Beyond Equity — A Strategy for Developing Critical Leadership in Transportation

The Better Bike Share Partnership: Looking Back and As We Move Forward

by Zoe Kircos, Grant Manager, PeopleForBikes

Six years can seem like a long time or a little. In six years, a child goes from infancy to walking, talking and kindergarten. Your favorite t-shirt goes from slightly stiff and brightly colored to the soft, washed-out comfort of an old friend. And a program goes from, “What are we doing and how do we do it?” to, “We got this and what’s next?” 

The Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) launched six years ago on July 1, 2014. Does that seem like a different world? It was. We had not yet named ourselves, the partners had not met in person and we had yet to move from the excitement of securing funding for our big dream to the reality of making that dream a reality. 

In 2014, bike share was really the only form of shared micromobility. Back then, most bike share systems were dock-based and located where they could serve tourists, people who lived or worked downtown, and possibly some middle- and upper-income neighborhoods. They did not consider and were unprepared to serve lower-income residents, those who lived outside a downtown core, people who didn’t have or didn’t want to use credit cards or those who didn’t ride, know how to ride or fit into a narrow idea of someone who rides. 

BBSP was created to change all that.

The origin

We were charged with identifying barriers to using bike share and developing strategies to address them, testing solutions in Philadelphia, funding similar efforts nationwide, providing guidance and disseminating stories. Those were the challenges we knew about. But as it is for the baby or that t-shirt, the path to progress rarely runs smoothly. You’re bound to get some bumps and stains along the way. We certainly did. 

The BBSP team has encountered plenty of new challenges on the path to addressing the barriers to bike share. Anyone who has watched or worked in micromobility can name some of them, like dockless bike share and e-scooters or the mergers and acquisitions that have changed the players on the street. As we move into year seven, made possible by a renewal of grant support, we have spent some time reflecting on where we started and what we have learned. The lessons aren’t rocket science but do bear repeating:

👉 Center equity. We constantly ask ourselves, who we are serving and who is missing? Whose voice is present and whose is absent? One critical thing we’ve learned is that when you remove barriers for the most vulnerable, you serve everyone better. 

👉 It’s not about the bike. It’s not about the scooter, either. It’s about building community, building relationships and providing a tool that increases access to the things people need. 

👉 There are no shortcuts. Building trust and relationships take time. Take the time. 

A Bright Future

Over the next three years, BBSP will continue to advocate for equitable access for and engagement with low-income and BIPOC communities around shared micromobility. Together, we will

  • Roll out a new Living Labs program that will dive deep into a few specific barriers in a handful of cities. 
  • Launch a Fellowship program to bring together people of color working in the transportation and shared micromobility fields with the goal of increasing workforce diversity and supporting the professional development and personal health of those already there. 
  • Continue to provide small grants to and share the stories of those whose commitment to their communities is reflected in the people they reach and serve. 

Thanks to the many partners who have supported this work throughout our six-year history, and welcome to our newer colleagues. We got this. What’s next?

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Story tip? Write farrah@peopleforbikes.org