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A Failure of Equity - Racist and Ableist Bike Share Returns to Davis

E6a0ce4fef1b41a4a3839f8c0e6cd132At the city council meeting tonight a pilot for e-bike and e-scooter share will likely be approved - and will start by September. 

Bike share and scooter share are great things, despite all sorts of issues. Electric assist makes these "micromobility" devices even more of a joy. More and more bike share systems offer e-bikes, sometimes exclusively. Scooter share was always electric.

But as with Jump bike share - which ended in Davis a little over two years ago - the minimum age limit for use for bikes will be 18. Once again this age limit makes it racist.
Why is it racist?
It's simple: Youth have fewer mobility choices, even more so if they're members of economically-vulnerable households. Brown and Black people are over-represented in these households. There's no minimum age for using the type of bikes supplied by Lime. There's no formal impossibility for parents and guardians to take legal responsibility for necessary contracts. Therefore... it's arbitrary... and this means it's racist. It's doesn't mean that the City Council is racist. It means that unless we change their minds they are making a racist decision tonight.
Once again the speed is limited to 15 mph assistance without any evidence that this has any benefits for safety. Nor only does this make the bikes less competitive with automobiles, the speed assistance limit below what state law allows is biased against less strong people who might find it harder to get their bikes over 15 mph. This is probably ableism, yes?, or something else which City documents and various statements of the current City Council would naturally disavow.
Many other cities have much less racist and ableist systems
There's no minimum age for the use of type 1 e-bikes, which will be the type supplied by Lime. The minimum required for use of an e-scooter in California is possession of a learner's permit, and being 16. However the Lime-supplied pilot requires a minimum age 18 for that as well. That's two years when kids can drive a car most of that by themselves before they can use bike share or scooter share in Davis. Bike share systems all over California and the USA allow users under age 18 (For example the system in Philadelphia allows 16 year-olds to use their e-bikes and 14 year-olds their "acoustic" bikes.) But we're the USA cycling capital! (Perhaps it's time to change our official City logo - to purge this anachronistic and anti-egalitarian high-wheeler bicycle from our community imagery?).
A major innovation that Davis can make here is by replacing the age cut-off with one based on peers. This is because the majority of youth have friends that are in the same grade. Not everyone in the same grade is the same age: We see this manifested when some high school students can get licensed before their friends. 14 would work - nearly everyone that age is tall enough to ride the Lime bikes - but connecting it with entrance to high school would still be much better than the current situation. See details below - this will get many on bikes at age 15.  And then on e-scooters at age 16! Voila! Bikequity!! Fairscooterism!
Another good - and perhaps still innovative - new feature is that the park in the street like a motorcycle thing is a clear part of the rules. (This was done spontaneously by many Jump users and almost went forward officially before the bike share system was removed from Davis and UC Davis due to COVID.) However there's still a huge amount of the contract and rules based on the idea that the bikes will need to be moved within 90 minutes if there are badly parked. (In the pilot it's allowed to park like this in Downtown, but it's not even clear that there will be a sticker on the bikes to advise people of this. It's not really intuitive.)
The City Council has known about this issue for years
In March 2019 - when I was a member of the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety (BTSSC) -  I created a lengthy report on the one year anniversary of bike share in Davis and UC Davis. I was able to initiate what became a unanimous vote to ask the City Council to ask its partners at SACOG - and the previous operator Uber/Jump - to consider lowering the age (and raising the weight limit). This sat on the long-range calendar until shortly after Uber removed the bike share system from Davis and UC Davis.
The other day I confirmed with Lime and that neither the e-bikes nor the e-scooters will have a maximum weight limit. That's good - the newer e-scooters are generally considered to be more robust than those available just a couple of years ago.
Oh, last time the DJUSD Board of Education was asked to support an under-18 age limit.. they were not interested. This may have been in 2019 - a partly-different board.
What to do?
Thank the City of Davis City Council for bringing back bike share and introducing scooter share, BUT:
* Demand that they allow the use of Lime e-bikes from the first day of 10th grade, or even better the first day of summer before 10th grade.
* Demand that - per state law - everyone 16 years old with a learner's permit be allowed to use Lime e-scooters.



Everything is racist these days...

Todd Edelman

No, Keith... there are lots of things which are not. And I don't mean snowshoes or sunsets or rabbits or creaky wooden doors or even with various qualities of humans or their relationships with one another -- a lens with racism-analyzing properties is not always the most appropriate tool.

I encourage you to contribute a constructive thought - perhaps put it in the context of "fairness".

Ron O

I'm not buying any of this.

First, I haven't seen evidence that there's a higher number of "brown and black" households with people younger than 18 in Davis, compared to other groups. And even if there is, so what?

The same type of argument can be made regarding all "minimum age" laws.

Truth be told, that type of argument can probably be made regarding every single law on the books. I suspect that there are no laws which have an exactly-proportionate impact on all groups (e.g., via skin color, age, sex, disability, etc.).

Second, you can get a regular, used bicycle for free (or almost free). And given that we're referring to young people, they're generally able to use pedals to move themselves forward. Especially in a place like Davis.

I'd suggest researching the reason that there's a minimum age requirement, rather than jumping right to "racist". I don't think this argument is going to fly, even in Davis.

Sharla Cheney

Unless Lime also provides helmets, the bikes should not be rented to people under 18 years old.


Todd, why didn't you just lay out your reasons for wanting bike share and electric scooters for downtown Davis without going down the racist rabbit hole (speaking of rabbits) where many conversations end up these days? I think these things often go there to put pressure on the decision makers because no one wants to be called a racist. I feel more people might've been onboard if you had just stuck to wanting 16 year olds and older eligible for the program. IMO once racism is introduced it becomes a quagmire. It gets to be so tiring and boring...

Todd Edelman

Ron O:
*What I said was that brown and black people are over-represented in households with economic insecurity.
*That other things happening in society are also unduly affected by racism shouldn't be reason to not make a difference when possible. Also your "so what" makes me question your level of empathy regarding this issue.
* Bike share is not a replacement for an owned bike; it's a complement to it. But also bike share bikes are equipped with all sorts of features not present on most sold-in-USA bikes, such as lights (and better brakes), except for the owned bike versions of e-bikes.
* The main reason they have an 18 age limit is because from the perspective of the private company supplying the bikes it's easier... based on a legal and narrow definition of liability. The problem is when that becomes more important than anything else to the point where it completely stops an activity, and perhaps more so in Davis because of both traditional and formal commitments to sustainable transportation. Yet one can ride Unitrans and Yolobus by themselves at any age (they don't specifically disallow it, but sure most six year-olds don't do it on their own; still my friend's son in Prague rode the metro when he was under 10 years old, by himself...) Lots of kids younger than 16 ride Caltrain without adult supervision, etc. So yes the obvious difference here is that the supplier is private, rather than public, and they get too much power in this relationship, and even more so as they have a monopoly -- at least for the duration of the pilot. So if another operator wanted to come in and do what I suggested they could not. What else is this besides a raised middle finger to Equity?

Sharla: All or least most micromobiility supplies provide cheap or free helmets to users. But helmet compulsion is a big problem that's counterproductive to growth of cycling - you can look up examples from Australia if you want - and it's certainly easier to have under-18's use bike share where helmets are not required, for example in New York State they are required only for under-16's or 15's.

Keith: There's a hole, but I didn't dig the hole, and in fact I am trying to get us out of the hole. There's no reason to dance around the fact that the rules in the pilot have a racist affect. I specifically said that the Council was not racist, only that their decision would be if they approve this pilot without changes

I thank all of your for encouraging me to explain my points and flesh out some details, though I believe some of this is explained in my linked report and minutes from the BTSSC meeting in March 2019.

Ron O

I'm sticking with "so what". Ride a regular bike - it's not that hard in Davis (especially for young people, in general).

As far as the 18 year-old age limit, sounds like there's reasons for it (whether it's "ideal", or not).


"No empathy" (my pronoun, from this point forward. Or at least, how some seem to view me. :-)

I do, however, want to see that (guy?) ride that "flaming bike". (No double-entendre intended.)

Did the battery on that electric bike catch fire?

Todd Edelman

Ron O, I made the point about "empathy" because you said "so what".

Nearly all of the fires connected with "electric bikes" are a result of crappy manufacturing and stupid charging practices of electric-powered mopeds, NOT bicycles.

George Galamba

1. California law requires people under 18 to wear helmets. It is not practical to provide a helmet with each bike for multiple reasons including theft, size, sanitation (think lice), etc.
2. Contracts can't be enforced with minors. If the bicycle is stolen, damaged, causes damage, etc. there is no recourse for the vendor. This may be mitigated by parents accepting responsibility in advance, but...
3. We've been here, done that. Do we really want to go down this path again? Better we should invest in improving the bus service.

Alan Miller

Todd, you need to cut back on the hyperbole, such as the use of the term "racist" in this context. Of course, so does the entirety of the progressive left, who have, for themselves, essentially redefined the term. I have not redefined the term. "Racism" is a vile thing that does NOT mean disproportionate outcomes by racial groups. And for me it NEVER will. But more to the point, you also used the term "murderous" recently to describe something -- also totally out of bounds. These hyperbole do nothing for your point, and only serve to discredit the valid arguments you are making. Also, most people don't know when you are joking around. Myself included.

Having said all that, i agree with your main point. The age limit needs to be lowered. I base this on being convinced by your valid arguments in previous articles on the subject over the years. I also agree that helmet laws only serve to lower the percentage of bicycle usage. It would actually be safer if kids wore helmets when they ride in cars. Funny no one ever suggests that safety tip as a mandatory.

Todd Edelman

George: Thanks. 1) The helmets I mentioned are given out to members for them to own. They are not dispensed with the helmets and returned to get sanitized etc. -- this was tried years ago. Helmetism is a failed strategy. The safest place to cycle has the lowest amount of helmet wearing: The Netherlands. 2) 16 year-olds can use the bike share system in Santa Monica (an example regarding California law) and a lot of other places... and some even younger. The issue you describe is fiction. 3) Better bus service would be great, but it's a complement to owned bike use, bike share, scooter share regional trains, private cars, walking....

Alan: I don't use the term "racism" willy-nilly. Please describe why it's not racism, and what it is. Everything else you say seems to support this analysis. Anything else I can think of writing just repeats what I've already written both in my post and responses. Finally, if people don't use someone's perceived hyberbole as an excuse not to do something, they will just do something else. Apparently Lucas Frerichs was one of the main actors who negotiated this at the SACOG level. He's been aware of my position for years. He's a member of the Council that declined to address what the BTSSC supported unanimously, which was having him (wearing his Council hat) and the others asking him (wearing his SACOG hat) and his colleagues to at least look into changing the situation. Zip, nada, nothing.

Back in 2019 - you can see some of this in the BTSSC minutes from March of that year - I suggested that SACOG and its partners were violating Federal law as they were receiving Federal money for bike racks needed to facilitate the bike share system: The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits this. They denied it was an issue as the funding was not going directly to the system, only to equipment that made that system work better! SACOG senior people would never address me directly -- they had the TDM manager articulate this position. Around the same the now ex-senior transportation planner for the City of Davis wrote me as a Commissioner to tell me not make allegations that the City of Davis or its partners were violating Federal Law. He copied it to the then head of Jump.

I don't think a bit of hyperbole - and I don't think it is hyperbole - is the problem here.

Alan Miller

Todd, my point is in the comments. Many focused on your claim of "racism". In my book, racism is the inherent hatred of another race. That is very different than income inequality or disproportionate result by race. All of that is real, but since it it so ingrained, by the neo-progressive definition of 'racism', everything is racism, because average disproportional wealth by race is a fact. You can use this new definition, but many do not accept it or, if not 'woke' or 'woke-aware', won't even know what you are talking about.

Again, I support your efforts to lower the scooting age.

Ron O

So, unless one condemns systems which have a disparate outcome, then they're supportive (or at least indifferent) toward racist systems.

And if they're actually supportive of them, then (by extension) they're racist, themselves.

And if they're simply indifferent, then they're indifferent toward racism. (Again, falling into the racist category, themselves.)

Sort of like the "anti-racism" requirement inflicted upon "white" people, these days. (Or at least, attempted for awhile.) To which I might hold up my thumb to my nose, and give it a giant raspberry - possibly exposing myself to whatever "punishment" the woke crowd sees fit. (With the latter group primarily consisting of other "white" people.)

Or to paraphrase George W., "you're either with us, or againt us."

(Purposefully misspelled, to reflect the applicable "old West" type of mentality.)

Got it.

Though it might be noted that in this case, no evidence has actually been presented that there's disparate outcomes in the first place.

Ron O

So, here's a somewhat-related story that I had been following regarding systemic racism.

My question is, shouldn't these "repatriated" owners then return the land to the Native Americans, given the arguments put forth?

Did these owners benefit from "systemic racism", despite their skin color?


Todd Edelman

Alan and Ron: Three years ago I identified the structural racism enabled by the age limit. The City Council and SACOG - though whatever the relevant bodies in bike share partners Sac and West Sac as well know about I am not sure - and this post in Davisite is more or less a repeat of that... and they've not changed a thing... but while I haven't yet reviewed the City Council meeting - I was not able to attend - it seems that only the public comments may have broached this or similar issues.

Please check this space tomorrow, where I will respond here in Comments or with a new entry in the blog.

Todd Edelman

Ron: Ownership of land is good and weird and worse. "Racism knows no color" as my Lebanese Christian friend would say. Obviously everyone is beneficiaries and victims of structural racism in often widely varying degrees. That does not invalidate any claim such as the one you provide as an example.

Todd Edelman

Hi, okay as people may know the meeting on Tuesday didn't actually deal with a potential vendor and their rules, though some comments were made about the age limit and other equity issues.... watch this space....

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