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Perceptions of Bike Sharing in Underserved Communities

Our report, Bublr Bikes: A Bike Share System for All Milwaukeeans, told us that the most important thing we can do to create an equitable bike share system is to place bike share stations in low income neighborhoods. However, we can’t simply drop stations around the city and hope for the best. We need to listen to you first. James Hannig master’s thesis at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on the perceptions of bike sharing in underserved communities found that listening to the community you serve is key.

Read Hannig’s full report

Hannig set out to understand how underserved communities perceive bike sharing and identify replicable models that could more successfully engage these communities in the decision making process of bike share implementation. Hannig interviewed 14 community partners in Milwaukee and 12 in the Twin Cities in 2014 and 2015. Here are a few key findings from his interviews:

  • Many community members rely on public transit. The “comparative value of bike sharing” isn’t clear; money spent on bike share doesn’t translate the same way as a bus pass or gas does.
  • Virtually every interviewee stressed that the key to understanding the perceptions of biking and bike sharing — and to work toward equitable bike share systems — is to have a relationship with the communities in question.
  • Bicycle advocates and planners have often made assumptions on perceptions of bike share in underserved communities without actually engaging the community and not only appear to presume what barriers exist in underserved communities, but they also guess at the significance of these barriers.
  • Some bike share operators seem hesitant to place stations in underserved communities because they believe that people will not use them.
  • Engaging stakeholders and community members early in the planning process is essential for building trust.
  • Potential users need training on and encouragement to use bike share. It is more than knowing where stations are located.
  • Community partners can be our strongest advocates for bike sharing in underserved communities.

Hannig’s recommendations focused on engaging the community early in the planning process and including community members in decision making. Bublr has partnered with nonprofit and community organizations throughout the city to help inform decisions on station placement, programming and cash options. We are already working with the City of Milwaukee, Walnut Way Conservation Corp, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, DreamBikes and more, and we welcome new community partners.

Please contact us to provide feedback. We’re listening, Milwaukee.