Understanding Barriers to Bicycling

In 2008 we asked ourselves whether we were having the impact we hoped to have in our community. We looked at our programs, our partnerships, and our people and we came to a conclusion: we could do better.

We could do better to understand the needs of our program participants, which are predominantly low-income and communities of color. We could do better to increase and improve programs serving a culturally diverse community.  We could do better at creating employment pathways into our organization.

So we developed the Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project, a community needs assessment, to better understand what were people interested in and concerned about as it related to bicycling. We learned that the barriers to bicycling are complex; simply giving people bicycles is not enough to support ongoing bicycle usage.

Since completing our Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Project, we have fundamentally changed the way we work. We are collaborating with our community partners in north and northeast Portland to develop projects and support community leaders to broaden access to bicycling and its benefits — and to ensure that those benefits are accessible to all.

Project Publications

Download the Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Final Report (July 2012)

Bikes for All event summary (August 2010)

Download the Understanding Barriers to Bicycling Interim Report (June 2010)

For background information about existing literature regarding communities of color and transportation, read the Transportation Literature Review. For background on lessons learned in the community health field read the Community Health Literature Review. (2009)

Download the outreach survey document used during our Understanding Barriers to Bicycling needs assessment (2009)

Reading and Media List

Local Spokes: A Vision for Bicycling on the Lower East Side and Chinatown: Local Spokes’ Neighborhood Action Plan identifies key barriers to bicycling in NYC’s Lower East Side and Chinatown.
Separate but Eco: Livable Communities for Whom? LA Streets Blog
Communities of Color in Multnomah County: an unsettling profile
: This report is a MUST READ.
Local Color: Local Color is the story of black Oregonians and their struggle for equality told by the people who lived the history.
State of Black Oregon: This report contains a stark inventory of statistics that show a persistent gap in living standards between black and white Oregonians, a gap that is growing wider as a result of the current economic downturn.
Making the Invisible Visible: A document reflecting on and celebrating Portland’s Native American Community.
Counter Culture: A series of what the author calls “immigrant stories,” set in Portland’s cafes and lunch counters.
Boise Stories: An oral history project based on interviews between youth and elders in Portland’s Boise-Eliot neighborhood.

Do you have other recommendations for our reading and media list? Please send them to Melinda.

Press Releases

August 1, 2012 (Final Report)

February 19, 2009

Understanding Barriers in the news

Community Cycling Center Addresses Barriers to Bicycling Alliance for Biking & Walking, August 17, 2012

Community Cycling Center, art students join to repair bikes at New Columbia Portland Tribune, August 2, 2012

Community Cycling Center set to build ‘Bike Repair Hub’ at New Columbia BikePortland, August 1, 2012

Community Cycling Center building North Portland repair hub Sustainable Business Oregon, August 1, 2012

“Who benefits from bicycling in your city?” American Bicyclist Magazine, May/June 2012

“Community Cycling Center helps fuel new advocacy in northeast Portland” BikePortland, March 20, 2012

Seeding the Grassroots: Portland’s newest bike advocacy group Taking the Lane, March 20, 2012

“Nonprofit Spins Wheels of Life” The Portland Observer. May 18, 2011

“Community Cycling Center Makes Effort to Break Down Minority Biking Barriers” The Skanner. May 3, 2010.

“Bicycle Race Nonprofit Investigates the Portland Bike Scene’s Racial Gap” The Portland Mercury. November 17, 2009.

“How a local non-profit is breaking down biking’s color barrier” BikePortland. April 19, 2010.

“Is our bike scene too white? Local non-profit tackles the issue” BikePortland. October 29, 2009.

Is this information helpful? Make a secure online donation and help us to continue this work


This project is possible because of the generous support of Metro. We also thank our project team, Kristin Lensen Consulting, and Lynn Weigand from the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation.