Bike Lanes Are White Lanes by Melody Hoffmann
For decades bicycle advocates fought against standard transportation planning methods that put the car above all other modes of transportation. They were persistent and finally gained ground in most major cities. As Justin Spinney said, "biking is understood as apple pie; no one can hate apple pie." The problem now that we have fairly equal treatment of bicycle infrastructure as vehicular is we can see the impacts they have had on low income and minority neighborhoods.
As with any major issue, there are always multiple ways to frame the issue. I see a bike lane and think about the ability it has to get me to work in the fair weather seasons and to recreational activities on weekends. Another person may look at it and see their only mode of transportation or a sign of poverty. Hoffmann tells a story of a teacher whose minority students did not understand why he chose to bike even though he had the option to drive. Biking was seen as a sign of poverty and done only if you had no other choice. This brings up the concept of white privileged. We have the option to drive, but choose to bike for health or environmental reasons. Others do not have the privileged of choosing.
Even if we get past the stigma of biking, some communities have yet to heal from the destructive segregation and disinvestment that occurred during the highway infrastructure boom starting in the 1950's. Why would bicycle infrastructure projects be any different than the highways that tore through their neighborhoods? Residents in those communities have a valid concern.
Trying to heal communities and bridge the racial gap is finally gaining some support. In cities like Milwaukee where the annual Riverwest 24 bike race takes place, community members seek to end racial disparities that plague their city. Riverwest 24 is a community organizing event, that happens to throw in some fun bike riding as well. One tool Riverwest uses is whole community organizing, a method that crosses race, class, and ethnic divides. By not focusing on specific issues and relying on face to face interaction, neighbors learn to trust one another and work together. The connections and knowledge gained at the bike event is used throughout the year to advance the neighborhood.
Lastly, a book that discusses race and equity cannot escape the topic of gentrification. While the author acknowledges the mere creation of bicycle infrastructure does not automatically lead to gentrification, it certainly is perceived that way. The white, upwardly mobile class has the power to lobby for bike infrastructure and have it placed in the areas they deem necessary. Previously, the rest of the community has just had to listen and accept it. That has recently changed, with residents of historically disparaged neighborhoods fighting back against bike lanes they feel will start to displace themselves and their neighbors. A quote from Anthony Taylor of the Major Taylor Bicycling Club sums it up best: