Bike Sharing In Diverse Communities

Bike sharing programs like the one sponsored by Hulu in Santa Monica, CA are often seen as a sign of gentrification. However, recent reports of bike sharing in more diverse neighborhoods still show that people of color rent these bikes at significantly lower rates than their white neighbors. For example, in Washington D.C., where half the population identifies as African-American, only 4% of Capital Bikeshare members were people of color.

The disparity is so marked that a study had to be done to see whether African Americans dislike bike riding in general (they don’t). Also, people of color had very positive views on the programs themselves. So why weren’t they using the service around Washington D.C.?

Most people who responded to a survey looking into the problem expressed a distinct lack of knowledge about the program itself, and the discounts and assistance that can be provided to cover the cost of it. Outside of that, many feared that using the bikes would be dangerous, not only because of traffic but because they worried about being the target of crimes or harassment.

This is just another instance of green technology not taking into consideration the particular needs of a diverse America, and how perceptions in one culture may different from those in another. Until environmental advocates start giving these groups more specific attention, going green will be yet another venture in which they are neglected or left behind by white America.