Public transportation

London's Bicyclists Have a Diversity Problem, City Officials Say

The attempt to boost minority cycling rates is more about paternalistic nitpicking than social justice.

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Sabine Katzenberger/Dreamstime.com

London's cycling commissioner, Will Norman, is dismayed at the demographic makeup of the city's bikers, finding them to be too white, too male, and too middle class. "It touches on something which is a real challenge for London cycling, which is diversity," Norman told The Independent. "Even when we have seen the growth in the number of cyclists, we haven't seen that diversity."

London has been doing its level best to boost the number of people biking around the city. Mayor Sadiq Khan, who pledged to be the "the most pro-cycling mayor London has ever had," has committed to spending £770 million ($1 billion) over his term on biking infrastructure. That's about twice what his equally pro-bike predecessor, Boris Johnson, spent to build the city's Cycle Superhighway network. Khan has promised to triple the network's size from 12 to 36 kilometers.

The effect of all this investment has been to increase cycling's share of trips taken from 1 percent to 2 percent. In addition to pissing off drivers, who blame the new bike lanes for increased traffic congestion, the heavy investment in cycling has created equity concerns, since the people who use the network the most tend to be privileged white men.

To remedy this problem, Norman floated the idea of diversity targets for London's cycling population. That would complement Khan's current diversity-boosting efforts, which include diversifying the board of Transport for London (the city's transportation department) and awarding grants to community organizations representing deaf people, Orthodox Jews, and other demographics that do not bike as much as the city thinks they should.

These equity concerns start to look more like paternalistic nitpicking when you realize that London's ethnic minorities are just as likely to bike as WASPs. They just tend to do it less often.

A 2016 Transport for London survey found that 13 percent of nonwhite residents were regular cyclists (defined as people who bike at least once a week), compared to 14 percent of white residents. But nonwhite cyclists bike less frequently, accounting for about 15 percent of all cycling trips despite making up 40 percent of London's population. Accomplishing the city's cycling equity goals therefore is less about getting more minority residents into cycling and more about prodding those who already bike into mimicking the government-approved transportation habits of their white counterparts.

Transport for London and Khan are far less concerned about the racially disproportionate impact of transportation policies that discriminate against modes of travel they don't like. Last September, Transport for London stripped the ride-sharing company Uber of its license, ostensibly because of safety concerns. The decision provoked anger and charges of hypocrisy from many of the 40,000 Uber drivers in the city, the vast majority of whom are nonwhite. Khan applauded the move in a Guardian op-ed piece.

The more London spends on bike paths, the more it exacerbates another kind of inequity: forcing motorists and public transit commuters to pay for cycling lanes they don't use. More than 80 percent of Londoners of all colors and creeds don't bike anywhere, and most of those who are identified as cyclists in surveys don't bike very much. Half of "regular cyclists" ride a bike no more than two days a week. Only 2 percent of Londoners bike five or more days a week.

Khan's plans nevertheless call for spending some 5.5 percent of Transport for London's budget on cycling. Expanding bike infrastructure often means converting all-vehicle lanes into bike-only lanes, meaning motorists and bus riders are being asked to pay for making their own commutes worse.

NEXT: Is Roseanne Barr's Firing a Sign of Persistent Racism or Racial Progress?

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  1. London can’t accept that these minorities are in the right. Cycling is super fucking lame.

    This reminds me of all the people I hear lately up in Seattle handwringing on how not enough minorities are going camping and hiking. And then when they do a survey of minorities as to why, it’s basically “That shit’s gay.”

    Stop worrying about people not liking what you like London, let it go.

    1. Black people and middle and lower class whites buy motorcycles. The lower the level of masculinity in a community, the more the men seem to be drawn to cycling.

      1. Cycling on roads, I think you might be onto something. Mountain biking is awesome and has the advantage of not fucking up traffic.

        1. I mean road cycling.

          1. I think you need to narrow it further to bicycle commuting, which seems to attract a disproportionate share of pompous, hectoring hippy types.

            I mountain bike, but have plenty of respect for roadies.

            http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/

            1. Dorks ride bikes to work.

              1. Rich dorks who don’t have to pay for things like fuel or doctors that specialize in diabetes.

    2. It’s especially absurd when the same people fretting about lack of minorities cycling are ardent supporters of multiculturalism. If you think it’s great to have these different cultures represented in your city, why the hell would you expect people from many diverse cultures to like cycling, camping or whatever at exactly the same rates?

      I’m sure there are plenty of leisure activities that various minorities participate in at much higher rates than whites too. It’s OK.

      1. Because years ago bicycles became an environmental goody and Europe latched onto it for them sweet votes. Now that most people don’t care as much about the environment the politicians have to promise even grander schemes to capture their attention.

        I’m sure that the fact that white older men are very politically active and appreciate policies that benefit them has nothing to do with it.

        1. Total coincidence

    3. “Things white people like”.

    4. And then when they do a survey of minorities as to why, it’s basically “That shit’s gay.”

      I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say gay, but just dumb. Why would I move to a city pay taxes on public transportation and road ways to sweat out long distances on a bicycle? I think part of the issue is that for some of these things people consider it to be a moral imperative that everyone participate. I don’t think the guys shooting pool in the back of your local bar are too worried that their niche form of entertainment doesn’t overlap with an arbitrary niche within the whole population.

      1. If you don’t have to stop for miles at a time, it’s a lot fun and good exercise. Also, when you’re pushing 45 mph on a downhill there’s quite a bit of adrenaline involved.

        1. If you don’t have to stop for miles at a time, it’s a lot fun and good exercise. Also, when you’re pushing 45 mph on a downhill there’s quite a bit of adrenaline involved.

          I didn’t mean to undermine biking (actually kinda the opposite) as much as point out that biking without stopping for long periods of time and getting up to 45 mph on a downhill isn’t conducive to city living and vice versa.

          Even for white people lots of rural clubs and activities don’t translate over to city life, wondering why they don’t translate over for a minority population that’s traditionally more urban is dumb.

    5. It’s hilarious how much these people, who claim to love diversity and multiculturalism, think every group must abide by the cultural and lifestyle preferences of upper-middle class urban white progressives.

      1. “every group must abide by the cultural and lifestyle preferences of upper-middle class urban white progressives.”

        It helps them to feel less guilty about some made up shit that they’ve been force fed for decades. Kind of like the whole “trans” fad.

    6. “Cycling is super fucking lame.”

      It’s not all that bad. Imagine if we all had to get around on Shetland ponies.

      1. Horses and ponies would suck. I agree.

        Thank God someone INVENTED THE CAR!!!

  2. How can you spend $1B on BICYCLE infrastructure?

    Paths just do not cost that much money.

    How much graft can there possibly be?

    There are times where it even blows my mind.

    1. “How can you spend $1B on BICYCLE infrastructure?”

      You probably can’t. They use pounds and guineas in London.

      1. Shillings and ha’ pennies.

    2. And just because it says bicycle doesn’t make it cheaper. It’s still moving around lanes and dividers and sidewalks. Not cheap (though that cost pretty mile is as bad as Yankee stadium).

    3. Maybe they’re bldg. overpasses & tunnels, to get them out of traffic. 2nd story entrances to hallways would be cool too.

  3. If white people enjoy am activity more than black people do, it’s clearly problematic.

    Also, cyclists are fucking obnoxious.

    1. Yes they are. They don’t make for a very sympathetic victim here.

    2. Amen. Very nearly as bad as vegans.

      1. Can you imagine a vegan cyclist? How awful would that be?

        1. Can you imagine a vegan cyclist?

          You clearly don’t live in DC

        2. Add in crossfit for an annoyance trifecta.

      2. “Amen. Very nearly as bad as vegans.

        “Artist Stephan Pastis goes after cyclists for smug attitude, pectoral muscles”
        http://flyingpigeon-la.com/2013/01/artist-
        stephan-pastis-goes-after-cyclists-for-
        smug-attitude-pectoral-muscles/

    3. Also, cyclists are fucking obnoxious.

      At opposite ends of several popular roads for cycling in my area signs are posted ‘cycling 3-abreast is illegal’ and ‘passing within 3 ft. of a cyclist is a fineable offense’. The latter going up about a month after the first. I expect to see ‘don’t swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid 3-abreast cyclists’ and, finally, ‘don’t hit cyclists’ signs in the coming months. Of course, these signs are posted on the back roads with 5-ft. wide bike lanes while the poor Mexican laborer who lost his license and has to bike to work at 4 a.m. does so on the shoulder of the state highway. Not to mention that, AFAICT, more people are killed by trains at the nearby train stations in the local villages in any given time period.

      1. Cyclists love to ride our back roads. They are so scenic. Unfortunately they are also typically only two-lanes, no shoulder and have a speed limit between 45 and 55.

        1. And they leave stains on the hood of your car.

    4. cyclists are fucking obnoxious.

      Gah! What’ll their offspring be like?

    5. In the US they would have probably tries this forcing the white culture bit at first, quickly got hit with some SJW bull and switched to making the whites bike less or by making them get a licence to do it while subsidizing those licences for non whites.

  4. London’s cycling commissioner

    Oi, where’s your coyclin loicense, eh?

  5. Ministry of Funny Shorts

  6. Fucking delusional.

  7. I don’t know how, but I’m sure this is Trump’s fault.

    1. It’s really the only solution. London will just have to select certain Families of Color to have the opportunity to participate in biking to work whether they feel like it or not.

      1. There is another way to close the gap, ban white people from biking. Since using the roads isn’t a right but a privilege, I for one will be holding my tongue on the issue of rights being infringed.

  8. So you’re saying blacks are lazy?

    Daaaaaaaamn

  9. Bicycle grooming gangs?

  10. God forbid different groups should like different things. Also, biking is absurd for most of the population. Let’s say I’ve got 2 young kids, a diaper bag, a purse, and am going shopping. How the hell can I bike? Or, I am going to the hardware store or grocery store. Bike? How can I carry my purchases (can’t even on the bus for that matter). Old people can’t bike.
    I visited Beijing at the height of bikes (21 yrs ago): mayhem. It only worked because there were almost no cars.

    1. So what you’re saying is that black people have too many kids? Racist!

    2. That’s because the cars got in the way of the T-72s.

  11. Norman floated the idea of diversity targets for London’s cycling population.

    “We’ll pay you twenty quid to ride a trike, thirty for one of those old-fashioned high-wheelers.”

  12. It turns out that cycling is an expensive hobby that requires free time and an employer that indulges in shower facilities.

    1. Bicycle commuting is basically a luxury good, swathed the enviro-hippy camouflage.

  13. The best thing that could ever happen to traffic everywhere is banning bicycles from the roads.

  14. The attempt to boost minority cycling rates is more about paternalistic nitpicking than social justice.

    1. Damnit, must have forgotten to close the blockquote tag….lets try this again.

      The attempt to boost minority cycling rates is more about paternalistic nitpicking than social justice.

      Social justice is more about paternalistic nitpicking than justice.

  15. more about paternalistic nitpicking than social justice.

    “more” about?

    Methinks Britches is being awfully charitable here.

  16. They could just push broom-sticks in the spokes of those white guys; that’ll thin the ranks.

  17. ” meaning motorists and bus riders are being asked to pay for making their own commutes worse.”

    Commuting is like so 20th century, man. Give it up already.

    1. I commute to work in a 1995 Jeep Cherokee with 270k miles on it I bought last year for $1,500. I have, in the last 10 years, when I was out of work, or temping, commuted by bike. My main ride since 2009 has been a 1990s 21-gear mt bike/road bike hybrid with a chromoly frame I bought for $40. I found it on Craigslist. It’s a Ben Lawee-designed Univega, miles better than a WalMart/Target Bike Shaped Object. I used to have a no-car, 30mi round trip commute. I’d usually bike to the nearest bus stop (6mi) and rack the bike until I got within a mile of work, and ride the rest of the way. If I missed the last bus home, it was a 15mi return trip, the last 6 of which had a 3mi hill with a 600′ change in elevation. When I was able to get behind the wheel again, I did. No DUI involved. I just didn’t have enough income to support a car. I’ve spent more money on a rack and pannier system (about $100) than I did on the bike, so I could use it as a “grocery getter.” I ride on the road, to the right, lighted and using signals, and a mirror, obeying traffic signals and STOP signs. Search for “vehicular cycling,” John Forester, and Sheldon Brown. Bike paths are for little kids and those who never learned the rules of riding in traffic. If we ever get real spring I’m planning on riding to work (18mi round trip) every once in a while just for the exercise and to thumb my nose at $3+ per gal gas. Free market environmentalism, based on self-interest.

      1. “Bike paths are for little kids and those who never learned the rules of riding in traffic.”

        The more little kids can avoid breathing in car exhaust while getting about in the city, the better.

      2. The local multi-use path that takes me 2mi north of my house to where the supermarkets are has an 8 mph speed limit. It’s a lovely riverside walk, and it’s great for the kids on their 20″ mock-BMX bikes while Dad and Mom push the stroller, but it isn’t for serious commuting. The US has few Dutch-style segregated facilities for mass bike commuting. In the hilly part of New England I live in, installing them would be madness. Keeping them free of snow and ice in the winter would be an exercise in futility. Any “critical mass”* of riders in spring and summer would collapse to a remnant once the leaves were off the trees. Wet leaves on the riding surface would discourage many. Fancy paying to keep those swept clear? – Kevin R

        * Not these assholes

        1. You should have seen Beijing or pretty well any other Chinese city some 2 decades ago. They managed to cope with winter, leaves, huge crowds and leisurely speeds.

          1. With 10 times the population density, and I suspect, make-work jobs sweeping the streets.

  18. “Only 2 percent of Londoners bike five or more days a week.”

    And 95% of those are lying through their teeth.

    1. “Only 2 percent of Londoners bike five or more days a week.”

      If you keep to the I don’t like to ride in the rain rule, you’d almost never ride, there.

      And 95% of those are lying through their teeth.

      If they’re British, do they have teeth to lie through?

      Kevin R

  19. KHAAAAAAAN!

  20. London’s cycling commissioner, Will Norman, is dismayed at the demographic makeup of the city’s bikers, finding them to be too white, too male, and too middle class.

    “I say, they all look too much like me, by jove!”

  21. Why isn’t this listed under Brickbat?

  22. The most suitable quote for this story, thanks to Marx [Groucho, not Karl]: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

  23. I’m gonna apply for an E.U. grant to invent a burka-proof sprocket. That is, if Muslim women are allowed to ride bicycles.

  24. Don’t London politicians have more *pressing* concerns than the diversity of London bikers? What possible difference could it make what the racial representation of bikers are? This must be more of that ‘virtue-signaling’ garbage.

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