I’ve come across this article a few times recently, most recently via a reader who sent me a link via electronic mail:
When it comes to exclusivity, one would be hard-pressed to beat San Francisco’s bike lanes, where most regular riders are male, affluent, white “bike bros,” with 1 in 4 making $250,000 or more a year, according to the most recent U.S. census data.
Alas, the rest of the article is behind a paywall, and my parent company (which is me) has recently cut this site’s budget, but thanks to a popular Internet search engine I was able to obtain additional material from the article without paying for it, thereby doing my part to undermine the digital media industry of which I, ironically, am a part:
Male bike commuters outnumber female bike commuters by at least a 2-to-1 ratio in all nine Bay Area counties, according to the 2014-2018 American Community Survey taken by the U.S. Census Bureau…And they tend to be white.
Across the Bay Area, white riders represented 61% of the bike commuters, followed by Hispanics at 17%, Asians at 15% and African Americans at 2.4%.In San Francisco, the white percentage was even higher — 65% of regular riders — followed by Asians and Hispanics at 14% each and African Americans at just over 1% of regular San Francisco bike commuters. How do those numbers compare to the city’s population as a whole? Whites: 40%; Asian: 34%; Hispanic: 15%; African American: 5%.
I don’t know who this writer is or whether or not he’s got an agenda as far as bicycles are concerned, but characterizing bike lanes and riding bicycles for transportation as the exclusive domain of the hated Rich White Bro is a well-established form of anti-bike rhetoric; here in New York City, dipshit columnist Steve Cuozzo has been flogging this notion for years. So while this may or may not be what the writer was going for, no doubt someone who has it out for bikes will at some point be inclined to cite the article as further evidence for why there shouldn’t be a bike lane in [insert neighborhood here].
Certainly issues such as the cycling gender gap and the relative paucity of safe bicycle infrastructure in poorer neighborhoods are troubling and warrant more coverage. At this same time, this is an article about the San Francisco Bay Area–America’s preeminent caricature of income inequality and ridiculous housing prices–so if you look at the people who can afford to live close enough to work that they can commute by bike then what the hell do you expect to find? Is it really surprising 1 in 4 bike commuters is making $250,000 or more a year given the median household income there?
Earning a six-figure income in San Francisco? A new study suggests that your household needs to bring in around $200,000 a year before you make it to upper class.
The study, by GOBankingRates, uses income data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and determines its middle class income range delineation using a simple equation. Specifically, a city’s middle class income range is calculated by multiplying the area’s median income by two-thirds its amount and by double its amount. In San Francisco, where the median household income is $96,265, the middle income range is $64,177 to an eye-popping $192,530.
Factor in the gender gap in Silicon Valley, and overall wage inequality, and you realize how misleading it can be to frame these sorts of income, gender, and racial statistics in the context of bicycles and bike lanes. Really, the bikes are incidental; 1 in 4 of those “bike bros” probably also takes a huge dump as soon as they get to the office, yet to my knowledge nobody’s gone so far as to say shitting at work is the near-exclusive domain of rich, white men.
Though whether it’s riding to work or moving your bowels, in either case people should have equal access to safe facilities that are free of obstructions.