A network approach to bike equity

Walkable and bikeable neighborhoods are in high demand, so when their availability is limited they are expensive. Building a large bike/ped network all at once brings the benefits to more people while reducing the price pressure that occurs from unmet demand.
@erogers on Twitter, 5/2/2018

This tweet summed up my most valuable lesson from the 2018 Places for Bikes conference in Indianapolis. Thanks to the Health Forward Foundation, BikeWalkKC was able to take a large delegation of advocates, planners, and engineers from the City Halls of KCMO and KCK. I’ve been thinking about this lesson a lot in the months since then.

Walkable and bikeable neighborhoods are in high demand in most cities. In may places these same neighborhoods are experiencing rising housing prices, often rapid and unsustainable increases. The mobility-insecure get priced out of the areas that provide needed transportation options. There are a lot of words on the Internet about causation/correlation debate about bike lanes and gentrification. Are they a cause? Or or they associated with other bigger changes in a neighborhood.

Supply and demand is a fundamental dynamic in market economies. Markets experiencing housing problems generally experience high demand and constrained supply. I wonder if this same dynamic could apply at neighborhood scale?

Over the last 2–3 years there have been a few experiments with rapidly building out a complete network of bike lanes, both permanent and temporary. Cities as varied Seville, Spain; Macon, Georgia; Calgary, Alberta; and New Orleans have all taken this approach.

There is evidence that this rapid network deployment strategy is resulting in significant increases in biking. We are learning that rapid, not incremental, deployment is key to brining the benefits of bicycling to people. Could this strategy also mitigate any negative consequences?

If we rapidly deployed city-wide bike networks, could we lessen the extent to which bike lanes might contribute to gentrification?

I hope this question gets taken up by researchers studying these quick build networks.


Originally published at ericrogers.org on January 14, 2019.