Bicycle Justice or Just Bicycles: Analyzing Equitable Access to Baltimore's Bike Sharing Program

Baltimore recently launched the Baltimore Bikeshare Program (BBSP) by installing fifty docking stations at strategic locations around the city. BBSP administrators and advocates anticipate expanding the program in the near future after they gain knowledge of system usage patterns. To ensure that BBSP makes efficient use of its limited financial resources and provides all city residents with equitable access to low-carbon mobility, this research will evaluate BBSP trip data alongside land use to determine whether diverse populations, defined by socio-economic and racial demographics, are afforded access to the new system. The results of the analysis will inform policy and land use planning recommendations for the future expansion of BBSP and the city’s bicycle infrastructure. When she announced BBSP, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called it a critical part of the city’s “network of sustainable transportation options (Campbell, 2016).” Beyond BBSP’s environmental and economic benefits, sustainable urban transportation infrastructure must also promote just outcomes by providing equitable access to all residents and users (Mercier, 2009). Equity is a frequently overlooked criteria in urban sustainability efforts, and this research will spotlight justice as a core urban land use and design principle (Agyeman, 2013). It can be difficult for decision-makers to conceptualize the justice-related impacts of land use and transportation programs, so the goal of this research project is to inform and enhance the sustainability of BBSP from an equity perspective (Wheeler, 2013). Several obtainable objectives will help reach that goal. First, the research will identify best practice examples of bikeshare programs from other cities where the program design and implementation delivered equitable outcomes. The research will also develop and execute a novel justice-centered methodological framework to analyze BBSP outcomes using Big Data from individual bike trips and system user demographics. Following the Big Data analysis, the research will identify locations in Baltimore where future phases of BBSP could expand and offer improved access to underrepresented populations. Another outcome is a policy analysis that will evaluate the tradeoffs between station locations and public policy alternatives to improve the equity of BBSP. The results of the policy analysis will be useful for land use planners and decision-makers as they use the city’s limited financial resources to grow BBSP and associated on-street infrastructure.