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New Research Explains Why Only Some Neighborhoods Get Bike Infrastructure

Canadian researchers made the case at the Transportation Research Board this past week that improved bike infrastructure and neighborhood gentrification go hand in hand. They used research gathered fromi Portland and Chicago.
January 18, 2016, 6am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Researchers from the School of Urban Planning at McGill University and Université du Québec à Montréal "tried to quantify the connection between gentrification and cycling infrastructure," reports Emily Badger for Washington Post Wonkblog.

Cycling itself, as my colleague Perry Stein has written, has become a heated symbol of gentrification. Bike lanes are treated as harbingers of demographic change, or evidence of preferential treatment, or synonymous with well-off white men (all this, despite the fact that Census data shows low-income commuters are the most likely to bike).

["The people most likely to bike or walk to work are either the least educated in society or the most educated," wrote Badger on May 9, 2014 on the American Community Survey's findings.]

The researchers "mapped cycling infrastructure in Chicago and Portland alongside demographic change in neighborhoods between 1990 and 2010," writes Badger. "In both cities, they found "a bias towards increased cycling infrastructure in areas of privilege."

One sensitive issue was which comes firstthe bike infrastructure or the changing demographics? Are new residents demanding bike infrastructure, or are wealthier, whiter, more educated residents attracted to bike-friendly neighborhoods? "The researchers sidestep the answer by suggesting that gentrification and cycling infrastructure 'mirror' each other in these two cities," writes Badger.

Check out the images mapping change in community composition, 1990-2010, showing cycling infrastructure in Chicago and Portland.

In Chicago, (n)eighborhoods with large white populations, or an influx of whites, were more likely to get these bike investments.

In both cities, denser neighborhoods closer to the center of town were more likely to have bike infrastructure.

Read how planners can address the pattern. To read the study, click here [25-page PDF].

Hat tip to Michael Keenly.

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Published on Thursday, January 14, 2016 in The Washington Post - Wonkblog
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