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Friday, July 5, 2013

Group Tries To Increase Access To Bicycles Among African Americans

As bike share programs kick off in cities from New York to Chattanooga, some are concerned that they only serve the yuppier parts of cities.

In Chicago, city officials acknowledged that their bike stations are focused on serving city business centers — not poorer neighborhoods.

But Eboni Senai Hawkins says there’s a bigger problem — poor access to bikes among African-Americans. She recently launched the Chicago branch of Red Bike and Green, a national group promoting cycling in the black community.

Hawkin’s organization leads community bike rides through African-American communities in Chicago, to get people in the communities out and riding, and learning more about cycling.

Doing so, Hawkins says, has positive effects for health and for the social fabric of neighborhoods.

“Cycling for us is a community building tool,” Hawkins said. “So when people see–they actually see–black people on bikes, who look like them, that goes a long way.”

Guest:

  • Eboni Senai Hawkins, organizer of Chicago branch of Red, Bike and Green

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  • Eric Herot

    This isn’t a “black” problem, it’s a poor problem.  And if the number of cars on the streets in poor neighborhoods is any indication, it’s not purely a problem of lack of money to buy a bike.  You can buy a pretty nice bike for the cost of a very decrepit car.  It’s partly an image problem, partly a status problem, and partly an infrastructure problem.  If all of your neighbors can afford cars, then having a car is nothing special, and owning a bike becomes a way to distinguish your forward-thinking ways.  But when no one on your street can afford a car, then owning one (and “tricking it out”) becomes a measure of status.  And partly because of the low opinion of bicycling in poor neighborhood (and partly due to lack of public investment in general), poor neighborhoods have some of the worst roads for biking anywhere in the city (also further discouraging bike use).

    But lets talk about this for what it is: A poverty problem, not a race problem.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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