CityLab did some research on this issue last year and found that "while wealthier people increasingly reduce their car dependency, poor people still aspire to car ownership." Or as our West coast community organizer said, "people have the attitude that only losers ride bikes." Fortunately, this mindset is changing, and we should encourage a paradigm shift among minority communities through education, bike infrastructure (i.e. safe places to park your bike so it won't get stolen) and support (free bikes and helmets anyone?)
|Would you walk this street with a bag of groceries?|
The good news was that the area was poised to get a grocery store at a new development immediately adjacent to the neighborhood at a major highway interchange. So problem solved, right? Wrong. The street connections to the future grocery-anchored community shopping center could not have been less hospitable to residents coming by alternative transportation means. No sidewalks or bike lanes and desolate streetscapes all made what was only a few minute long walk both unpleasant and in some places dangerous. Yet in a community where 48% of households do not own a car (compared to the state average of 85%) and meager public transportation at best, improving access to the shopping center for residents without cars should be a driving priority. Hey, if you can't bring the supermarket to people you can at least do everything in your power to bring the people to the supermarket. This means bike infrastructure, dedicated bike lanes and safe places to park your bike once you get there. In this community, it also means slowing cars down on a one-way street that should be made two-way. And finally, it means education in the local public schools (bikes are cool, right!) and yes, maybe free bikes and helmets for kids and their parents.
Biking is not a panacea, but it should be a viable option for those who don't have other options. And right now, there is tons of room for improvement on that front.