ITE Journal - February 2020 - 28

| inside the industry

The Journey to Equity at
the Better Bike Share Partnership
Transportation modes in the United States are not all
created equal-let's face it, they never have been. Infrastructure favors the car in almost every American city,
and those most likely to depend on transit, bicycling,
and walking are also most likely to earn less and live
further from the places they need to go.1 The last decade
has seen new transportation options arriving on our city
streets, which can be an opportunity for all if we can
create access for everyone. 
When we launched the Better Bike Share Partnership
(BBSP) in 2014, the partners-the City of Philadelphia,
PA, USA; Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia;
National Association of City Transportation Officials
(NACTO); and PeopleForBikes-were determined
to build a new reality for bike share. Located downtown and largely dock-based at the time, we knew
the modestly sized systems were not equitable. Their
ridership was predominantly young, white and male,
regardless of city demographics. The pricing models
emphasized annual memberships that required a credit
card, a chunk of money upfront, and access hinged on
a smartphone. Even the images on marketing materials
and kiosks featured one type of rider who was male,
physically fit, and white. Systems could do better. And
in doing better, they could make what is an affordable,

Photo Courtesy Strawberry Mansion Community Development Corporation.

By Zoe Kircos,
Director of Grants
and Partnerships,
Better Bike Share
Partnership

Indego Ambassadors team up for a ride.
28

Fe bruar y 2020

ite j ou rn al

efficient way to get around even more accessible to those
who would benefit most. 
BBSP focused on two concurrent efforts: the development, launch, and ongoing investment in Philadelphia's
Indego bike share system as a model for prioritizing
equity; and supporting and sharing lessons from other
systems across the country as they piloted and scaled
equity-focused programs and practices. 
What did we learn from five years, 34 grants, 300
blogs, a dozen conferences, and thousands of riders?
Well, a lot. Here are a few highlights:
Prioritize equity. In the words of Philadelphia marketing guru Naja Killebrew, "Equity is the fabric, not the
fabric softener." Equity is not something you add at the
end to make it smell good; it's woven into every part of
the system. When the City of Portland, OR, USA began
designing its system, leaders looked at station siting,
prices and payment options, and also considered how
a bike share program would reflect its values around
opportunity and a living wage. As a result, Portland
required the operator to ensure historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged people made up
at least 50 percent of total employment hours. And after
90 days, all part-time employees would have to make no
less than 150 percent of the state minimum wage. Writing this equity requirement into the operator contract
ensured that it did not get lost in the wash. 
Try, learn, refine, repeat. No one wins a race the
first time they hop on a bike. Many new programs
designed to reach, teach, and engage people who have
been ignored and unheard for decades don't win big
in their first years either. Philadelphia spent months
hosting focus groups, talking to community leaders and
working with local non-profits to design their bike share
system outreach and engagement strategies. They hired,
trained, and deployed ambassadors who spent countless
hours at events and rides. After the first season, the
city regrouped, asked hard questions, then revised the
whole program. In fact, every fall since Indego's launch
in 2015, various aspects of outreach efforts have been
reworked. Systems, needs, and opportunities change-
it's okay to change with them. 
Community partners matter. It's far easier to tap into
the knowledge, history, and resources already present



ITE Journal - February 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal - February 2020

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