Lowering barriers to shared mobility in the East Bay

This article was originally published in Bike East Bay’s 2017 Summer RideOn Newsletter. 

Bike share expands to the East Bay this July, giving residents a fantastic new option for getting around in the city. However, studies show that bike share systems in American cities exclude low-income and people of color by design. As bike share gets ready to expand into Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville, Bike East Bay is working to make sure this new form of public transportation is available to underserved communities.

Equitable Bike Share

According to a study from the University of Vermont Transportation Research Center, bike share stations in American cities are disproportionately located in white and affluent neighborhoods. The greatest disparity is found in Boston, where nearly half of the white population live near a bike share station, compared to less than 10% of the Black population.

In San Francisco, bike share launched in 2015 with stations located in the downtown financial district. It is then not a surprise that Bay Area Bike Share’s members are overwhelmingly white, male, highly-educated, and affluent. As bike share, now known as Ford GoBike, prepares to cross the bay, Bike East Bay is working for greater racial, economic, and geographic equity in the system.

When bike share arrives in the East Bay this summer, the station map will cover a much broader area than initially proposed last fall. TransForm, a transportation advocacy group, and Bike East Bay successfully advocated for expanding the station map to include the neighborhoods around West Oakland and Fruitvale BART.

Membership fees and credit card requirements may pose a financial barrier for low-income people. We also asked the bike share operators to provide a significant low-income discount. At $5 for the first year, and $5 per month in following years, the discounted membership will cost less than a bus pass.

The new system still leaves most of East Oakland out of the picture. Some real talk here. We know that introducing bike share will not, for example, bring back the West Oakland neighborhoods that were destroyed to build freeways or reverse decades of disinvestment in deep East Oakland. With that in mind, Bike East Bay is committed to helping bike share meet its potential as a community asset while also seeking holistic solutions to transportation inequity across Oakland neighborhoods.

Transform’s OakMob event at the MLK, Jr. Library in East Oakland asked residents where they want to travel using car share and bike share. Photo: Pamela Palma

Better Bike Share Outreach

Simply placing bike share docks in neighborhoods where people of color live is not enough. Our next step is to make sure local residents know about the discount and are excited about using the new bike share system. Funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Motivate, the bike share operator, we will be able to provide paid outreach work for local partners like Oakland’s Scraper Bike Team.

Brytanee Brown, a community planner with TransForm, says,“This is a brand new shared mobility service being rolled out with potential to improve people’s mobility and health. While that’s exciting, without committing to geographic equity, accessibility, and community process throughout the Bay Area, Motivate and MTC will fail to deliver an equitable bike share system.”

This summer, Bike East Bay and TransForm will hit the streets to promote bicycling and bike share for low-income residents and in targeted neighborhoods. Together, we aim to signup 500 people with low-income memberships by this October.

Tyrone Stevenson, also known as Baybe Champ the Scraper Bike King, says, “It’s a great opportunity for me to have my generals paid to talk about what they love doing — riding bikes.”

Equitable Infrastructure

To tap the potential of bike share, Bike East Bay will be pushing even harder for a network of safe and welcoming bike lanes. Riding in traffic is the number one concern for people new to urban cycling. These challenges multiply if you use a mobility device to get around, or if you’re biking, driving, or walking while Black. To build more equitable communities, Bike East Bay will continue to question who is excluded from bike share, who decides where a bike lane gets built, and how transportation investments are made. That way everyone can enjoy the health and mobility benefits not only of bike share, but the entire pedal-powered revolution.