2016 - Research

Fear: A Silent Barrier to Bicycling in Black and Hispanic Communities

Fear is a big barrier to bicycling for Blacks and Hispanics (i.e., fear of traffic collisions, fear of robbery and assault, fear of being stranded with a broken bicycle, fear of police racial profiling, and fear of verbal harassment). 

Key takeaway:

  • Fear is a big barrier to bicycling for Blacks and Hispanics (i.e., fear of traffic collisions, fear of robbery and assault, fear of being stranded with a broken bicycle, fear of police racial profiling, and fear of verbal harassment). The fear of traffic collision is not surprising since cycling deaths have been increasing in New Jersey and the Federal Highway Administration has designated the state as a Pedestrian-Bicycle Focus State. However, the other fears are more eye opening. Transportation professionals must think more broadly about safety and take people’s personal safety concerns seriously in order to better support bicycling.

 

Results:

  • Barriers to bicycling for cyclists and non-cyclists in Black and Hispanic communities are:
  1. Fear of traffic collision
  2. Fear of robbery and assault
  3. Pavement condition
  4. Fear of being stranded with broken bicycle
  5. Fear of being racially profiled by the police
  6. Cost of bicycle maintenance
  7. Fear of verbal harassment
  8. Pregnancy/small children
  9. Other
  • After fear of traffic collisions, Blacks and Hispanics cited fear of robbery and assault while bicycling as the second biggest barrier to bicycling. This is surprising because it seems more difficult to rob and assault a cyclist, as opposed to a pedestrian. Yet, it may reflect how crime rates are disproportionately higher in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods:  Most of the Black and Hispanic respondents reside in New Jersey’s major urban centers that have accounted for 39 percent of all violent crime between 2005 and 2014. Exposure to crime impacts mobility and one’s willingness to ride a bicycle.
  • Since fear is a significant barrier to bicycling for Black and Hispanic people, the author suggests that more education and outreach, including community bicycling events like Open Streets, could be beneficial. An increase in bicycling would lead to safety in numbers, reduced traffic congestion, and reduced air pollution. Increased bicycling in communities of color can catalyze broader positive health, social, and economic changes, which are necessary in this political climate.

 

Implications:

  • Transportation professionals must be concerned about and responsible for the mobility and safety needs of all road users. Historically, transportation professionals have prioritized the mobility and safety needs of vehicles over cyclists and pedestrians, which reflects and bolsters car-centric road design and policies.
  • Safety must encompass safety from a road traffic perspective as well as a personal safety perspective. Transportation professionals must take residents’ social realities (i.e., crime, racial profiling, police violence, verbal harassment, economic hardship, etc.) seriously and acknowledge personal safety concerns. Crash statistics do not tell the full story of the safety of a particular street or roadway. The transportation sector’s reliance on crash statistics as a safety indicator has resulted in “traffic safety-rich and personal safety-bankrupt” road design.
  • The fact pavement condition was cited as the third biggest barrier to bicycling among Blacks and Hispanics underscores the importance of providing quality infrastructure in communities that have experienced infrastructural disinvestment, such as communities of color and low-income communities.
  • Transportation professionals must consider how fear of racial profiling impacts mobility for people of color. This means being mindful of how people of color may alter their routes or travel times to avoid police interactions. It also means considering how increased police enforcement of traffic laws may disproportionately impact and/or deter people of color from cycling.

 

Methods:

  • The author used intercept surveys and focus groups to study bicycle access and usage among Black and Hispanic residents of 34 neighborhoods in New Jersey.

 

Brown, C. (2016). Fear: A Silent Barrier to Bicycling in Black and Hispanic Communities. Institute of Transport Engineers Journal, September 2016.