Bike Lanes Are White Lanes: Bicycle Advocacy and Urban Planning

Bike Lanes Are White Lanes: Bicycle Advocacy and Urban Planning

Bike Lanes Are White Lanes: Bicycle Advocacy and Urban Planning

Bike Lanes Are White Lanes: Bicycle Advocacy and Urban Planning

Synopsis

The number of bicyclists is increasing in the United States, especially among the working class and people of color. In contrast to the demographics of bicyclists in the United States, advocacy for bicycling has focused mainly on the interests of white upwardly mobile bicyclists, leading to neighborhood conflicts and accusations of racist planning.

In Bike Lanes Are White Lanes, scholar Melody L. Hoffmann argues that the bicycle has varied cultural meaning as a "rolling signifier." That is, the bicycle's meaning changes in different spaces, with different people, and in different cultures. The rolling signification of the bicycle contributes to building community, influences gentrifying urban planning, and upholds systemic race and class barriers.

In this study of three prominent U.S. cities--Milwaukee, Portland, and Minneapolis--Hoffmann examines how the burgeoning popularity of urban bicycling is trailed by systemic issues of racism, classism, and displacement. From a pro-cycling perspective, Bike Lanes Are White Lanes highlights many problematic aspects of urban bicycling culture and its advocacy as well as positive examples of people trying earnestly to bring their community together through bicycling.

Excerpt

“But there’s no black people here,” Greg said to me when I suggested he cut in line for some breakfast. He was right. I looked around at the four hundred bicyclists being served, and no one looked like Greg. What makes Greg’s comment even more poignant is that the breakfast was being served at All People’s Church, a few blocks west of one of Milwaukee’s unofficial segregation lines. and we were on the black people’s side. I was volunteering for the Riverwest 24, a twenty-four-hour bicycle event based in the working-class neighborhood of Riverwest. People are required to ride a bicycle for twenty-four hours, following the same fivemile loop around the neighborhood. Every few hours a “bonus” event is scheduled, breakfast being one of them. So there I was with Greg, feeling embarrassed that the only other black people I could point out to him were residents in the neighborhood who had wandered over to witness the chaos of feeding four hundred people outside. I felt embarrassed because this was the exact conversation I dreaded. Why did a bicycle event committed to . . .

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