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Collaborative Advocacy in Action in Portland

Hacienda Bike Educator TrainingWho benefits from bicycling in your community? Alison Graves, executive director of the Community Cycling Center (CCC), posed that important question in the May-June issue of the League of American Bicyclist’s magazine. 

In the story, Graves outlined the efforts of the Portland nonprofit to identify and effectively respond to cycling disparities in the nation’s most bike-friendly city. With its Understanding the Barriers to Bicycling initiative, the organization cultivated relationships with new partners and developed new programs with the insight and leadership of low-income, largely immigrant communities in North Portland.

Now the CCC has released a full report that delves into the process and lessons learned from the multi-year project. Perhaps the biggest take-away: True collaborative advocacy is “a big shift” from the status quo of many bike organizations. From the report:

One of the first steps to understanding the concerns of traditionally excluded groups was building genuine partnerships with other community organizations. After 70 meetings, the CCC found dedicated partners in New Columbia and Hacienda, two housing developments predominantly populated by Latino, African and African-American residents. In 2009, the CCC worked with the partners to gather data through surveys and focus groups to assess the perceptions and barriers to bicycling for members of the New Columbia and Hacienda communities. Among their findings:

  • The most commonly noted barrier was costs associated with bicycle ownership. 60% of participants shared that the cost of purchasing a bicycle was a major obstacle, and 25% expressed concerns with the cost of bicycle maintenance.
  • 100% of the African-American participants were concerned that drivers would be hostile to them while riding a bicycle.
  • 43% of the Latino/Hispanic respondents were concerned about being pulled over by the police.
  • 33% of the Latina and Somali women participants expressed interest in learning how to ride a bicycle so that they could bike with their children.

The findings — and the relationships built in the process of discovery — led to an evolution in the CCC’s approach to programming. For instance, instead of simply providing free bicycles, the CCC began “clustering” programs and resources to create a sustainable community of riders at both locations.

They also realized a more permanent solution started in-house. As well as external outreach, the organization looking internally.

The project had a significant impact on the development of the organization’s new strategic plan, informing a new direction and focus for the CCC. “The plan will demonstrate how, in the coming years, we will transform the Community Cycling Center to fully move beyond direct service and become a catalyst for community change.”