Directors on Diversity: BBSP’s Zoe Kircos
by Zoe Kircos, Director of Grants and Partnerships
September 15, 2021
This post is part of a joint DEI campaign between the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association and BBSP. See NABSA Executive Director Samantha Herr’s post here.
Exactly seven years ago, in July 2014, we launched the Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) at a meeting in Philadelphia. Staff from the City of Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and PeopleForBikes were together for the first time. A bike ride, a dinner, and a long day of discussing, strategizing, asking questions and sharing ideas ended with a trip to the ice cream shop and marked the first of many conversations focused on making bike share more accessible and equitable. Although we’d later expand our vision to include shared micromobility of all types, we always had a specific focus on centering Black and brown communities.
BBSP has been through multiple iterations in the years since we first launched. We convened a group of equity experts to help us think through our approach. We launched Challenge Grants to help partnerships of cities, operators and community-based organizations pilot strategies to remove barriers to access. We funded research to help us understand those barriers and measure the effectiveness of our methods. Philadelphia launched a system where equity was baked in from the beginning. NACTO provided technical assistance, webinars and white papers. Mini-grants offered seed money to try newer, smaller or short-term ideas. Today, we are working with four new Living Lab cities to do a deeper dive into specific challenges and opportunities for making shared micromobility a comfortable and realistic transportation option. We are also taking a hard look at the diversity of and equity within the transportation field — that’s led us to support 12 BIPOC transportation professionals through our Transportation Justice Fellowship program.
What’s still needed to improve equity, diversity, inclusion and justice in transportation? Many things. Not all cities and operators have bought into — or truly operationalized — the core understanding that equity is a must-have, not a nice-to-have. Deep, authentic and ongoing partnerships with communities, pricing and payment systems that remove barriers to access, integration with other transportation modes, and a workforce at all levels that reflects the people you are seeking to serve are a few commitments to make and actions to take. Above all, we need to recognize and actively address what Charles T. Brown identifies as Arrested Mobility: the structures, policies and environments that prevent Black and brown people from moving freely in our cities.
I look at the strong women I am privileged to call colleagues and who have led the way—Waffiyyah Murray, Carniesha Kwashie, Katie Monroe, Nicole Payne, Kate Fillin-Yeh—and I feel proud. Their powerful voices and the collective work of our 30-plus partners and grantees hold the vision of what’s right and what’s possible.
The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaboration between the City of 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. Got a question or a story idea? Email firstname.lastname@example.org