New tool helps cities see who their bike plans neglect

September 2, 2015

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

Images of Chicago’s bike network and demographics: League of American Bicyclists.

Note: The report described here includes a case study of Chicago’s bike network that is apparently built on inaccurate data. An earlier version of this post included discussion of that case study. Given the reporting by our friends at Streetsblog Chicago about the seeming problems with the case study, we’ve removed references to it here.

Everybody should have the option to bike comfortably around their city. But inequalities in race, language, age and wealth get in the way.

Even in cities that work hard to resist discrimination, neighborhoods with more privileged people tend to demand things more loudly and get what they want more often. As we’ve written here at PeopleForBikes, when cities build things like protected bike lanes based mostly on where activists ask for them, they systematically neglect neighborhoods that are already underserved.

So what’s an enlightened city to do?

A new tool developed by the League of American Bicyclists offers some help.

It’s a formula for looking at how well a bike network serves the people who often need it most: youth, seniors, people who don’t own cars, low-income households and members of racial or ethnic groups other than white people.

A report released Tuesday by the League includes a step-by-step guide on how to use GIS software to create the tool.

Ken McLeod, legal and policy specialist for the League, said the group developed the formula as part of an effort to start looking for equity metrics that it could build into its Bicycle Friendly Communities certification program. The metric they’ve developed, however, could be used by anyone.

“The intent for this was really to lower the barrier to GIS analysis,” McLeod said.

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