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Ford GoBike Is a Model for Equitable Bike Share Access in the US, Thanks to Community Engagement

New data shows 20 percent of Ford GoBike memberships are discounted “Bike Share for All” memberships for low-income riders, among the largest share of any bike share system in the country. By comparison, discounted memberships make up only 9 percent of bike share memberships on Indego in Philadelphia and just 3 percent for Bluebikes Boston — systems often lifted up as bike share pioneers based on their low-income programs.

The information was made available by TransForm, the nonprofit organization that coordinated community outreach about the discounted bike share memberships and other biking resources in low-income neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area. This equity outreach was funded by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Motivate, the operator of Ford GoBike, and took place between September 2017 and March 2018. Ford GoBike launched in Summer 2017 in San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville.

Of the 16,000 Ford GoBike members, 3,300 thousand — or 20 percent — are part of the discounted Bike Share for All program. This percentage gets close to the 25 percent of Bay Area residents who earned less than twice the Federal Poverty Level in 2014, and matches the 19.66 percent of low-income residents in the three counties where Ford GoBike operates.

“These numbers prove that targeted, multi-lingual outreach by local residents and organizations to their neighbors can help make bike share a tool for transportation equity and opportunity,” said Clarrissa Cabansagan, New Mobility Policy Director at TransForm. “Just creating a discounted membership option is no guarantee for uptake — authentic, culturally relevant outreach from trusted messengers makes all the difference.”

MTC supported Transform and its community partners for the first year of outreach to low-income communities. “The outcomes of this work highlight the value of regional coordination for bike sharing and the value of a private mobility partner who is working with the community to make their bike share system more inclusive,” said MTC Chair Jake Mackenzie, adding that MTC remains committed to working with the community to make the system equitable for all.

Whereas research has shown that bike share members skew more white, wealthy, and male than the general population, the discounted members resulting from this equity outreach defy those trends. Of residents who joined the discounted Ford GoBike membership program through this outreach, 86 percent had an annual income of $25,000 or less, and 97 percent were people of color. While 34 percent of bike share members in the U.S. are female, 47 percent of those reached through this outreach identified as female or “other.”

“Bike Share for All memberships can help vulnerable Bay Area residents reduce their transportation costs and save time on short trips, and we look forward to continuing to grow this program,” said Emily Stapleton, the general manager of the Ford GoBike system.

Bike Share for All memberships are $5 for the first year, then $5/month in subsequent years. Anyone with CalFresh, PG&E Care, or an SFMTA Lifeline pass is automatically eligible for the program. There are options to pay with cash and to use Clipper as a membership identifier.

This equity outreach was coordinated by TransForm and performed with a team of bike advocates from across the Bay Area, including the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Bike East Bay, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, Cycles of Change, Scraper Bike Team, Chinese Newcomers Service Center, and SF Yellow Bike Project.

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