Silent Barriers to Biking in Communities of Color


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“Transportation professionals should be more concerned about the personal safety of Black and Hispanic cyclists because they are in a position to change how the built environment either acts as a conduit or barrier to criminal activity,” Charles T. Brown, a transportation researcher and adjunct professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University, wrote in his report, Fear: A Silent Barrier to Bicycling in Black and Hispanic Communities.

Brown saw a lack of research on transportation justice, which prompted him and James A. Sinclair, research manager at the New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center, to explore why some Black and Hispanic individuals choose not to bicycle; what prevents people of color who do bike from cycling more often; and how to encourage all Black and Hispanic people to bicycle more often.

They conducted intercept surveys of 1,660 Black, Hispanic, or mixed-race pedestrians at business strips, transit stations, and in recreational areas in 34 New Jersey municipalities, as well as two focus groups, one in English for Blacks and one in Spanish for Latinos. Brown and equity writer Stefani Cox discussed Brown and Sinclair’s findings in this four-part series, Silent Barriers to Bicycling: Exploring Black and Latino Bicycling Experiences.

Transportation professionals will have a difficult time increasing walking and biking to reduce congestion and pollution if they don’t consider “silent barriers,” the silent social factors behind walking and biking. Also, transportation planners need to look at crash and crime statistics to guide infrastructure development and modifications.

“Implicitly or explicitly, police are always part of planning [safe and welcoming public space],” Sahra Sulaiman wrote in StreetsBlog LA, highlighting the importance of ensuring law enforcement and community members are involved in the planning process.

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Crime & racial profiling r underexamined issues that influence whether Latinos bike or not @ctbrown1911 @SaludAmerica

Crime prevention is everybody’s business, even transportation professionals. @ctbrown1911 @SaludAmerica

Bicycling makes many too vulnerable to police harassment to be worth it. @ctbrown1911 @SaludAmerica

Power dynamics: Latinos in marginalized nghbrhds may feel unheard & fearful. #biking @ctbrown1911 @SaludAmerica

Traffic safety is a HUGE barrier to bicycling, but for Latinos, barriers go beyond infrastructure. @SaludAmerica

When, where, & how transportation planning meetings are held influences who can participate @ctbrown1911 @SaludAmerica

Males are 7 times more likely to be unfairly stopped by police while biking than females. @ctbrown1911 @SaludAmerica

Detail from a poster that Brown and Sinclair presented at the Transportation Research Board meeting in January 2017.

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latinos live within walking distance (<1 mile) of a park

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