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Making Space for the 'Invisible Cyclists' in Post-Pandemic Transportation Planning

As biking gains popularity as a transportation mode during the pandemic, planners are called on to elevate the role of "invisible cyclists"—people of color on bikes—in the process of redesigning and re-engineering streets.
June 2, 2020, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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New York Cyclist

An article by Julian Agyeman, professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, calls on city planners, lawmakers, and bike advocates to better address and remove barriers to cycling for people living in poorer neighborhoods, in a time when more and more people are using the bike as a primary mode of transportation.

Design-related, infrastructural challenges, such as providing more bike lanes, or better still, protected bike lanes – paths separated from both road and sidewalk – are important. But the more fundamental barriers are political, cultural and economic in nature. Failure to acknowledge and act accordingly, risks compromising the ability of low-income and minority groups to enjoy the full benefits of cycling. 

The article details the history of bike advocacy, which has tended to produce outcomes in keeping with the whiteness of its constituency—bike lanes have face criticism as a harbinger of gentrification along the way, for example. But according to Agyeman, who provides evidence to back this claim, there are many people of color who also advocate for safe bike infrastructure, they just go "unrecognized, underreported and unrepresented."

"Cyclists of color tend to miss the eye of city planners, but the same can’t be said of the law," according to Agyeman, who provides plenty of evidence that people of color on bikes are policed in a completely different way than white people on bikes. This is one of the discriminatory facts of life in the public realm that advocates argue will perpetuate racial inequality in planning for ostensibly progressive causes like bike infrastructure and traffic safety. 

"As cities reimagine their streets in a post-pandemic world, politicians, city planners and bike advocates could better recognize that cyclists have differing status, rights, needs and capabilities depending on their social and racial background," according to Agyeman.

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Published on Saturday, June 27, 2020 in The Conversation
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