Bike-sharing systems have been growing in popularity across the U.S. in the past decade. Since the launch of Smartbike DC (now called Capital Bike Share) in Washington D.C. in August of 2008, residents in many major American cities now have access to a bike-share system. That’s the good news. But the problem is that this growth has been uneven. Numerous studies of bike-share usage show that biking remains predominantly male, and skews white. Biking rates are also higher in high-income, urban areas.
But there are signs of change. New bike share initiatives are starting to put equity and access at the forefront. One of the first systems to really look at how bike-share programs could reach underserved communities was Philadelphia’s Indego. This led to the formation of the Better Bike Share Partnership, a multi-stakeholder collaboration which has worked with several bike-share systems to be more equitable.
« Philadelphia was a testbed for all the things that we’re working on, » Kircos says. « [They] wanted to integrate equity strategies from the beginning for their bikeshare system. »
Several of Philadelphia’s innovations have now become standard. For example, Motivate, which runs FordGoBikein the San Francisco Bay Area, followed Philadelphia and other cities to create a program that provides anyone receiving benefits from programs such as CalFresh, the state implementation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or PG&E CARE, a utility-run financial assistant program, to be eligible for a $5 first year bike-share membership that they could pay for in cash.