This gorgeous video from Adventure Cycling showcases the U.S. Bicycle Route System, but one thing really stood out to me as an Asian American. See if you notice it too.
Russ Roca, a Filipino from Long Beach who produced this video with his long time partner Laura Crawford, is very aware of the lack of diversity in this video . “We’re trying our best!” he tells me. “We’re definitely trying to update the look of bicycling.”
Russ’s home city is is roughly one third Latino, one third White, 1/6 Asian, and 1/6 African American. Filipinos make up 6% of Long Beach’s working population, but the U.S. Census American Community Survey only counted nine Filipino bike commuters (plus or minus 14). That’s 0.4% of bike commuters in Long Beach.
(Click image to view original, readable version)
These stats show also that Latinos are overrepresented among bike commuters. They make up 36% of the work force and 54% of the bike commuting traffic. Caucasians, who are 36% of the population, are almost at parity at 32% of bike commuters.
Bike touring is a middle class activity, for sure, and even among cyclists it’s a little bit of a fringe hobby. But if you created a video of cycling in your city, would it look like your city?
What are ways you can enhance bicycling outreach to other audiences? Do your local bike to work days, bike clinics, bike rodeos, fun rides and charity rides speak anything other than English? Fast food chains, banks, automotive companies and other retailers and services all advertise in the language of their target markets. What about your bike advocacy group?
If you wonder why this even matters , Dr Adonia Lugo argues that bike advocates need to work harder at reach beyond their traditional core constituencies.
Why is it a bad thing to recognize that one’s circle is limited, and that it might take work to make connections beyond it? Why would it be bad to have a wider network from which to draw help with advocacy projects?
If you have a pretty limited circle from which to draw, you’re not necessarily going to craft a message or programming that’s appealing to a wider audience, because you have no idea what that wider audience cares about. And for a social movement, which would seem to want to get more people on board, that’s a strategy fail.
It is not a distraction from something more important to discuss race and class in the bike movement because Americans are hardly a homogeneous bunch. If you’re not interested in the different experiences of the people you’re targeting, why would they care about this bike thing you’re into?
For far too long people without much interest in experiences other than their own have dominated the room, assuming that we all agree that aspiring to Copenhagen is best, or that all women want to wear heels on their bikes. The continued championing of one narrow vision of bicycling has had at least one real effect: instead of us all seeing driving and suburbanization as a common enemy, embattled communities see bicycling and other sustainable practices as unwelcome symbols of power and privilege.
As part of their effort to diversify their programming and outreach, the League of American Bicyclists wants to hire an equity initiative manager. The California Bicycle Coalition is also actively working to broaden their message with a diverse set of speakers scheduled for the California Bike Summit in November.