Capital Bikeshare wants to reverse trend of older, wealthier, whiter membership

by: April Corbin, PeopleForBikes equity writer


Courtesy: Sam Kittner Photography

The good news: The average member of Capital Bikeshare reported saving more than $700 per year in personal transportation costs by using the bike share system. The bad news: Half of those members have six-figure incomes.

This means the people who would benefit the most from the cost savings associated with bike share are also the ones least likely to be using the system.

Capital Bikeshare knows this and says it’s addressing the issue.

“There were no surprises,” says DDOT Bicycle Program Specialist Darren Buck of the findings, which were a part of the Capital Bikeshare 2014 member survey report released this month (and succinctly summarized here). “We’ve been watching this over the years, so it’s nothing new. The trend hasn’t reversed itself.”

White people have always accounted for a significant majority of the system’s members. In 2011, 81 percent of respondents to the annual survey were white. That percentage has now risen to 84 percent. Likewise, household income has always trended higher. In 2011, 39 percent of respondents reported an annual household income of $100,000 or more. That percentage is now 50 percent.

For Buck, the takeaway from the member report is more motivation than ever to reverse the trend they’ve seen from the beginning.

“This validates things we’ve got in the pipeline,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of ideas about how to close the demographic gap. We’ve been working on this and have a cohesive plan for the District.”

All of the details on those plans aren’t yet public but will involve infrastructure improvements, outreach efforts and expansion. DDOT and Howard University are currently accepting applications for a research intern who will largely focus on analyzing station placement in low-income neighborhoods and drafting plans for engagement within them. Buck says DDOT is looking at the issue holistically and believes in the possibility of bike share as a valid transportation choice for low-income people.

One of the biggest motivators, says Buck, is new self-reported information on personal transportation cost savings as a result of using bike share. Respondents of the 2014 membership survey reported that using bike share saved them an average of $13.65 per week. That’s $710 over the course of the year.

“We think that’s important, being able to show people the value of what bike share can offer their lives,” says Buck. “A savings that significant can be life-changing. If we can bring that even to a few people, that’s in line with our mission as a public agency.”

The Better Bike Share Partnership is a JPB Foundation-funded collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Story tip? Write april@peopleforbikes.org