014.
The City of Philadelphia and its partners, Bicycle Transit Systems and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, plan to use its ongoing financial support from BBSP to expand its ambassador program and "deep community community engagement work." Their effort will focus on neighborhoods served by the city's bike-share program, Indego.
The city and its partners have already meaningfully engaged with residents on local cycling needs, according to Wright. That work has involved surveying residents about their experiences with bikes and building relationships with local residents to understand what they need from local transportation and mobility options.
It's also included an ambassador program where she said community members "host rides, teach classes, and ensure people from different ethnic backgrounds and who speak different languages can participate in and access bike-share. The ambassadors directly involve residents in ride planning, welcoming ideas coming from the communities where they work."
The information gathered from those efforts has been used to inform the placement of bike-share stations, establish a discounted fare program, train people on how to use the bike-share system, and understand how the bikes fit into existing public transit commutes, according to Wright. It also ensures community members have a seat at the table when it comes to planning, designing and expanding the bike share system, she said.
"They wanted to build a bike-share program that started with equity first," she said. "They have taken on a holistic approach to get lower-income communities and communities of color on bikes."