Breaking Down Barriers to Bicycling in the U.S.

Even without the recent upsurge brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, bicycling has increased in popularity in many U.S. cities over the last decade. However, as the number of bicyclists and bike trips steadily grows, many communities have struggled to create truly inclusive bike cultures. Furthermore, bicycling still remains completely out of reach for many minority groups and low-income Americans due to persistent and pervasive social and physical barriers.

To better understand these barriers to biking, PeopleForBikes funded research in 10 U.S. cities. The study’s principal investigator was Charles T. Brown, who worked with Susan Blickstein and Siennah Yang of Susan G. Blickstein, LLC and Brown’s colleagues James Sinclair and Aashna Jain at the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) at Rutgers University. Together, they set out to identify different factors preventing people from bicycling, plus what infrastructure and incentives people need in order to start.

Using a qualitative approach, researchers conducted two focus groups in each city — one with community members, another with local business representatives. What emerged was an in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions and attitudes towards bicycling, as well as what types of activities, programs or marketing might change their opinions. By involving businesses, researchers were able to determine what role the private sector might play in hindering or advancing bicycling.

The 10 focus group cities included in the study were:

  • Austin, TX
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Denver, CO
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Memphis, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York City, NY
  • Portland, OR
  • Providence, RI
  • Tucson, AZ

Download the full report to read a summary of the five key recommendations and don’t miss our candid Q&A with Charles Brown discussing its findings.