The Bike Movement & Racial Equity via the Center for Social Inclusion

“We define racial equity as both an outcome and a process. A racially equitable society is one in which race no longer determines one’s life outcomes and in which we recognize that when we address inequity, we all share in the benefits of increased fairness and justice.”

For today’s post, Make Communities is going to cede it’s time to Simran Noor, Director of Policy and Strategy at the Center for Social Inclusion.

As mentioned briefly in Friday’s post, the National Bike Summit this year focused on Bikes+.

For many, this “+” is equity.

US Biking Boom
From People for Bikes Building Equity Report

In developing nations, the bike is very consciously seen as a tool for liberation and uplifting people in poverty, in ways not that dissimilar to the impact that bicycles had toward “free, untrammeled womanhood” in the early 20th century here in the States. As Ms. Noor points out, though, as it is swiftly gaining traction in this country the Bike Movement is too often seen as a white, middle-class, male phenomenon even though stats consistently show that people who ride bikes do, in fact, represent a broad demographic cross-section with the steepest increase in riding coming from communities of color.

In her excellent summary of her comments to the National Bike Summit, she highlights five places that the bike movement can focus to demonstrates a commitment to racial equity. The bullet-points are listed below, but to do them justice, click through and read the full post:

  1. Interrogate Root Cause of Disparities
  2. Lift up Leadership of Color in Your Movement
  3. Reframe the Message
  4. Engage with Communities
  5. Share Power and Resources

Complete Streets Plus ____(?)_____

Forgive us if the mind wanders a bit on a chilly spring Friday morning… but this is one of those posts about Copenhagen.

We spend a lot of time thinking about Complete Streets here at Make Communities. Not only is it part of the day job to work to help communities make their streets safe, accessible and equitable for all users – young and old, rich and poor, weekend warriors and those with mobility impairments — but it’s also a big part of how we try to live when (ok, if) we put the work away come Friday evening.

Getting around by bike or on foot, sometimes it can be frustrating enough just to overcome the challenges of infrastructure that doesn’t fully support getting from here to there while leaving the car at home. When your thoughts are focused on getting from A to B, though, it can be difficult to consider that our streets can be both places for transportation and be places of fun and even whimsy.

Which brings us back to Copenhagen…

Not far from the main drag of touristy Nyhavn with crowds embarking on canal tours or taking in the action from dockside cafes, is an incredible and incredibly simple piece of outside-the-box urbanism. Behold: the sidewalk trampoline!

CPH trampoline1Now, we haven’t checked in the index, but we’d bet our bike shorts that the sidewalk trampoline doesn’t show up in even the most recent version of the NACTO guidelines.

CPH trampoline3

Thanks to Google Maps, you can actually get a great before and after of this site. Which was part of a larger promenade project that installed a cycle track, benches, pavers and trees.

Take away the trampolines and this is still a great project.

Add the trampolines, and this is an experience that people will remember for a lifetime.

Though your local DOT may actually black out a little bit if you suggest a trampoline in your next street reconstruction initiative, what other ways can you think of to add the unexpected, the unforgettable and the fun into your community’s next project?

CPH trampoline4


*And, no, bike helmets aren’t required, or even recommended. In fact, there’s no signage or supervision at all. The helmets are just the result of a quick transition out of the cargo bike and onto the trampoline.


**Also, the name of this post is a play on the from the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit’s theme “Bikes+” earlier this month. Check out the great responses the conference attendees came up with here.

Implementing Complete Streets in Rural Upstate NY Communities

 IMG_7617I spent St. Patrick’s Day in the Adirondacks working with the North Country Healthy Heart Network implementing Complete Streets training. This was not the first time visiting, in fact I was in Malone, NY back in 2010 helping them develop a complete street policy. It is exciting to see the progress that the North Country Healthy Heart Network has achieved since then establishing local policies, developing plans and creating an inclusive process that engages citizens in the decision making process. This is the path seen in communities across the state but it doesn’t end there. The need to train citizens, policymakers, business leaders and our public employee implementers is a crucial next step to help institutionalize complete streets for all projects from maintenance to full reconstruction and that’s what I was doing on this trip.

IMG_7611The workshop was well attended by town and village highway departments, code enforcement officers, planning board members, traffic safety coordinators, community development professionals, public health officials and members of the local bicycle and pedestrian advisory boards. The training program included a strong background on “why” complete streets are important through the benefits they can provide for the community, including information on the health, safety, mobility, environmental and economic outcomes provided. The focus of the training was on specific infrastructure elements as identified by the community to provide an understanding on their use, considerations for implementation, and maintenance. An important aspect was identifying the short-term low-hanging fruit opportunities that can be made available through road-diets and paint, which can lead to larger community buy-in and ultimately long-term infrastructure investments.

IMG_7615The challenge faced by the villages of Malone, Saranac Lake, and the city of Plattsburgh are not much different then many other communities in the North Country and across the state. Budget constraints, capacity and figuring out how to work with the NYS Department of Transportation to make complete streets commonplace are resounding themes. The energy and enthusiasm of the participants truly demonstrated a commitment towards overcoming these obstacles to create healthy and vibrant communities. I look forward to my next trip to witness the change they will surely succeed in creating.

It’s not always about Copenhagen, but sometimes it is.


The NYTimes recently ran an article about public interventions to reduce risks for children. Pediatrics Professor Aaron E. Carroll highlights the too common disconnect between program funding for the greatest public health risks and those that may be more sensationalized.

Carroll references a recent Journal of the American Medical Association article that focuses on Denmark’s response to confronting the most common lethal threats to children; with car crashes at the top of the list. Though the article rightfully acknowledges programmatic interventions success in reducing childhood fatalities, it should also be acknowledged that Denmark’s deliberate and ongoing investment in people centered infrastructure is also to credit for a nation-wide decrease in car related deaths of young people – a stunningly successful 85% reduction.

Denmark was not always known as a bastion of livable streets and the bike capital of the world. Beginning as early as the 1960s, an active and committed response to the increasing number of children killed by cars helped create the political will to change the way the country builds its cities and towns: people are prioritized.

But the battle has never been car vs. bike, it was and is fundamentally about creating safe and welcoming environments where kids can be kids; people can be people; and cities can be cities.

The sad fact remains that car crashes kill more than 35,000 people annually in the USA and are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 5 and 25 (killing 8,835 kids in this age group in 2010 alone).

Creating complete streets that don’t prohibit, but tame car traffic not only benefits pedestrians and cyclists, but drivers and non-drivers of all stripes by creating safer, more inviting places and, yes, keeping more kids alive.