Evaluating Efforts to Improve the Equity of Bike Share Systems

Nathan McNeil, Portland State University

Co-investigators:

Summary:

BREAKING BARRIERS TO BIKE SHARE: Insights on Equity.

Public bike share systems have rapidly expanded across the United States in recent years. However, there is evidence that significant portions of the population are underrepresented among bike share users, including people of color, along with lower-income, female, older adults and less-educated groups. Lack of bike share stations in neighborhoods with people of color and/or lower incomes is one factor, but does not completely explain the disparities in use. Cost, lack of payment options, lack of bank and credit cards accounts, and lack of familiarity with bike sharing are other potential barriers to people in these communities. 

Efforts to overcome access and use barriers to bike share for underserved communities have been initiated in a number of cities, including those working with the Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) to launch and test potentially replicable approaches to improve equity outcomes. These have included focused outreach efforts and bike share investments in low-income and underserved communities in several cities. 

Bicycling and bike share have the potential to benefit disadvantaged communities by providing new options for accessing transit and jobs, while also providing an opportunity for recreation and physical activity. This research project aims to better understand perceptions and attitudes toward bicycling and bike share, along with the barriers to and opportunities for expanding the use of bike share in traditionally underserved neighborhoods, with a focus on communities of color and lower-income individuals. Findings provide insight into what strategies can be effective in attracting new and diverse users, and what benefits bike share can offer these potential participants. The overall research project has three main components, each collecting information from a different set of individuals:
•	Bike Share Owners and Operators. To better understand current efforts nationally to make bike share more equitable, we first conducted a survey of bike share system owners and operators. The survey asked about equity policies and metrics, the degree to which equity considerations affected a variety of system practices, what the existing barriers to utilizing bike share are for target populations, and what challenges the bike share system entity faces in addressing those barriers. 
•	Residents. This effort was a survey of residents living in predominantly low income and/or nonwhite neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Brooklyn that had been targeted by efforts associated with the BBSP. The survey sought to understand how these residents perceive and interact with bike share and bicycling more generally. The survey used a random sample of people living near bike share stations in the neighborhoods, rather than people already known to have used or shown interest in bike share. The resident survey was designed to answer all of the research questions listed above, and allows us to learn from people who have and have not used bike share. The findings from the resident survey are in this report.
•	Bike Share Users. Finally, we conducted a survey of bike share users and other people who have had some interaction with BBSP outreach efforts. The objective of this survey is to get a more in depth understanding the population reached by the efforts and how the efforts may have influenced their behavior. The findings from that survey will be released in a separate report.

Impacts:

We anticipate that the results from this research will allow cities around the country to better understand how to effectively engage diverse communities in bike sharing. By understanding what types of outreach, programmatic intervention and station siting decisions are best able to encourage use of bike share and bicycling in general, the project can help cities to ensure their systems are equitable. A number of academic research gaps would also be addressed by this work. Results will provide insight into commonly observed low usage rates among lower income, minority, and other disadvantaged groups. It will augment existing work done with small sample sizes on perceived barriers to bike share use among underserved populations, including the importance of bike infrastructure and various outreach programs and incentives. Survey results of potential and current users would also add to the scarce literature on types of trips bike share might be most useful for among disadvantaged populations and how this might differ from current bike share use and needs. Finally, the research will provide evidence on the overall potential of bike share to increase mobility and access by means of a low-cost, healthy, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation. 

Project Details

Project Type:
Research
Project Status:
Completed
End Date:
June 30,2017
UTC Grant Cycle:
Natl Round 2
UTC Funding:
$137,477