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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Providing Equitable Access to Sacramento’s Bike Share System


Bike share systems are a unique opportunity to encourage active transportation within a public transportation framework. Bike share has the potential to deliver an array of benefits to communities, including reduced emissions, vehicle miles traveled, and parking needs, as well as increasing residents’ participation in healthful exercise. However, the benefits of bike share are often not equitably distributed among the diverse populations of the cities in which they have been implemented: statistics indicate a possibility of a lack of equitable system access for low-income and/or minority (LIM) populations in North America, as these populations are overwhelmingly underrepresented among bike share users. The current system enables users to check out a bike using a credit or debit card, which is restrictive to LIM individuals who may not have such accounts. Today many system operators attempt to rectify this rift by working with local financial institutions to help potential users obtain debit or credit cards. However, less attention has been directed towards many other issues inherent in the system, which when combined create a product that fails many LIM users. These users face other financial constraints such as additional fees that increase exponentially after the first 30 minutes, and the lack of a fare structure competitive with transit. One of the most fundamental problems is that docking stations are placed in attractive, multi-use neighborhoods and commercial corridors with vibrant economies and public spaces; areas where decades of social and financial pressure have minimized the presence of LIM residents. Contemporary ridership forecasting models for bike share are based on current patterns of bicycle use, and generally assume a negative correlation between ridership and prevalence of non-white population. Concerns regarding security while bicycling can also act as a barrier for bike share use by the LIM community, as these communities can have much poorer bicycle infrastructure and higher incidences of crime. Educational barriers such as language differences and lack of cycling knowledge or skills combine to make it difficult for LIM community members to understand the system, enroll in the system, or use the system easily. Hours of operation are also typically not supportive of non-traditional shift hours, and hardware prevents users from bringing along children or cargo. Barriers to equitable access to bike share must be met with thoughtful analysis and policy adjustments to ensure that, as this new opportunity for public active transportation spreads in the United States, all citizens may benefit. This report responds to a study by Fehr & Peers in 2014 that was the first iteration of planning for the new Sacramento Area bike share system. Using this study as a starting point, this report aims to explore how system equity barriers could be removed so that all residents of Sacramento, regardless of ethnicity or income status, could enjoy the benefits of bike share.

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