ITE Journal - May 2020 - 16

| inside the industry

Making Equity a Sustainable Part
of Bike Share
By Nathan
McNeil, John
MacArthur, and
Joseph Broach,
Portland State
University

Over the past decade, bike share systems have become
relatively common in U.S. cities. Many of those systems
have been making efforts to ensure that bike share is
accessible to all residents, particularly those who have
the fewest resources or were underserved in the past.
Meanwhile, the mobility landscape in 2020 is rapidly
changing, with dockless bike share, e-bike and e-scooter
systems, along with ride-hailing services like Uber and
Lyft, contributing to a new and uncharted urban transportation scene. In order to compete in this changing
landscape, particularly with regard to providing equitable service, bike share systems need to be able to better
understand and document the outcomes of their programs so that they can articulate and replicate successes,
and to identify and adapt when programs aren't working.
Portland State University (PSU) recently completed a
project looking at how bike share systems are approaching equity programming, with the goal of providing a
resource to help cities tackle these challenges.

Background
Many bike share systems have been launched in central
city areas and neighborhoods with demonstrated or
anticipated support for bicycling programs. These
areas have tended to be disproportionately white and
higher-income.1, 2 Bike share users have also been disproportionately white, higher-income, young, educated,
and male.3, 4
Prior research found that even when bike share
stations are placed in lower-income communities
of color, white and higher-income residents use the
systems disproportionately.5 Physical access to a bike
share station or bike was one of many barriers that we
observed for underserved residents. In addition to the
financial burden of membership, which may cost $100
USD or more per year, lower-income residents are also
less likely to have a credit card or smartphone, which are
key components to many bike share systems. Even when
they have a credit card, some people may not want to use
it for fear that they'll be charged more than they expect
due to overage fees or bike damage. Language barriers or
the lack of ability to ride a standard bike share bike also
prevent some people, while many others don't think their
local streets are safe for bicycling. Further, many resi16

May 2020

i te j o urnal

dents in lower-income communities and communities
of color are less likely to have friends and family who
use bike share, are less likely to have used it themselves,
know less about how the system works, and often do not
know about available discounts even when they do exist.5
These facts demonstrate the formidable challenge
cities and bike share operators face when seeking to
make bike share a valuable resource to lower-income
and minority residents. However, there is also research
that suggests that lower-income people and people of
color generally like the idea of having bike share in their
communities, and once signed up, are just as likely to be
active bike share users.6, 7
With funding from the Better Bike Share Partnership
(BBSP), a "collaboration funded by The JPB Foundation
to build equitable and replicable bike share systems,"
we set out to document the breadth of approaches,
challenges, and successes that were underway across
the country to make bike share better for everyone.
This article draws from the 2019 National Scan of Bike
Share Equity Programs report, and discusses how the
intertwined needs for better data and more consistent
funding underlie sustainable equity programming.
Findings are based on a questionnaire of bike share
operators, cities, and community partners. We received
at least one response from bike share systems in 70 cities
across 34 states. From those responses, we received
information on 105 different equity programs (some
systems had more than one program).

The Current State of Bike Share
Equity Programming
The survey found that the smallest cities were much less
likely to be actively working on addressing equity. Of the
18 systems with fewer than 150 bikes that responded to
our survey, less than half had implemented any sort of
equity effort. However, the vast majority of systems over
that threshold are actively working to address equity,
with 73 percent of larger systems having specific equity
programs, and most of the rest having equity work
infused in their efforts.
For each program described by survey respondents, we asked which population(s) the program was
designed to serve (multiple responses were allowed).



ITE Journal - May 2020

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