Posts by tom

Map of Oakland, displaying the large number of stops in West and East Oakland, and the generally large proportion of African-Americans stopped in all police beats

Biking while Black: Racial bias in Oakland policing

After his arrest, Najari asked me to help out with research and data analysis on racially-biased policing in Oakland. Since then I've also been providing information to the team working on Let's Bike Oakland, the bike plan update, and found that 68% of bike/ped stops in Oakland were of Blacks, who comprise 24% of the population. OPD argues that the bias is spatial rather than racial; they police more in Black neighborhoods because that's where the crime is. Does that claim hold up under scrutiny? It turns out the answer is no: Blacks are significantly more likely to be stopped no matter where they are in the city.

Exploring geographies

I love how cycling changes my experience of moving through the city; it's part of what's informed my Bike Lab work from the start. And I love sharing that experience with others, which is why I've been running urban geography rides for WOBO. The urban stories of investment and disinvestment, advantage and disadvantage come to light as you ride through neighborhoods at a human pace. This week, WOBO referred to me a wonderful opportunity to lead a group of officials and planners from Portland who were in town to meet with local groups and learn about our planning issues. I took them off into West Oakland.

More on a bad idea

My post on Vision Zero's threat amplification communications strategy got some interesting responses. One class of response as a sigh of relief, from advocates and city officials who don't want to adopt such a confrontational style. Another was an interest in comparison data; what happened in non-Vision Zero cities over the same time frames? An entirely reasonable question, and easy for me to research.

Changing the conversation: A bad idea?

In streets advocacy, I think we have two core goals: Reducing auto trips, and increasing safety. When we consider our tactics, we should consider how they will advance that strategy. The advocacy response to the recent death of Tess Rothstein in San Francisco raised a concern that's been troubling me for some time; our rhetoric around street safety has become increasingly hyperbolic and strident. What if "Interested but Concerned" cyclists might be scared away by repeated messages about life safety risks? What if changing the conversation is a bad idea?

Bike women

For a Twitter thread on International Women's Day, I was reflecting on how many of the people who've inspired my work are women. I thought they deserved a more substantial post here, so, here are some shout outs.

BlackSpace Manifesto

Deep listening

Two somewhat related items came across my feed recently which got me thinking about our responsibilities as planners in listening to disadvantaged communities. One is a study about how urban cycling investments "focus on the needs of wealthy riders and neglect lower-income residents and people of color." The other is the BlackSpace Manifesto, a statement of principles by a group of Black planners and activists.

Three maps, showing non-white population in Oakland along International, MacArthur, and Skyline Boulevards.

MLK Way: Conclusion

The biggest lesson I take from this project is that urban Black communities (and disadvantaged communities in general) have complex challenges, and those of us who care about equity and social justice need to grapple with that complexity. "Gentrification" is a reductive term which avoids meaningful engagement. While all of this is definitely Black History, it's also White history. Those of us who believe in social justice as a concept, and who have benefitted from racist policies advantaging us and our families, need to learn to participate in social justice as a practice.

Scatter plot, displaying a correlation between increase in White population and increase in income

MLK Way part 9: Summary data

If you prefer charts to maps, here's the post you've been waiting for; aggregate data for all 58 study cities, with bar charts, scatter plots, sums, medians and correlations. Woot! Interestingly, a number of my field work cities show up prominently in the data.

MLK Way part 8: Obligatory bike content

The Bike Lab began as an attempt to investigate the chicken-and-egg question of whether bike lanes led to gentrification, or gentrification led to bike lanes. In the end I found that the more interesting question was why we came to associate bike lanes with gentrification, given that the strongest predictor of urban cycling in the U.S. is being a low-income ethnic minority. But I can't do a series on neighborhood change without talking about its relationship to cycling rates.

Map showing increase in Hispanic population in San Antonio, by census tract, with northeastern tracts much greater than western tracts

MLK Way part 7: Shifting poverty

To this point I've been mentioning only White and Black populations, but the most substantial demographic shifts nationally are among Hispanic populations. There has been a net influx of international Hispanics, and the natural population growth rate is also higher than Whites and Blacks. As a population, Hispanics are wealthier than Blacks but still far less wealthy than Whites. In many cities, Blacks and Hispanics are now competing for whatever inexpensive housing exists. In these seven study cities, this manifests as an increase in total population, combined with a drop in Black population, a rise in HIspanic population, and a drop in real income.

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