On Friday I heard the sad news that Camden’s Bike Share (42% of Camden’s population lives below the poverty line, average income $26,000 a year, 50% Latinx and 40% Black) pilot was ending early, because Ofo the very wealthy corporation that they received their bicycles from decided to change focus. I was disappointed with the impression (albeit personal anecdotal) I received from the larger bike community that this was just how it goes, that this is an acceptable way to treat economically oppressed communities and it was not personal.
“Ofo is a corporation and they were having a crisis, so what are they supposed to do?!”
But what about the people who worked on this project, what about the economically oppressed people who thought they now had an option other than trains over two miles from their home and slow and over crowded buses.
It was personal. Ofo seemed to purposely go to economically oppressed, Black & Latinx communities do this US roll-out.
Some people say it was because they were generous. I do not take such an altruistic view.
Ofo understood that the easiest way to get into the US market is to go into Black and Latinx working class communities that had been ignored by other bike share companies and organization. They also understood if they failed, no one would be upset with them, as they were generous with providing the bikes for low or no cost to Black and Latinx communities. Ofo reasoning seemed to be that Black and Latinx communities are used to challenges. For Ofo they completely understood they could disrupt non-white people’s lives, get cookies and publicity for being the good guy, and if it failed they could simply walk away as they knew, owing to US racism that they would face no major backlash (at least in regards to walking away from those communities,) because they have almost 2 billion dollars for this project and 2 billion dollars can go a long way at keeping people talking about you too badly.
How people react to this will be for me symbolic in regards to does the larger active transportation community truly give a damn about social equity or do they just see Black and Latinx faces as a way to get funding and PR for their own personal projects.
I think about Citibike, a company that is supposed to be for the public good. Citibike is predominantly in white middle to upper middle class communities and even though they are a private company they get tax incentives owing to the fact that is supposed to be for the benefit of ALL, all is not synonymous with white. Citibike is currently on this campaign that in order to go into Black and Latinx communities they need subsidies from the NY. What a very clever way of placing the blame of their active inequity and racism on NY, but it isn’t JUST NYC why the Citibike is not everywhere.
It is also because Citibike feels as if they cannot make as much money in non-middle class and non-predominantly white areas, which is why in New Jersey they started Citibike in Jersey City and not Newark.
Citibike is supposed to be for the public good, so even if NO ONE uses it, the public product is supposed to be as accessible to everyone and if these companies and organizations can’t figure out how to do that, then what their tax incentives need to be stripped away.
We need to stop giving these corporations and organizations cookies for using Black and Latinx communities.
by Lark Lo