Equity means that everyone has access to active transportation!
Equal means that everyone is treated the same. Equality assumes that everyone starts from the same point and needs the same help.
All people in a city, neighborhood, or family need different resources to help them walk, bike, or roll.
Efforts to create fairness starts with understanding the need differences.
People of color, women, youth, folks with physical or mental challenges, mature adults with personal care needs, eight year olds, fifteen year olds, moms, dads, empty nesters, and others all have different needs.
According to AmericaWalks, Low-income families are more reliant on walking for essential journeys than the middle class, and yet low-cost housing is often located in the most car-dependent places.
So how do we approach creating more equitable access to active transportation? The first step is to recognize and acknowledge that these needs exist. That disparities exist.
Community engagement around these topics needs developed. Funding the facilitation of community engagement with the focus on attracting more diverse people around the table to talk about problems and solutions. Avoiding the proverbial town hall meetings, city hall meetings, and other forums that only attract the informed and the assertive.
Going into neighborhoods, church groups, other gatherings of people. Convening engagement that promotes a supportive, kitchen table type of conversation.
Using facilitators versed in group dynamics, can build community, create supportive and amicable atmospheres, apply engaging techniques to insure that all voices are heard or get a chance to be heard, and show commitment to monitoring the next steps. People need to know that their involvement is not a single event.
If the average number of memberships to local, statewide, and national advocacy groups can only scratch out 1-5% of the population, this means that the other 95 to 99% are not involved in the conversation at all. That needs to change.
According to BicycleTimes Magazine, Whites are consistently overrepresented in the demographics of people who bike, while African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are underrepresented. According to the American Bicyclist Study by the Glasken Townley Group, 11% of US adults are African American and 5.1% of bike riders in 2010 were African American. 14% of US adults are hispanic and 6.4% consider themselves bike riders. 75% of US adults are white and 79% of them are bike riders.
Keep in mind that one can not assume that all people have access or that people do not desire to be active. Often, the infrastructure, economics, or lack involvement in decision-making that effects their ability or access to riding/moving. There are plenty of places in the US that are not pedestrian or bike friendly.
Somewhere, somehow thinking outside the bun, convening broader opportunities for more diverse people to get involved in the conversations around what’s happening in neighborhoods and cities will be the next step in making changes that improve equity in active transportation.
Inviting diversity into your next bike ride is a good start.
Ask someone at work you don’t know well to take a noon or coffee break walk will help to avoid cliquishness. Sometimes an invitation can make all the difference.