Re-blog: In a Wheelchair? Good Luck on Franklin Avenue

Last month I wrote a short article about ADA compliance on Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis.

Franklin Ave. sidewalk

Franklin Ave. sidewalk

The focus is more on sidewalks, but the issue of equitable infrastructure remains.

From the article: Working-class and poor people get the worst pedestrian amenities even though they are the ones that use the sidewalks the most. These despicable conditions are at its worst in the poorest area of Franklin Avenue. It is no coincidence that these narrow sidewalks are on the edge of Phillips (the stereotypical “bad” neighborhood south of downtown).

Check out the article here!

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Northside Nice Ride Neighborhood Ride (6/20/15)

This is my second summer helping out with the Nice Ride Neighborhood program. Our local bike share company, Nice Ride, in partnership with community organizations, offers a long-term bicycle loan program in the summertime. Participants get to keep a flashy orange bike from June to October. They can also earn $200 towards a new-to-them bicycle by pledging to ride twice a week and attending four Nice Ride Neighborhood-organized events. In North Minneapolis, about 200 people have orange bikes this year. In St. Paul, the number is around 70. The program has almost triples in size from its inaugural year.

From an equity standpoint, the program succeeds immensely in its diversity of participants. Much of this has to do with the community organizations that partner with Nice Ride to make this a vibrant community experience. This includes bicycle organizations that represent marginalized bicycle communities, such as Women on Bikes and Major Taylor, leading the group rides.

I attended the first event scheduled for North Minneapolis this year. For this event, Major Taylor Cycling Club organized and led a group ride from Webber Park to the nearby Juneteenth celebration along the Mississippi River trail.

Nice Ride Neighborhood participants circle-up for a pre-ride check-in

Nice Ride Neighborhood participants circle-up for a pre-ride check-in

This year’s Juneteenth was a heavy day for many people. A celebration rooted in emancipation seemed trying on the heels of unspeakable murder and a year of constant protest against police brutality. But there is nothing more real than an African-American cycling group leading a majority Black group of bicyclists to Juneteenth and around the neighborhood’s off-street trails. I was happy to witness such an occasion.

Walter, a leading member of Major Taylor, talks with the crowd about ride safety.

Walter, a leading member of Major Taylor, talks with the crowd about ride safety.

The group of participants grows and the hot summer sun peeks out just in time for our 5-mile ride.

The group of participants grows and the hot summer sun peeks out just in time for our 5-mile ride.

The ride itself was full of life. Around 45 people attended, which proved to be a challenge when we initially winded down the hilly bike trail. Some participants were still learning how to maneuver their bicycles, which resulted in one early-on crash. The rider was fearless as she got back on her bike quickly and continued with the ride. As I told her, I would have still been crying on the ground and refusing to keep biking, so kudos to her and her courage to continue on!

Due to the crash, we got cut off from the first half of the group and ended up meandering a bit off-course. Add that to my list of bicycle-asks: detailed markings and directionals on trails!

We soon found our way to the Juneteenth celebration. We only stayed for 15 minutes because we had to head back to the park and eat the food awaiting us. I think the participants would have enjoyed a longer stay at the celebration. Some of us talked about coming back, but those plans did not come to fruition mostly due to tiredness after our ride! It was fun to turn a bunch of heads at Juneteenth with our wild group of orange bike riders and I wished the participants could have soaked that in a bit longer. Something to consider for next year, perhaps.

Our ride back took a different route, showing off even more off-street bike trails to the participants. On the way back, another fearless woman crashed her bike and got right back up and kept riding. We discussed how cool her scuff marks made her look.

My perceptions of (lacking) Northside amenities were challenged, although I did take note that this infrastructure is very far north, on the perimeter of the neighborhood. But, if people are looking for relaxing trails to ride near their home, they are certainly beautiful options on the Northside. As for infrastructure for utility transportation? Still need some work on that.

The bridge of dreams, tucked away behind the bicycle trail

The bridge of dreams, tucked away behind the Webber Park bicycle trail

When we got back to the park, a lovely spread of food awaited us. A local catering company, that makes a point to hire at-risk youth by the way (!!!), made us sandwiches with handmade bread. The young men who served us were clearly trained in fine-dining service, which I hope made people feel mad respected! Everyone was clearly stuffed after eating lunch. Many of us stayed around and chatted (some Black Girls Do Bike networking happened!), others went home for a nap. I ended up riding with a participant another 5 miles to an arts festival on the Northeast side of town. I finished up my day by randomly running into Walter from Major Taylor, our leader for the Juneteenth ride. On our bike ride together we accidentally rode our bikes through a very closed, very under-construction street. Whoops!

These group rides with Neighborhood participants remind me how important community is to bike riding, especially if you are new to biking around town. As a continual skeptic of bike share and its related programming, there is very little negative to say about this program. It builds strong and fearless bicyclists, fosters community, and exposes people to a variety of bicycle infrastructure and community events.

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Reblog: 7 Cities Get $375,000 to Work on Bike-Share Equity

I was recently interviewed by Josh Cohen about the possibilities and limits to U.S. bike share equity grants. Probably the first and last time I will be ever so thoroughly and accurately quoted.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

[[ “Bike-share systems are not designed for a diversity of users. They’re designed to make money in certain areas of the city,” [Melody Hoffmann] explains. Hoffmann says Minneapolis’s system, like many around the U.S., was set up to make money in its first year.

“Nice Ride from the beginning was designed for tourists and business people and people that were already invested in biking. If you have a system that’s set up that way to ensure it makes money that first year, you’re going to put the stations where they’re going to make money. If that’s the model it’s just not going to be equitable.”

She continues, “People aren’t dumb. They see who’s riding those bikes, and they say ‘oh those aren’t for me.’” (The city was recently lauded for being the only one from the U.S. to make a Danish design firm’s yearly list of bike-friendly cities.) ]]

Updated Bike & Equity resources page!

Just a quick announcement that I updated the bike & equity resources page (it had been too long!). It is a list of almost 40 popular press articles and organization-based reports on equity issues in bicycle advocacy.

I’d specifically like to draw your attention to the recent reports out by the League of American Bicyclists that directly discuss equity and access to biking.

If you’d like to see an article or report linked to, please post in the comments and I will add it in. It is important that the sources are accessible to all (no academic articles behind pay walls).

Happy reading!

And now everything’s fine: Biking While Not White

Sahra Sulaiman over at Streets Blog just compiled a sad, but not surprising, list of recent events wherein police harassed a person of color on their bike. Sometimes the outcome was just some shattered nerves and humiliation. Other times it was a death sentence.

“A bike is the perfect excuse for officers to regularly stop and question them about their activities or why they are in a particular neighborhood.”

Just something for people to chew on; especially bicycle advocates who do not experience policing in this brutal, violent, murderous way.

This blog article by Sulaiman came about because of a racist Facebook group called “Black people with bikes that are’t theirs” (slated for deletion soon). And if you are curious, because the photos were all taken down, the “evidence” used (to show that Black people steal bikes) included famous African American bike advocates riding their bikes. Good job.

I think Tina Fey sums it up pretty well when she made this remark at the Golden Globes about a new movie (stay with me here).

“The movie Selma is about the American civil rights movement, that totally worked and now everything’s fine.”