Beyond Equity — A Strategy for Developing Critical Leadership in Transportation

Introducing Our New Better Bike Share Partnership Writer

by Kiran Herbert, Local Programs Writer and Content Manager

Credit: Noah Berg Photography.

Meet Kiran Herbert, whose previous job experience includes covering equity and environmental issues for the outdoor industry.

As I read through the stories published here over the past half-decade, I’m simultaneously intimidated and inspired. Intimidated, because previous BBSP writers Farrah Daniels and Stefani Cox left some big shoes to fill, and inspired, due to the tangible wins bike share and micromobility have achieved nationwide in such a short amount of time. The more recent emphasis on equity, inclusion and diversity in the transportation space is especially encouraging, as is the general sense of camaraderie around the sharing of resources, learnings and best practices. 

I’m new to the bike share and micromobility world but not to biking. The child of two U.S. diplomats, I learned to bike in residential embassy neighborhoods in Lagos, Nigeria, and Jakarta, Indonesia. Having biked on six continents, I understand the freedom that bikes offer across cultures, as a way to get to work, visit loved ones or perform essential tasks. I’ve also witnessed my fair share of bike crashes, underscoring the importance of good infrastructure and community buy-in.

In 2015, while working at an outdoor magazine, I learned to ski and mountain bike, two pursuits where, as a mixed-race woman (my father is South Asian), I was always the minority. I love being outside, however, so I left that gig to work as a bike guide, leading wealthy, predominantly white people on weeklong luxury bike trips. I knew little about bike maintenance or road biking until I took that job and what followed was a crash-course in bike mechanics and road safety, as well as exposure to an industry that’s very much a boy’s club. Both jobs highlighted the need for diversity at the highest levels of the outdoor industry—I left determined to help facilitate change.

I hold a Master’s in Cultural Reporting and Criticism and through my writing, I have always sought to spotlight issues that perpetuate inequality. I truly believe that by lending a critical eye to our existing institutions and cultural norms, we can make the world a better place. Most recently, I worked at Camber Outdoors, a nonprofit that promotes inclusion, equity and diversity within the outdoor industry, and as a writer for SNEWS, where I applied a similar lens to my weekly articles. I’m ecstatic to now be covering shared micromobility on behalf of the Better Bike Share Partnership, championing the work operators, cities, and community-based organizations are doing to advance, promote and ensure equal access for everyone.

In my new role, I’ll be splitting my time between writing for the Better Bike Share Partnership and PeopleForBikes’ Local Innovation team. By conducting interviews, writing reported pieces and sharing white pages and case studies, I hope to elevate voices that have been largely unheard, shed light on barriers, uncover new and exciting programs, and highlight the things we could be doing better. Bike infrastructure benefits the community at large—even those members who only travel by car—and I hope to drive that point home. In my spare time, you’ll find me cooking, officiating elopements, and riding my commuter bike around Boulder, with a mask on for the foreseeable future.

As sick as we are of masks and as devastating as the pandemic has been, there’s no denying that COVID-19 has been a win for micromobility. As people begin to get vaccinated, however, we need to carry these wins forward. Bike sales and ridership are up across the board, as are things like neighborhood walks. Unfortunately, so are car crashes, which like the virus itself, disproportionately affects low-income individuals and people of color. As someone who was recently hit by a truck, I don’t want anyone to live in fear of their neighborhood streets, especially not those who already hold less privilege.

Speaking of privilege, the pandemic has also forced me to reckon with my own. From my education to my wealth to my cisgender to my lighter skin, I hold a lot of privilege. As Farrah touched on in her farewell post, there’s never been a better time to tackle the systematic racism embedded within our industry, and as a writer, my role starts by taking stock of the ways I help perpetuate it. I don’t take my responsibility lightly—I know I have a role to play in making sure all people are represented and considered. Throughout my time here, I’ll be keeping an open mind and learning right alongside all of you, holding our industry accountable as I push for sustainable, equitable change.

I look forward to meeting many of you through interviews, conferences, events and more. Got a question or a story idea? You can reach me at kiran@peopleforbikes.org

The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaborative between the City of Philadelphia, theNational 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.