How can we build better systems?

Like many of you, I’m thinking a lot about what these protests and police violence and systematic destruction of bike lives and pervasive racism in America means to us in terms of our little corner of the world.

I’d love to hear what you think about this…

What can we do as cycling advocates to change the systems we interact with to make them work better for black and brown people who are so often left out?

How can we make our little corner of the world better and aid in the broader healing necessary to progress as a nation?

My list so far includes:

  • Bike counts: Who is doing the counting and where are they doing them? Are some riders being left out?
  • Walking/riding while black: What are their first-person stories? Let’s tell them more often.
  • Representation matters: Who is on staff at PBOT/ODOT/County and why does it matter?
  • The problem with complaint-driven systems and other inequitable ways we inform decision-making.
  • Know your history: Do you know about the racial history (good and bad!) of the places you ride?
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More than anything else, we need to hold leadership and those accountable for identifying and correcting problems. This means voting them out when they don’t, even if they otherwise seem OK.

There are things we can do on an individual basis that have more direct impact. Specifically don’t use positions of privilege to perpetrate inequality – even when that is not the intent. Rather, support strategic identification and resolution of issues. Complaint based systems reward those who the system listens to. Inequity is magnified when people ignored by the system no longer feel it’s worth their time even to complain. When those of us in positions of privilege use our voices to disproportionately address things that affect us personally, it comes from someone else.

I’m not much of a believer in bike counts. Bikes should be all over, and the very nature of counting is that the focus gets directed to a few choice areas. This sets up a self perpetuating cycle where areas where areas that are already good get more resources because there are bikes while those that need resources don’t get them because there aren’t enough bikes.

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