Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Urban Planning


Urban Planning

First Advisor

Robert J. Schneider


Bicycle, Bicycle Advocacy, Bike, Bike Share, Equity, Transportation Planning


Despite becoming increasingly more popular in cities across North America, many bikeshare systems have received criticism for not reaching minority and low-income populations. Several bikeshare operators have implemented measures to reach these populations including removing financial barriers, placing stations in underserved neighborhoods, and partnering with various community organizations. However, until recently, few have explored how people in these underserved areas perceive bike sharing.

Feedback was solicited from key community partners in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota to better understand how bike sharing is perceived in underserved communities and to determine whether other models could better address the transportation needs of these communities. A total of 26 interviews were conducted with community partner organizations including social service providers, housing authorities, bicycle advocates, transit advocates, institutions of higher education, and other nonprofit organizations.

The study indicated that there is still a great deal of research needed to understand how underserved communities truly perceive bike sharing—or even biking for that matter. However, relationships play a key role in building trust and empowering communities to participate in activities such as biking and bike sharing.

Other entry points to biking and bike sharing such as long-term bicycle loans and biking as recreation (e.g., initial station installations in parks) may be more effective in making the bike more acceptable to community members who wish to realize its benefits. In the long-term, investing in these types of programs may prove more effective in building a bikeshare customer base in underserved communities.

Finally, efforts to provide equitable access to bike sharing need to include targeted activities for women, families, and groups. Evidence suggests that women and families are particularly disenfranchised and excluded from biking and bike sharing opportunities. By making intentional accommodations to include women and families, bicycle advocates and bikeshare operators may realize increased participation from all members of the community.

As a more substantial library around the topic of bike and bikeshare equity emerges, advocates, planners, and bikeshare operators need to ensure that equitable practices are being explored and implemented to the greatest extent possible—particularly in the way underserved communities’ needs are met through inclusion and engagement.