How to Dismantle Racism In Transportation — Thoughts From the Field

by Farrah Daniel, Better Bike Share Partnership Writer

The Black community is tired — as well as grieving, worried, afraid, angry; the list goes on. On May 25th, a Black man named George Floyd Jr. became yet another victim of unjust police brutality. To Black America, this was one more incident to add to the multitude of events that have resulted in the slaying of Black people simply because America sees us as less than. Despite the fact that the Black community is the foundation of America’s evolution, time and time again we are left out of policies and left to suffer from the injustices of systemic racism.

But that’s going to change.

The transportation and planning industry is no stranger to systemic racism. And part of the uprising we’re seeing all over the country is Black planning practitioners calling out leaders of the industry to effect real change that will not only confront their history of racism, but will also dismantle it to widen the opportunities available in this landscape. If you haven’t seen the flurry of critical conversations taking place on Twitter, we’ve got you covered.

Below are resources, ideas and calls to action by Ariel Ward, Charles T. Brown, Courtney Williams (AKA The Brown Bike Girl), Dr. Destiny Thompson, Keith Benjamin, Naomi Doerner and Tamika Butler — click the links to view these conversations in real-time, plus what others had to say. And don’t forget to follow these experts to add more insight to your Twitter feed!

The Problem

Charles T. Brown, a professor and researcher at Rutgers University as well as an urban planner, raises an important question about white silence. How detrimental is the silence of white transportation leaders and practitioners in the face of a racist system that disenfranchises Black transit riders at every turn?

Courtney Williams is New York City’s first People’s Bike Mayor, a cycling equity consultant, and a diversity, equity and inclusion trainer.  Her thoughts on a recent display that has taken over feeds and news segments — cops kneeling in support of the Black Lives Matter movement — highlight one important thing: Institutional change is what we’re fighting and protesting for (not sentiments that don’t align with the actions we’ve seen from law enforcement.)


Naomi Doerner, a transportation equity strategist, references the destructive ways law enforcement has responded to protests across the country. Rubber bullets and the National Guard Are NOT the way to hear out the needs of the Black community, who is continuously left out of conversations about equity.

Tamika Butlerthe director of equity and inclusion as well as the director of planning for California at Toole Design, brings up the issue of solidarity statements — what more are organizations doing for the Black communities they serve and their black employees?

The Path Forward

What should the transportation landscape look like moving forward? Here are some on-the-ground solutions and offerings.

Ariel Ward, a transportation engineer and planner, shares her thoughts on atonement and what that might look like. Here are some questions leaders and organizations need to ask themselves about how they plan to undo the harm they’ve done of silencing Black employees for speaking up about the dangers of race politics within the transportation industry.

Naomi Doerner tackles the very real issue of the underpayment of Black people for the intellectual and physical labor of educating the industry on racism, equity and more.

Dr. Destiny Thomas discusses the best way to redirect funds to accommodate anti-racism and equity initiatives. Plus, how can orgs and practitioners join this conversation authentically? Own up to the role they’ve played.











Keith Benjamin, director of the Charleston, S.C., Department of Transportation, shared a thread that enlightened hundreds of people (check the Tweet engagement to see!). His tweets bring to the center a number of resources created by people of color who started this work years ago, and to this day, every bit of what he shares is relevant. Not all tweets are shown here, but you can follow the thread here.


— — — — — —

These snippets barely scratch the surface of the multi-faceted discussions taking place, but this gives you an idea of the framing of these topics. Continue educating yourself and participating in these community conversations about how to make this world a better place for our marginalized and silenced friends. What tweets are missing from our list? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

#BlackLivesMatter #SayTheirNames #StopKillingUs

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