3 questions with Tamika Butler, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition

by: April Corbin, PeopleForBikes equity writer

 

Tamika Butler. Photo by Serena Liu

Tamika Butler. Photo by Serena Liu

One of the goals of the upcoming Better Bike Share conference is to elevate the voices of the growing number of people working at the intersection of transportation and equity. One of those emerging voices is Tamika Butler, the executive director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. She will be speaking at the two-day conference, which is scheduled for June 22-24 in Philadelphia. We spoke to her briefly about why she’s looking forward to the conference and the message she hopes people leave with.

When it comes to transportation and equity, what trends do you see emerging?

Tamika Butler: As someone who is an outsider to the transportation world—I’ve only been in it a year and a half—I am encouraged by the fact that one of the trends is to care about equity, or have a desire to care about equity. I think it’s one of those things where people care but don’t have the language to talk about it. When it’s something you’re not comfortable with, or something new to you, it is difficult to talk about. People don’t want to mess up.  But it’s about getting beyond that, being willing to mess up, or say the wrong thing, or embarrass yourself, but learn.

One thing you’ll be speaking about at the Better Bike Share conference is the importance of including equity throughout your organization instead of as just one component or program. Why is this so important?

TB: People can say, “We’re really into bike share and of course we want to make it equitable, so… How do we make bike share equitable?” If you do that, you’ll continue to struggle. You might make small strides, but the push we (at the LACBC) have had is to change the core of who we are and to make equity a core of who we are. It has to be done internally, whether you’re a private company, a nonprofit, a city entity… It’s the language you use, who you hire, how you hire, who the decision makers are, how you do outreach… It has to be inherent in the work you do day in and day out. … You can’t make something an external program if you haven’t done it internally.

What do you hope people will get out of the conference?

TB: One of the things I hope I get out of it is meeting other people who care about the same things and are having the same struggles. Having that space where you can talk openly, honestly and frankly about what’s going well and what isn’t… Having that concentrated space with people from all over the country… You have this exchange of ideas. Sometimes we don’t get that from our own organizations and cities. The diversity of views and thoughts is the most exciting thing about the conference.

Early-bird registration for the Better Bike Share conference ends Tuesday, May 31. For more information, visit bikeshareconference.org