Why Don’t More Blacks Use DC’s Bike Share?

Andrea Bernstein, Transportation Nation, January 13, 2012

Virginia Tech has just released a study of casual users of Washington, DC’s bike share system, and the numbers on African American usage are startlingly low.

The study, based on 400 surveys of those who buy either 24-hour or 5-day passes, shows that just 5 percent of such users are “black/African American.”

Caucasians represent 78 percent of casual users.

That contrasts starkly with the population of the District, which is 50 percent black, and 34 percent white.

(Hispanic use is also low, but the Hispanic population of DC is only 9 percent.)

Ralph Buehler, the VT Assistant Professor who oversaw the study, cautioned that their sample only looked at casual users. “Many of those users are tourists,” Buehler said. “It’s not surprising that would be more heavily white than the population of DC.”

But Capital Bikeshare’s own numbers for annual membership look even worse. According to CaBi data from 2010, cited in the report, just two percent of annual members are black.

Chris Holben, DC’s Bikesharing Project Manager, tells us more recent data shows an increase. African American participation doubled by the end of 2011—but it’s still only at four percent.


Holben says DDOT is working to address the problem. One barrier to entry, he says, is the need to have a credit card to join the system. DDOT is participating in a “Bank on DC” program to get bank cards to the “unbanked,” a population that typically tends to be more black than the general population. {snip}

Holben also suggests that geography may play a role. The heavily African American neighborhood of Anacostia is separated from the rest of DC by a long bridge, it’s more hilly than other parts of DC, and highways further serve to cut off bike access.



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  • To ‘share’ something, at some point you have to give it back.

  • Steven Bannister

    Never mind bike rentals – I rarely see blacks on bikes PERIOD. 

  • Anonymous

    Well you can either pay for an opportunity to exert yourself physically in a city of severe temperature extremes, or you can just get on the bus, flip the driver the bird when he asks for your fare, and ride all over town with a roof over your head and heater under your seat.  Remember, we’re talking about an overall bare-minimalist group of people here.  They’re not going to do more than they have to.  Hell I wouldn’t even do this.

    Here in Seattle they just recently repaved 51st Avenue which runs from Rainier Beach up the hill to Rainier View.  This is one of the only majority-black areas of the whole Pacific NW.  I was glad to see they did this because it’s been long overdue, but wouldn’t you know it the street now has bike lanes going in both directions.  When I saw this I nearly ran off the road laughing that they’d actually go through the trouble to put bike lanes in this neighborhood.  Never seen a Black that commutes on a bicycle and even the Seattle DWLs aren’t naive enough about diversity to ride their bikes through this neighborhood.

    The cycling craze is predominately a White liberal pet project anyway.  I’d be surprised if 5% of conservative Whites in a given city would use such a thing, let alone blacks.  Blacks could very easily smudge their shoes or get their fade all messed up on a bicycle, and you know they gots to be fly at all times.

  • Blacks aren’t biking enough?  Why are we so worried?  Do we really want to read more stories about bike-by shootings?

  • Its a good thing to start biking again more ppl of ALL races should do this happy MLK day everyone!

  • Anonymous

    Because Bike Share likely doesn’t have the little kids bikes that I see full grown black teens riding.

    Also, when you see a marathon, you’ll see an over representation of whites. Do white people believe they’re going to win the marathon and beat an Ethiopian? No. White people run marathons because they see the value in exercise. Do black do anything to improve the quality of their health? 

    • Anonymous

      Do black do anything to improve the quality of their health?

      That is the governments job! Vaccines, diet, gun control, that all falls to the government (or if they live outside of the West, foreign governments).

  • Ya know how hard it is to get on a bike when your pants are sagging below your butt cheeks? 

    • Reqteag

      Do you know how hard it is to ride a bike when you pants are sagging due to leg rotation (not mention if they are too low they can get caught in the gears and pedals)?

  • Anonymous

    Sharing? Of course! If it is someone else’s they demand sharing.

  • Anonymous

    Because bike sharing is “Stuff White People Like” http://i.usatoday.net/communitymanager/_photos/green-house/2010/06/11/denverchamberx-large.jpg

    • Anonymous

      blacks are mostly talented at lying in wait and hitting white bikers in the face with brass knuckles as they have recently been doing nationwide as the knockout game leading to some trails being closed. DIDNT HEAR THAT ONE YET? HMMMMM I WONDER WHY……..

  • Anonymous

    its could NOT care less

  • Anonymous

    Dead on. That’s a perfect encapsulation of the guily white liberal approach to the world. They could never look at that and think that someone wrote it in a saracastic, mocking way – it would just simply never occur to them.

  • Anonymous

    We were on Skyline Drive in VA this Summer and I saw Sasquatch for real, a black man decked out in biking gear on a decent road bike riding up a hill.  I checked my glasses to make sure there weren’t any smudges.  I know I am just some guy on the internet, but it’s really true.  Don’t know that I will ever see such a thing again. 

  • I don’t understand how they will pay the hourly fees.

    Or this:

    Use, then the Capital Bikeshare bicycle is deemed lost or stolen, Member’s credit card will be charged a fee of $1,000, and a police report may be filed with local authorities.

    And this I just don’t get:

    Holben also suggests that geography may play a role. The heavily African American neighborhood of Anacostia is separated from the rest of DC by a long bridge, it’s more hilly than other parts of DC, ….

    DC hilly?

  • Guest

    Where I live minorities make incessant use of the IDIOTIC, LIBERAL Rails to Trails facilities! These are very conveniently located, as these bike paths are ALWAYS adjacent to HORRIBLE neighborhoods.

    Why bother stalking the suburbs to find WHITES to rob, rape & kill?  Just hang out in the woods nearby and ambush your cycling victims!

  • Taurus689

    I disagree with the claim the Blacks don’t bicycle. I live on a small barrier island of White people  next to Atlantic City which is predominantly Black. During the summer especially I see them biking over the only bridge with say two bikes; each carrying two “youths”. I took some time to monitor the traffic in both directions  and it’s common to see the same group on the outgoing side of the bridge except that now each “youth” has a bike. I’ve seen them with wrenches adjusting the seat height and handle bars from the original owner’s settings to their own.
    So don’t tell ME that they don’t enjoy biking!!!!!

  • Lord Beermonster

    I’m sure some do use it, if not quite in the way it was intended to be used.

  • Lord Beermonster

    The sort of people who like to ostentatiously display their ‘bling’ aren’t very likely to be keen to be seen riding a rented bicycle.