Seriously? Cycle lanes cause gentrification?
The article’s argument isn’t the most cohesive, but here are the bullet points from this article from Urbanful:
White people bike a lot. But “U.S. respondents who identified as two or more races or “some other race,” along with Hispanic workers, had the highest rates of bicycle commuting”. So, it’s not just white people then?
People with more education cycle more. But the next highest category was the least educated…
Higher rates of cycling are associated with metros with a higher average wage, more knowledge-based economies, and “is positively associated with the share of creative class jobs (.3) and negatively associated with working class jobs (-.4).” The “metros” the statistics are referring to are not neighborhoods, but cities (like Boulder, Colorado, and Eugene, Oregon), and I’ve never heard of a city becoming gentrified. Expensive, yes, but gentrified? Is that even technically possible?
(I’ve expanded on this one a little) Businesses that are progressive and whose branding or core principles consider social and/or environmental issues to a varying degree (quite often the cool, creative class companies discussed), are doing things to lure the creative and educated, who happen to cycle more than some other people, in some areas, some of the time. That would include cycling-related perks or accommodations. The article quickly mentions the idea that the government is aiming economic development programs at this more “affluent” demographic, but is doing it in neighborhoods where they don’t live, thus promoting gentrification. Bike lanes are assumed to be representative of the problem.
The article seems to hinge its main argument on this paragraph:
Attracting this Creative Class is at the core of many economic development policies in U.S. cities. Conflicts arise when the policies and priorities aimed at this new demographic are applied to neighborhoods they don’t call home.
And then, bam! The crux of the matter: bike lanes are imposed rather than proposed! Well, at least, they’re seen that way. One of the source articles of the Urbanful article has this to say in reference to putting bike lanes in a West Chicago neighborhood:
There was the question, are you accommodating wealthy white people riding their fancy bikes, or are you working with a community that has struggled to preserve its cultures and traditions?”
The “cycle lanes cause gentrification” story is really a story about how a bunch of people from numerous neighborhoods all over the place are upset at the gentrification of their neighborhoods, and someone mentioned bike lanes (probably because, like in the case of one of Portland’s historically African-American neighborhoods, they started building cycle lanes only after a bunch of white people started moving in, which might have been coincidental, but might not have), and now we get stories like cycle lanes cause gentrification – or at least, people think they do.
That’s basically what the Urbanful article is saying, and also what the GRID Chicago article is saying, but the main point they are making is that cities need to do better at, basically, convincing all residents that cycle lanes are good, and not a gentrification generator. They need to be better at communicating with their residents.
They’re right, but I suppose what baffles me is – even if someone does associate bike lanes with white-guy gentrification, how can anyone attribute that to a cycle lane? How, as the statement above suggests, do cycle lanes actually compromise any community’s struggle “to preserve its cultures and traditions”? I’m not aware of any culture or tradition that is based on the absence of cycle lanes (unless you count the majority of motorists in Australia as a culture). They’re bike lanes. Everyone can use them. Nobody has to. You’ve still got your space for cars, and you’ve still got your space for pedestrians. They’re not an affront to your civil liberties or your human rights any more than the local park or the street lights that allow you the opportunity to see where you are going at night.
I will say this: I completely get the link people make between gentrification and rich, white cyclists. Smug white folks with disposable income are attracted to cycling because it’s really trendy and has a good social image (and, maybe, because they simply enjoy it), and smug, monied, white folks who cycle also make excellent gentrifiers. People who help gentrify a community want their community to reflect their interests, so sometimes they make a bit of noise about putting in cycle lanes (and sometimes they actually oppose them). I get it. Nevertheless, the problem isn’t the cycle lane.
You know how to get rid of the perception that cycle lanes are for everyone, and not just rich white people? Build them everywhere. Problem solved. The only conversation you need to have with your constituents is about how they will look, not whether or not they will exist.
Header image: source