Biking Practices and Preferences in a Lower Income, Primarily Minority Neighborhood: Learning What Residents Want

Key takeaway: A new survey of residents in Roxbury, a lower income, minority neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts found that despite a shared preference for protected bike lanes across racial groups, there are racial variations in bicycling practices and behavior that can better inform bicycle infrastructure design.

Key takeaway (Cont):

  • These racial differences in bicycle infrastructure preferences and bicycling practices are important for practitioners to keep in mind to increase equity in bicycling.


  • White, Black, and Hispanic respondents preferred protected bike lanes, and studies confirm that people perceive protected bike lanes to be safer.
  • Compared with white respondents, more Black and Hispanic respondents said they would bike more if they could bike with family and friends.
  • While white respondents typically preferred trees and bushes to separate bike lanes from road traffic, more Blacks and Hispanics preferred low concrete island or posts/paint.
  • More Blacks and Hispanics preferred to park their bikes inside their homes. This could reflect residents’ different bicycle storage options. It could also reflect how Blacks and Hispanics are more fearful of getting their bikes stole since they’re more likely to rely on their bikes as their main mode of transportation.
  • More white cyclists wore helmets, rode road bikes, and carried items on their bikes. Meanwhile, most Black and Hispanic cyclists didn’t wear helmet, rode mountain bikes, and didn’t carry items on their bikes.


  • The social appeal and benefits of bicycling should not be overlooked. Since Black and Hispanic people express greater interest in biking with friends, designing and building wider bike lanes that enable people to ride side-by-side instead of single-file may help increase cycling among people of color.
  • Considering that most Black and Hispanic respondents preferred indoor bike parking, affordable housing should include bike-parking rooms inside housing units to enable people of color to park their bikes inside their homes.
  • Given lower helmet usage among minorities, mandatory helmet laws are problematic because they disparately impact populations of color. 


  • The researchers’ data collection consisted of:
  1. Mailed surveys: In August 2014, they mailed 1,537 three-page surveys (17% return rate) about bicycle infrastructure preferences, bicycling behavior, and bicycling practices to a random sample of mailing addresses near a proposed protected bike lane in Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury.
  2. Cyclist intercept surveys and observations: For three weeks in August 2014, researchers made observations about cyclists and distributed intercept surveys to willing cyclists on Malcolm X Boulevard. 
  • The researchers performed statistical analysis using the mailed surveys, intercept surveys, and observations to compare and analyze the demographics, perceptions, and preferences for bicycling and bicycling infrastructure by race/ethnicity.

Lusk, A.; Anastasio, A.; Shaffer, N.; Wu, J.; and Li, Y. (2017). Biking practices and preferences in a lower income, primarily minority neighborhood: Learning what residents want. Preventive Medicine Reports, Article in press.

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