Above: Renée Moore learned to ride a bike at age 25 on a first date. Since then she started Bicycling and the City, a Meetup group to get women thinking about riding as a form of transportation and recreation. They go to events, festivals, activities, and restaurants in the DC area. She’s currently the Vision Zero Community Organizer of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association helping to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries in DC.
Biking’s popularity in the U.S. is primed to keep rising due to a confluence of emerging trends:
1) Increasing Diversity & Social Equity
People of color and riders over 60 are two of the fastest-growing populations of bicyclists, with Latinos riding the most of any racial group. This is a clear sign of bicycling’s shift from an insider club of Lycra-clad hobbyists to a diverse cross-section of Americans who ride for all sorts of reasons—from getting groceries to losing weight to just having fun.
“Bike advocates can no longer just talk about biking,” observes Tamika Butler, until recently the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “We must also talk about public health, gentrification, people of color, women who feel harassed on the streets, older people.”
“It’s important in our work to connect with all the people living in a community, paying attention to the reality of their experience,” says Keith Benjamin. “We need to lift up the organizations already existing in those communities—not just asking them to be on our board but actively supporting the work they do every day with resources and real buy-in.”
Michael Coleman—former mayor of Columbus Ohio, named one of America’s 100 most influential African Americans by Ebony magazine—notes, “Twenty years ago some lower-income neighborhoods questioned the value of biking. …We engaged with the leaders in these communities, showing them examples of cities where biking has been very successful in all kinds of neighborhoods.”
Barb Chamberlain, director of the new Active Transportation Division at the Washington state Department of Transportation, tells a similar story about a lower-income neighborhood in Spokane opposed to proposed bike lanes. “Then the subject of traffic calming as a way to slow traffic came up, and people said that’s what we want to keep our kids safe!”
So the bike lane was put in as a traffic calming project, not a bike project. She’s seen similar turnaround in small towns, when people discovered the tourist potential of bike trails. “Wallets on wheels to make the cash registers ring is the goal,” Chamberlain notes. “But once you build the trail, you’ve got a great place for local people to bike too.”