behavior · community · culture · education · environment

Bicycling our way into work and out of the Great Recession | Grist

Ringstraße, Vienna, Austria, 2005
A commuter in Austria. Image via Wikipedia

I am always interested in how organizations promote healthier, more enriching, more environmentally friendly practices, and I think this article makes a good point, that a lot of the bike commuter programs are geared towards the middle to upper class, yet the people who NEED to use bikes, and in many college towns I’ve lived in DO use bikes but need the support and information, are poor young folks:

The way we work has been changing for a long time, and our transportation needs and options along with it. With the recent recession, fewer people are working as much or for as much money, or as regularly — or at all. More of us are, in a word, poor.

We’re the ones who need bicycling the most. Yet the broke and the tenuously employed aren’t always reached by bicycle transportation advocacy, education, and services. When they are, the messages being promoted are not always relevant or welcome.

The mainstays of bike advocacy organizations are the three E’s: engineering, enforcement, and education — with a fourth E, encouragement, becoming increasingly popular.

U.S. bike advocacy is also imbued with a heavy focus on individual responsibility as more important — or perhaps more readily achievable — than social and infrastructure change, as exemplified by the until-recently prominent vehicular cycling movement.

Such initiatives tend to reach out to the people who ride — or don’t — out of choice rather than economic necessity, whose only barrier to getting on a bike is motivation.

When you’re already broke, you don’t need to be encouraged to adopt someone else’s lifestyle. You need solutions that arise from your own circumstances and community.

That means that simply choosing to hop on a bike isn’t actually that straightforward. Even as your car is sucking your savings dry and pummeling your credit, at least it’s the devil you know.

People living in low-income households are less likely to have access to a working bicycle (only 29 percent of households making less than $15,000 do, according to the NHTSA’s most recent survey). Aside from the cost and learning curve of acquiring, outfitting, and maintaining a reliable everyday bicycle, if you’re broke your neighborhood is also less likely to be graced by bike lanes, calmed traffic, and other facilities that are lauded for their ability to raise property values. You’re also less likely to have easy, central access to grocery stores and other amenities.

more via Bicycling our way into work and out of the Great Recession | Grist.

I’m curious to hear what solutions people may have for this. How do we focus more on getting the poor, or more accurately the broke, onto bikes safely and effectively?