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How a local non-profit is breaking down biking’s color barrier

Posted by on April 19th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Alison Hill Graves presentation-1
Alison Hill Graves at a presentation
held in the Portland Building on
Thursday.
(Photo © J. Maus)

It’s been over a year since the Community Cycling Center embarked on an effort to better understand why Portland’s bike riding masses lack racial diversity.

In a story published here back in October, CCC executive director Alison Hill Graves said, “The people riding and making decisions about bicycles is a white, middle class group.”

Yesterday at a brown bag discussion hosted by the City of Portland Bureau of Transportation, Graves presented initial findings from their Understanding Barriers to Bicycling project.

“It’s not a great place to live for everybody. Some people don’t really live in a livable community.”
— Alison Hill Graves, executive director of the Community Cycling Center

On Thursday, Graves pointed out that while Portland is heralded for its livability, not everyone has the same access to it. “It’s not a great place to live for everybody. Some people don’t really live in a livable community.”

As evidence, Graves shared the “Equity Analysis Gap” graphic from the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. That analysis (which was done at the behest of Graves and others on the plan’s equity subcommittee) shows a striking correlation: areas with the most ethnic diversity have the most gaps in the bike network.

Equity Gap Analysis (from page 120 of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030).

As Portland adds a million people in the next 20 years, Graves explained that 60% of them will be of hispanic descent. “We often hear, ‘if you build it, they will come,’ but who will come?” Graves says if we don’t do more to connect and engage with communities of color, Portland’s biking future will remain dominated by a white, middle-class demographic (and it will never look like the mural outside the CCC bike shop on NE 17th and Alberta, which Graves said embodies their vision).

Alison Hill Graves presentation-2

To create relationships and get to know people in these communities, the CCC (with both staff and outside consultants) had 75 meetings, attended neighborhood events, and held five open houses. The CCC focused on two affordable housing developments; New Columbia in North Portland and Hacienda CDC in Northeast.

After speaking one-on-one with over 150 people, Graves says three main themes emerged as barriers to biking: the cost of bikes and their upkeep, concerns about safety, and the logistics of riding (where to do it, what the rules are, and so on).

The bad news, reported Graves, is that many people do not feel safe riding in their neighborhoods. Related to that is fear of bike theft (due to a lack of secure parking areas). She also pointed out that much of the information produced by the City of Portland, Metro, and advocacy groups is not getting through. “Many of them didn’t even know Portland was a bike city, or that bike maps exist”.

There were also very strong cultural perceptions working against bikes. “Only kids rides bikes” and “bikes are for white people” where among the statements the CCC recorded from the interviews. Bikes were also considered symbols of gentrification — a painful subject for many residents of North and Northeast Portland.

In one of the more interesting findings, 43% of Hispanics interviewed said they wouldn’t ride a bike because they were afraid of getting pulled over by police.

Graves says the good news was that there was, “A lot of agreement that biking makes sense to increase and improve individual health.”

From here, the CCC will return to the partner sites for monthly rides, classes, bike clubs for kids, and so on. They’ll also develop “working groups” at each site to “engage leadership, leverage partnerships, and increase ridership”. There will also be a focus to identify and then remove policies that make biking difficult.

Graves is aware that this issue is much too large and complicated to fit nicely into a non-profit group’s program. But she says they’ve approached it with realistic expectations. “We’re only a year in on this project, we have a long way to go.”

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Comments
  • KWW April 19, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Also telling during the Q&A period was the comment that many of color view whites on bikes as a symbol of gentrification.

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  • beth h April 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Well, to some extent that’s true. Most folks in Portland who ride totally by choice are able to live close enough to where they work that they don’t HAVE to rely on a car. However, lots of low-paying service jobs are very far away from, for example, New Columbia and Hacienda.

    These predominantly low-income housing establishments have been placed in older, close-in areas to help promote mixed-income neighborhoods and density; but the majority of the lowest-paying retail and cleaning jobs remain at mid-county shopping malls and westside office parks, too far away to pedal a bike to safely and easily.

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth April 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Hats off to CCC for conducting this very important work.

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  • Andrew Plambeck April 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Ha! Great article, but I clicked the link only to find out what CCC was supposed to stand for. My initial reaction was “Civilian Conservation Corps?” followed by “Clackamas Community College?”

    Must be late in the day.

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  • Aaron April 19, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    YEAH for Allison and CCC. this issue has been troubling for years. I wish them a lot of success and would love to see a much more culturally diverse biking population.

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  • h April 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I don’t remember seeing teens skateboarding other than white. Maybe I have been living in white area too long even tho I am a minority.

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  • jbiker April 19, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    It’s also common for “white” cyclists to exhibit bigotry towards non-cyclists and motorists commonly seen on this blog comments board. Since most minorities drive, these comments are usually perceived negatively towards a racial class and further reinforces cycling as a privilege white-only, gentrified symbol.

    Unfortunately, Graves also need to realize that minorities perceive driving as a sign of achieving the American dream (economic success). Some cultures, driving privilege is out of the reach of even for the middle class. Many minorities DON”T want to ride a bike, and that’s OK. Why? Because that’s freedom they have in this country that may have been denied in another country.

    So now you have a Caucasian female telling minorities that they should not exercise their new freedom? CCC, kinda sounds backwards to me, addressing a Caucasian problem, that really isn’t there, at least in the eyes of some minorities.

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  • Lance P. April 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I would agree that there is a lot of work that needs to be done. It is a culture issue.

    There is a lady that work with my wife. She was born and raised in Portland. This coworker lives across the street from work, not even a full block away. She always drives even though it probably takes longer than to just walk to work. When my wife asked why she drives she said she doesn’t want anyone seeing her walk and that everyone will talk. She even drives home for lunch.

    This is a BIG issue. This has to be discussed well before biking can even begin to be an option.

    One that same note, my cousin in town bikes everywhere, but he grew up out of state.

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  • ekim113 April 19, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    jbiker-

    It’s simple really, all you need to do is alter the American dream. It’s not a big house and nice car anymore. It will be cohabitation in a $300k dorm and riding a $2000 utility bike in full Rapha.

    At least that’s what I have been reading…

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  • A.K. April 19, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    This is extremely fascinating to me. It’s interesting that in some places of the country, bicycling is only something you do if you’re a kid or you’ve had your license revoked because of a DUI.

    However, here in Portland biking is perceived as something of privilege and class.

    It just goes to show the wildly different life experiences different groups of people can have within one city.

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  • Lance P. April 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    To jbiker:

    Not to be that guy, but I think you have completely missed the point. It is not about a ‘white’ women telling other people what is wrong, it is about showing people that there are other options. Having these options tends to save money and empower people. Have you ever been to the CCC?

    Every year during the Holiday bike drive, there are hundreds of families that are SO excited to have the ability to bike.

    I still remember last year a young Somali woman with 3 kids could not stop talking about how this would allow here kids to bike to school and would give her more time in the morning to get to work.

    How is this a white issues?

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  • A.K. April 19, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Lance P. (#8):

    It sounds like your wife’s co-worker has some serious self-image issues, yeesh! I would consider that example a very sad statistical outlier, and hopefully not within the normal spectrum of people who resist biking (or walking) for all the usual reasons. Most people, even those resistant to cycling, will be fine walking a single block.

    I’ve lived in the Irvington/Eliot area for the past five years, and I see more cyclists out then ever before, even in the winter. And the Springwater Trail and Eastbank Esplanade seem more crowded than ever. However, white people still make up a majority of those cycling and using the river-front facilities.

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  • Aaronf April 19, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    I’d like to be a fly on the wall during a discussion about how someone’s cultural perception of biking being for whites and children is wrong.

    “Your peers might laugh at you, but we white folks (on bikes) will think you’re cool!”

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  • Peter Smith April 19, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    i’m glad someone is thinking about this, working on it, and publicizing their findings.

    i think the most important part of the answer was cited in the post:

    That analysis…shows a striking correlation: areas with the most ethnic diversity have the most gaps in the bike network.

    the problem, though, is that this answer is so darn simple as to be boring — it’s just not interesting to talk about. yeah yeah yeah — more bike lanes, better bike lanes, more bike parking, etc. etc. — who cares?

    who cares when we can talk about identity politics, and race relations, and gentrification, and all sorts of fun stuff?

    my argument is this — if those ‘ethnic areas’ get the coverage and quality of bike infrastructure that others areas have, and the cycling mode share still does not start to catch up with the ‘non-ethnic areas’, then we can talk about the myriad vastly less influential reasons that people choose not bike in those ethnic areas. until then, we’re just spinning our wheels — prioritizing vanity projects like starting a bicycle-sharing program ahead and instead of building real bicycle infrastructure.

    we have the anecdotal evidence, we have the documentary evidence, we have the theories and research showing the effectiveness of bicycle infrastructure — let’s get to it.

    let’s talk about allowing people to ride bikes before we talk about convincing people to ride bikes.

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  • Aaronf April 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I live in St. Johns, and don’t have near as much trouble getting around on bike now as I did when I lived in inner SE and had to commute out to inner NE.

    I see lots of folks up on the sidewalks choosing to not use the bike lane on Fessenden. They’re all minorities!

    So, I wonder if it really is an issue of access… or even education. If someone feels it is unsafe to use a bike lane, how do you “educate” them off the sidewalk?

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  • Black Dude on Bicycle April 19, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    Mr. Smith,

    I think you miss the point: By building access into these areas, minorities see this as the gentrifying arm reaching further and further into their neighborhoods. If you build it, it won’t be long before more “trendy white folks” want to move in, forcing more minorities out.

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  • Ed April 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Growing up in Toronto, where diversity is strong and I’ve seen plenty of cyclists that are not white. Riders of different age group and ethnic background. I’m Asian myself and I have to admit that in general Portland is not very diverse. Though it will be nice to see the minority community to be exposed to this great way of commuting. Perhaps a community outreach program will be a good idea. I personally love biking due to friends who bike as well.

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  • Red Five April 19, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Yeah we don’t want those pushy white folks trying to actually make a dumpy neighborhood better now do we?

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  • matt picio April 19, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    jbiker (#7) makes an excellent point – many of the individuals that the CCC is attempting outreach towards and the city is courting don’t view it the same way as the city or the CCC. The same improvements that make things better for biking make those neighborhoods more desirable places to live, which raises rent and taxes in those neighborhoods and facilitates gentrification. It’s a complex issue.

    Peter (#14) – Before we start allowing people to ride bikes, let’s engage in dialog with the neighborhood and find out what *they* want. Hundreds of ethnic neighborhoods were destroyed in the 1950s and 60s in the name of making transportation easier, and in the process we (the US) facilitated inequity – breaking up coherent neighborhoods and forcing stable households into cheaper neighborhoods with substandard or nonexistant services. Bike improvements aren’t freeways, but they’re still disruptive – if it’s your home, it doesn’t matter if you’re forced out by the bulldozer or priced out by your landlord – either way you have to move, breaking social ties and costing money you may not have to spend.

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  • Peter Smith April 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I think you miss the point: By building access into these areas…[gentrification happens]…forcing more minorities out.

    i don’t think i missed the point — i’ll briefly reiterate my argument [bold mine]:

    my argument is this — if ‘ethnic areas’ get good bike infrastructure like the ‘white areas’, and nothing changes, then we can talk about the myriad vastly less influential reasons that people choose not to bike in those ethnic areas.

    one of those ‘vastly less influential reasons’ is ‘fear of gentrification’.

    so, in my opinion, based on anecdotal evidence and research, ‘fear of gentrification’ is not as important as ‘lack of infrastructure’ in trying to promote cycling. people and neighborhoods and cities make all sorts of decisions based on competing, often contradictory, interests all the time — the ‘cycling infrastructure’ vs. ‘gentrification’ debate is not new in that regard.

    said another way, the number one most important factor in getting people to bike — green black grey white orange male female gay straight young old 1st-gen 2nd-gen atheist humanist catholic muslim whatever — is providing appropriate bicycle infrastructure. if we want people to bike, we know how to do it – we already know the answer – we don’t have to go looking for a new answer – we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

    and i’ll add a brief note to say that, while i have no specific knowledge of the CCC’s surveys/questions/interviews/etc., i think many ‘bike surveys’ are flawed in that they don’t get to the heart of what is actually important to would-be bikers — the questions are not specific enough, those being surveyed are not asked the right questions, people respond differently than they actually behave, etc.

    This would not be at all surprising for anyone who has read any behavioral economics-type stuff, and from the bike surveys I’ve seen, most recently one commissioned in San Francisco, totally failed to ‘suss out’ meaningful answers in one of those “why don’t people bike?” surveys.

    and, while i don’t claim to have any answers about gentrification — whether it’s right, wrong, or somewhere in between — i’m inclined to say to people who worry a lot about all sorts of things: “too bad. the adult worriers have failed, so now the adult doers are going to succeed. the children of this neighborhood will be able to walk and bike to school, and if they can’t do it here, they’ll be able to do it in their new neighborhoods. this is a fairness/human rights issue, first and foremost, and it may also be a civil rights and women’s rights issue, but it’s going to happen, because it has to happen, because it’s right, so consider it inevitable.”

    the argument that we should build bike infrastructure because of its ‘gentrification-inducing’ characteristics seems a bit twisted to me, too. what’s next — keep the good schools out in the suburbs?

    i want to respond to this later argument:

    Before we start allowing people to ride bikes, let’s engage in dialog with the neighborhood and find out what *they* want. …

    life is full of decisions — they’re not all clean and easy. some decisions may, in fact, be almost perfectly horrible, yet still be just a bit more perfectly awesome — and that’s why we should probably do them — Prime Example #1: Health Care Reform.

    i would argue that the benefits of bike lanes and all manner of bike infrastructure are so devastatingly effective and awesome that we should not waver or hesitate in bringing our bike infrastructure to full implementation (whatever that might look like in the end) as quickly as possible.

    of course every community / neighborhood / town / etc. gets a say in how their areas develop, but they only get _a_ say, not _the_ say. communities have to abide by all sorts of laws, whether they like it or not, and that’s often a good thing. when Complete Streets legislation hits cities and towns and states across America, I expect people to comply with the law — regardless of their ‘fear of gentrification’, ‘fear of not being able to terrorize people in their cars’, etc.

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  • Mike April 19, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    When the kids in my all minority math class found out I had a car the asked “Why do you ride a bike?” My classes with most white kids have never asked that.

    Also advice to the CCC (and I am sure they already know this) get people who look like the people you are trying to help to help if possible. It took one visit from an African American engineer to convince two of my African American students who had never heard of engineering to want to be engineers.

    Thanks CCC for doing good work. I see you all in the schools all the time.

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  • Jim Labbe April 19, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    How about offering the Regional Bike There Map in Spanish? Several years back Portland Audubon did a Spanish version of their ‘Exploring the Columbia Slough’ pamphlet and map. It was a big hit.

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  • hanmade April 19, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    I would tend to agree with Peter Smith, that is supply the infrastructure to make biking easier and safer. Support that with Safe Routes programs to get the kids riding and ridership will grow over time. Slowly perhaps, but inevitably. Especially if you believe that gas prices will continue to rise and make driving more costly.

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  • Peter Smith April 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    as for maps, Google Maps now includes bike directions (as many of us know) — and you can get them in Spanish if you know how:

    a (possibly not working/your mileage may vary) link for bike directions from Hacienda CDC to downtown Portland is here.

    also, to view bike lanes and routes, you can just turn on the ‘Bicycle’ layer in the ‘More’ menu.

    for the nerds: one way of getting bike directions in Spanish is to add an ‘hl=es’ parameter to the query string.

    for the non-nerds: you can also get Spanish-language directions by starting your google maps bike directions search at maps.google.es (defaults to Spain for the location) — just put in your start location like you normally would, then select ‘Como llevar’, then add your destination location, then switch the start/end locations, then select ‘En bicicleta’ (by bicycle) option (sounds more confusing than it actually is).

    the current Hacienda CDC to downtown bike directions have about 21 turns, while the car directions have about 7 turns. in an ideal world, those figures would be reversed — which means we need to push for the most direct bike routes from Pt A to Pt B, which means taking over at least a slice of every major route in the city, including the highways. and if we can’t have the highways, then they have to come down, or we need our own highways.

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  • same April 19, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Far and away the most powerful driver of human behavior is culture. Plenty of reasons beyond cultural attributions contribute to the explanation of why non-whites have not embraced bicycling in Portland. However, unless and until cultural norms are really addressed, forget it.

    For instance, cars are status symbols for the Latinos. I’m curious if CCC’s findings acknowledged that and if so, how they would address that.

    75 meetings, 150 conversations? I’m confused; does that mean average attendance per meeting was 2? Yikes! That’s a frightening return on investment.

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  • BURR April 19, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    Peter, you don’t seem to want to hear what Black Dude on Bicycle is saying, maybe you should practice your listening skills a bit more.

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  • N.I.K. April 19, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    The worst bit about these sorts of conversations is that there’s this really uncomfortable point where “removing barriers” can easily be confused with “strong-arming someone into doing something for which they have zero interest”. Hell, even amongst white folks, it’s still pretty hard to convince everyone that bicycles are a great way to get around. Or that it’s a safe way to get around. Or that it’s healthy. Economical. We’re-not-freeloaders-because-we-do-indeed-pay-our-fair-share.

    Despite local numbers vs. national numbers, despite the proliferation of infrastructure, etc. etc…is it possible that, even in Portland, bicycling for transport’s still a bit niche?

    (Knee-jerk contrarians: I am *not* decrying the efforts of CCC. It’s not a cut-and-dry problem and it’s very good that they’re talking about it.)

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  • Pete April 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    So improving infrastructure is seen as gentrification? I’m reading what Peter is saying and what Black Dude is saying (and to an extent Matt mentioned) and I see the disconnect on both ends. As a middle class white who’s ridden nice bikes through nice neighborhoods most of my life, it’s interesting to hear the perspective that adding a bike lane to a road in an ‘ethnic’ neighborhood is seen as a negative thing. I’m usually pretty jazzed when my tax dollars actually go back to benefiting me, probably because it’s such a rare treat.

    I think these studies are interesting but two points are fundamental here: #1 Portland is not a very diverse city culturally, plain and simple, and #2 an assumption seems to be made that once the barriers are removed (social or otherwise) people will actually get off their butts and ride bikes. I personally believe the most effective way to get the average Joe (or Jane) to consider riding a bike is to jack gas prices up through the roof. I guarantee if gas were to hit $8+/gallon you’d see a whole rainbow of riders hit the streets again!

    (I’ll never forget a quote on a CNN report about the surge in biking popularity from a few summers ago – remember gas prices then? – when a black man riding in Chicago said “the times are surely changing when the Chinese can afford automobiles and the Americans are going back to riding bicycles.”)

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  • Peter Smith April 19, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Peter, you don’t seem to want to hear what Black Dude on Bicycle is saying, maybe you should practice your listening skills a bit more.

    or maybe you should practice your reading comprehension skills a bit more.

    i want to hear what everyone says, especially if they seem genuinely interested in furthering the conversation, as Black Dude seems to be. so, i did hear what he was saying, at least i think i did. my listening skills are not perfect, but they’re above average.

    this situation is not new, it is not unique to cycling nor Portland, nor is it, at its most basic level, complicated – in my opinion. maybe i’m wrong — if so, please let me know how/why — i’m open to criticism of my arguments/opinions.

    i said, “competing, often contradictory, interests” — in this case, a community may want to be able to walk and bike places, and they may or may not desire many of the fine attributes of gentrification, but they also fear rapid/uncontrolled gentrification, so…what to do? build bike infrastructure or not?

    the interest in building out a full bike network ‘competes’ with the interest in preserving community/culture/etc. and they compete not for resources so much as against each other — that is, they are ‘contradictory’ interests that can be deleterious to one another — bikes rising means gentrification happening, and reverse-gentrification happening (i.e. white flight, tax base decline, etc.) means biking becomes less accessible/attractive (loss of ‘subjective safety’ from fear of crime, etc.). These ‘contradictory’ interests are different from ‘non-contradictory / symbiotic’ interests like deciding whether to spend public money on walk/bike infrastructure or transit access to a neighborhood — both are often widely desired, but how much money should go to each interest? Even if you only build one, it will have mostly positive impacts on the other.

    so what should the policy be? build bike lanes and invite gentrification, or do nothing and don’t invite gentrification, or do something in between?

    i gave my opinion on what the answer to that question if asked in a general way — it is, essentially, “Build it (bike infrastructure), whether you (the local community) want(s) to or not, because it’s _much_ more right than it is wrong.”

    what did i miss?

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  • Peter Smith April 20, 2010 at 1:20 am

    I see lots of folks up on the sidewalks choosing to not use the bike lane on Fessenden. They’re all minorities!

    So, I wonder if it really is an issue of access… or even education….

    i think education plays a big part in getting cyclists off the sidewalks, but that said, i don’t ride in bike lanes instead of on sidewalks because bike lanes make me feel safer or more comfortable — i ride in bikes lanes because:
    * it’s faster to do so
    * it requires much less effort than riding on sidewalks
    * i don’t run the risk of running over and injuring pedestrians, and
    * it’s legal – unlike riding on (most) sidewalks.

    and being a white US citizen without real disincentives to getting involved in all sorts of conflicts with motorists, i choose to ride in the road as opposed to on sidewalks, but that would be different if I was, say, on a work visa in Canada and was expected to generally be on my best behavior (i.e. no chasing down terrorist drivers, etc.). In other words, if i had to be well-behaved/obedient/complacent, i’d want to be on the sidewalks, too.

    i think many folks, immigrants (legal and illegal) and others, don’t want to be ‘high profile’ in any way, and don’t want to get hassled by drivers or the cops, so they stay on the sidewalks — this was documented in the post (’43% of Hispanics’). not feeling like a police target is one of the main reasons i bike instead of drive — such an awesome feeling — and i’m white and a citizen and know many of my rights. if you stay on the road, or even in a bike lane, you run the risk of looking like you’re asserting your rights to the road or worse, you risk actually getting involved in a conflict with a car – both bad. if it’s a bad cop in a car, even worse. the stories of police intimidation and harassment of undocumented workers are scary — i don’t blame folks for wanting to stay out of the road, even if it means riding illegally on the sidewalk — the main point of which, i suspect, is to fully convey the message that you are not attempting to challenge authority in any way whatsoever — you’re obeying and just want to continue to work and live in peace and do not want to make any white people or authority figures angry. i don’t have research to back up my feelings, but the anecdotes are pretty powerful — every time a Latino day laborer makes room for me on the sidewalk as i walk by, like i’m royalty, and says ‘Good Morning, Sir’ to me, i’m reminded of the power dynamics at play.

    Far and away the most powerful driver of human behavior is culture. Plenty of reasons beyond cultural attributions contribute to the explanation of why non-whites have not embraced bicycling in Portland. However, unless and until cultural norms are really addressed, forget it.

    For instance, cars are status symbols for the Latinos.

    i’m confused as to what this comment means, but the last sentence does seem remarkably racist to me. really. but, i’m all for having a little honesty when talking race, finally, so it can’t hurt to talk about it.

    i’m white as rice, and i think cars serve as excellent status symbols, and it’s one of the main reasons i’ve been considering becoming a driver again. Am i an exception to the rule? i doubt it — i suspect most Americans/San Franciscans/Portlanders see cars as status symbols (whether we’re willing to admit it or not might be something else). if Latinos do, in fact, view cars as status symbols, how would they be different from non-Latinos?

    i just don’t buy the ‘culture’ argument to explain cycling rates – at least not in this broad sense. i’ve never seen what i would consider to be good evidence to support it, so it remains, as far as i’m concerned, a lazy generalization. i could see it playing a role, but probably not a main/leading role.

    i think it’s easy to look at some non-white/racially diverse neighborhood, see that nobody there cycles, and say, “Culture! The [insert culture here] people don’t know how awesome biking is! They need to be educated!”

    But the answer is probably more like “They’re busy trying to make ends meet, aren’t as connected to the ‘green movement’ for various reasons, so therefore aren’t as connected to the bike advocacy movement, which means their neighborhoods are neglected in terms of bike infrastructure, which means not many people bike there.”

    In other words, cycling rates have a lot less to do with ‘culture’ than they do with cycling infrastructure, land use, and socioeconomic status. The ‘gaps in cycling infrastructure’ argument was brought up in this post. On land use, we know many poor areas don’t have good walk/bike access to all sorts of facilities — grocery stores, schools, etc. On socioeconomic status, there have been articles that talk about the stigma that poorer people associate with riding bikes — a stigma that not-so-poor people do _not_ suffer from, and so rode bikes more often.

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  • Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels April 20, 2010 at 7:13 am

    This may only be a Southwestern/border state thing, but did they look at all at the invisible cyclists, i.e. day labors who ride department store bikes to job pickup sites? There are a lot of these folks in the cities in states that border Mexico but they often don’t show up on counts or in discussions about cycling.

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  • SKA April 20, 2010 at 8:17 am

    Guess who gets stuck riding the stinky bus, the least favored mode of transportation of all? Minorities. We non-Caucasians are too busy trying to scratch out a living. We don’t have time to sit around and pontificate with the do-gooders on the virtues of pedaling. We’ve got to get to work, where ever there is work to be had.

    Also, I’d like to know what kind of racial diversity the CCC administration has in it’s own internal organization.

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  • cyclist April 20, 2010 at 8:34 am

    My last post got deleted, so I’m going to try to say this as gently as possible: Peter Smith does not live in the area, I think he lives in the Bay Area.

    Yes cyclist, I deleted your last post. I don’t care where someone lives, please refrain from insults. Thanks — Jonathan

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  • are April 20, 2010 at 9:48 am

    maybe i am just another white guy on a bike, but i think maybe some people here are framing the conversation in a way that is not helpful. the question is not how can we get those blacks and latinos onto bikes, but instead: in delivering more broadly (i.e., to everyone) the message that the bicycle is not only a legitimate form of transportation but also may in many cases be more appropriate than the private automobile, how might that message need to be shaped to address particular cultural concerns. anyone who believes she must have a car or must own a house or must get the new angus burger in order to live sarah palin’s american dream has been sold a bill of goods. not just racial and ethnic minorities, but the sell here might be harder to overcome because they have been excluded. near as i can tell, alison graves is on the right track, asking the right questions.

    in some utopia it will not matter if some neighborhood has been “gentrified,” because we will no longer be engaged in consumption as an end in itself, and we will have forgotten whether our neighbor is some color or another. but that is not the world we are sentenced to live in. it is glib to suggest that dislocating people is okay, but it is naive to suggest it will not happen. all any of us can do is to try to live free and to enable others to live free as well.

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  • another bicyclist April 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

    There’s really nothing more humorous and ironic than watching white, under-40 urbanites contemplating their own navel.

    Folks, there is no “access” or “equity” problem in bicycling in Portland, unless it’s the cost of a bike. There’s a stunning amount of hubris in acting as if there’s some quota of ethnic/racial minorities riding a bike that will equal “equity”.

    What percentage would that be, exactly? Because I’m seeing a city that’s over 80% caucasian–that’d mean if *every single racial/ethnic minority* rode a bicycle, they’d be a maximum of 2 of 10 riders.

    If you take the so called (basically invented) rate of bicycle ridership in Portland–say around 6%–that’d mean 6 bicyclists in every 100 were a racial/ethnic minority.

    And the ultimate hubris, of course, is this–who is arrogant enough to presume that they can *count* them? Is there some sort of handheld “race/ethnicity detector” that counters can use?

    Wow. Just wow.

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  • JE April 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I wonder how much of this is not so much an ethnic issue, but a matter of the economics and geography you grew up in.

    For instance, if you’re from an urban environment of high density and available public transit, a bicycle is unnecessary. You probably live in an apartment or condo with (bike) storage at a premium. Therefore no cycling culture develops. If you’re poor as well, then your apartment is smaller and the cost of a bicycle is more extravagant.

    Growing up in a suburb with its low density and generally poor public transit increases the desirability of bicycles with the kids. With a bike, they can ride to their friend’s house, to school or the store. The bicycle is an early sign of independence. With more bikes in the suburbs, cheap used ones and hand-me-downs are easy to find. For middle or upper class families, the cost of a new bike is not out of reach. With all the kids on bikes a cycling culture develops. Even if adults put the bike away for a few years, it’s still something that’s taught to the kids. The idea of cycling as transportation remains.

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  • Peter Smith April 20, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    There’s really nothing more humorous and ironic than watching white, under-40 urbanites contemplating their own navel.

    If you take the so called (basically invented) rate of bicycle ridership in Portland–say around 6%–that’d mean 6 bicyclists in every 100 were a racial/ethnic minority.

    i’d argue that there’s nothing more humorous and ironic than reading an anti-bike screed filled with words like ‘hubris’ and ‘arrogant’, making fun of our inability to count cyclists, and then demonstrate in that same screed an inability to perform basic math.

    please find the multiple errors in your analysis and get back to us. that’s your homework assignment. it will be graded. for now we’re gonna give you an ‘I’ncomplete, but if we don’t have the correct answer on our desk by tomorrow’s homeroom, it will turn into a ‘F’ail. and we know you don’t have a dog. m’kay?

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  • BURR April 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Peter S. – the only place sidewalk riding is illegal in Portland is in the downtown core.

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  • Black Dude on Bicycle April 20, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Adding bike lanes is viewed as gentrification because of a previously stated argument about bike lanes driving up desirability in an area, which in turn drives up home prices/values. Given that property taxes are a major source of funding and that minorities on average tend to make less per dollar than a comparable white person, minorities are more likely to move out of a neighborhood when it is no longer economically feasible to exist there.

    While adding more bike lanes to a neighborhood may be appealing to middle/upper class white people who can afford and choose to cycle, many minorities are doing what they can to survive. Minorities tend to be more concerned with issues surrounding mass transit, creating jobs, pouring more money into schools, and deterring crime and drugs. Building bike lanes in a fledgling neighborhood functions as a smoke screen and will most likely lead to what was stated in the first paragraph. This mindset is held by many black people within the city. What good does a bike lane do if the city neglects the basic needs of minorities? How will bike lanes increase funding to my local school district? (I would offer an answer to this last question but the answer is something that people don’t want to hear.)

    You don’t need a bike lane to ride a bike.

    I always find it humorous in Portland how the white people always try to attribute the lack of “x” to anything other than race. Yes, there are stark differences economically between black people and white people in Portland (see red-lining in 1950s-1970s; see Vanport story). Yes, there are stark differences culturally between black people and white people in Portland (see Oregon constitution banning black people from the state in the 1800s). When you are part of a group that has consistently been mistreated, maligned, and abused by numerous governmental agencies for centuries, it is difficult to discern between new attempts to “modernize” or “revitalize” an area and continued segregation/gentrification. It all looks good at first until you watch your neighborhood go from all black to mixed black/white to all white. As long as minority groups (especially black people) continue to see this as another attempt to further run them out of their neighborhoods, this issue won’t get a lot of support from minorities. I think this is the heart of what the CCC is trying to understand.

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  • Peter Smith April 20, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    You don’t need a bike lane to ride a bike.

    yes, you do — if by ‘bike lane’ you mean ‘bike lane and all related bicycle infrastructure that makes it possible for people to ride their bikes, including traffic-calmed streets (woonerfs/bicycle boulevards/neighborhood greenways), etc.’

    that’s the entire basis of the gentrification, in fact. people don’t find bike lanes desirable because they’re particularly pretty, or because they require maintenance, or any other reason like that — they like bike lanes because bike lanes make it possible for a some (brave) people to ride bikes — that’s it.

    I always find it humorous in Portland how the white people always try to attribute the lack of “x” to anything other than race.

    ‘the white people’? no.

    ‘many/most white people’? yes.

    As long as minority groups (especially black people) continue to see this as another attempt to further run them out of their neighborhoods, this issue won’t get a lot of support from minorities. I think this is the heart of what the CCC is trying to understand.

    if this is what the CCC is trying to understand, and then, presumably, address – then that might be a worthy endeavor, but what then? what’s the answer?

    hypothetical: we go with the presumption that bike lanes do, in fact, bring about gentrification and/or rapid/uncontrolled gentrification. and let’s say that the bike lane installers, whoever they may be, are operating on good faith — that is, they really believe that installing bike lanes will be good for the city as a whole, for all of the city’s residents, and in particular for the residents who live nearby or along the route where the bike lanes are to be installed — in this case, we’re talking about black and/or diverse neighborhoods. and let’s say that the CCC has figured out there is distrust in the black/diverse community, has reached out and convinced the black/diverse community the new bike lanes are not an attempt to gentrify, but an attempt to make their lives better, and it will, most community member believe, make their lives better. to reiterate the first stated fact in this hypothetical, most people, community members included, also agree that new bike lanes will bring about a ‘medium’ level of gentrification — whatever, exactly, that is or may look like ‘on the ground’.

    now what?

    do we build the bike lanes or not?

    this question is for everyone, but especially for you, Black Dude on a Bicycle, because you seem to be generally critical of new bike lanes, or at least critical of ‘the white people’.

    i gave my answer — “build ‘em.” what’s yours?

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  • Anonymous April 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    big surprise class is still the elephant in the room.

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  • brown guy on bike April 20, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I am a brown guy on a bike. Not sure how BDOB will respond, but I can generally say that I’m ALL FOR bike lanes in areas of Portland with high minority populations.

    Moreover, I’m ALL FOR white people discussing, grappling with, and promoting this idea with this qualification: do so with respect (not a we-know-better-than-you attitude), ask when you need some input (we’re out here), and show how bike lanes matter to the things Communities of Color care about (this will begin to address current attitudes re: gentrification, our own racial stereotypes re: bikes, etc.).

    The reality is with higher unemployment and lower income levels than Whites, Communities of Color don’t have the time to do the advocacy it takes to bring bike lanes to our communities. (We’re working on jobs and police accountability right now.) Once bike lanes are built out, there will be more opportunities for people of color to bike. Bike lanes may not get as much use as say the yellow line or bus lines, but they will be used. (And they will, in turn, lead to jobs/wealth creation for the next generation — not to mention parents who will feel less worried.)

    So, all you bike allies, please keep this topic going. When resources are limited and the hard decisions need to be made, please keep the shaded areas in the equity map above in mind. By building bike lanes with Communities of Color at the center of focus (and not as an add-on), I think it will benefit everybody: the communities of color who live in these areas, poorer, white people who also live in the same areas, weekend warriors, bike culture in Portland, and ultimately a bike lobby to fund the entire 2030 plan.

    Thank you, Alison, for pursuing a topic that could easily have been ignored. Thank you, Board of CCC. Thank you, Jonathan, for the coverage.

    Of course, I am just one person — and certainly most people from communities of color won’t value bike lanes as much as I do. Then again, it’s hard to value something until you have ready access to it in your own neighborhood.

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  • Pete April 20, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    another bicyclist (#35): “And the ultimate hubris, of course, is this–who is arrogant enough to presume that they can *count* them? Is there some sort of handheld “race/ethnicity detector” that counters can use?”

    The US government… they call it the “US Census.” ;)

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  • Pete April 20, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    BTW, cyclist, I’m Pete currently living in the Bay Area and a BP reader/poster since the beginning; hope you’re not confusing me with Peter S. This has been one of the more interesting posts and follow-up comments – thanks everyone for keeping it informative and civil. As I said before I represent the majority, so it’s enlightening to hear what minorities have to say.

    The point about cars being a status symbol – exceptionally true here in Silicon Valley. They’re placed on a pedestal and it’s not a race thing (though you can often guess the demographic by the car).

    And yes I’ve ridden in Portland. Way more diverse ridership here (gender, age, and race). Mostly recreational though (weather and high income probably the factors). Most commuters I see here (I ride daily) are white or Asian males.

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  • another bicyclist April 21, 2010 at 8:59 am

    “i’d argue that there’s nothing more humorous and ironic than reading an anti-bike screed”

    Except maybe your follow-up comment. I ride a bicycle; two of them, in fact. But not at the same time. That’d be dangerous.

    “please find the multiple errors in your analysis and get back to us.”

    Translation: I dont like what you said, but I won’t point out why. I’ll just attack you in a rambling, snarky fashion.

    “but if we don’t have the correct answer on our desk by tomorrow’s homeroom, it will turn into a ‘F’ail. and we know you don’t have a dog. m’kay?”

    “We”? You mean there’s a group meeting somewhere? I ride a bike–I must be part of the group. Does that mean it’s self-graded?

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  • solid gold April 21, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    Yeah, I’m sure economic class has NOTHING to do with this…*rolls eyes*. I bet when you draw a map of all the bike improvements, you find them in wealthy neighborhoods. Weird. Probably just a coincidence.

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  • Pete April 23, 2010 at 12:21 am

    I bet when you draw a map of all the bike improvements you’ll see them in the growing neighborhoods, which is why they’re “wealthy.” No sense spending money to put bike lanes or paths in areas people aren’t going to be riding, unless of course you can use them to get people to ride, which I think is what surveys like Allison’s are trying to find out. But then again, it surprises me to hear from people in the non-wealthy neighborhoods that improvements are seen as “gentrification” and a threat to their affordability. Maybe change comes to the people who want to make it happen?

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