Identify challenges to using SF's bikeshare program for low income residents and people of color

San Francisco State University & University of California, Berkeley & TransForm



Data Collection, Mobility, Resident Engagment, Digital Divide, Equity, COVID-19

Procurement Method:

University Partner:

San Francisco State University & University of California, Berkeley & TransForm

Partnership Description

SFMTA will be working with researchers from both San Francisco State University and the University of California, Berkeley, along with support from TransForm. From SFSU, Sungha Jang (Associate Professor of marketing) and Leyla Ozsen (Associate Professor of Decision Sciences) will lead a Master of Science in Business Analytics graduate student team. From UC Berkeley, Alexandra Pan (PhD Student) with the mentorship of Susan Shaheen (Professor-in-Residence) and in partnership with community partner TransForm, led by Clarrissa Cabansagan (Director of Programs), will build upon their experience working with researching mobility in Oakland to this project. The team will employ both quantitative and qualitative methods to develop a nuanced understanding about barriers to bike share usage and identify actions that SFMTA can take to improve their bike share service particularly for low-income communities and people of color.


The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is seeking a community defined solution to reduce barriers to the access and use of the bikeshare for our low income residents and people of color, communities that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.


Bicyclists in San Francisco tend to be predominantly male, white, young and of higher incomes. A survey conducted by the SFMTA in early 2019 found that most users of the JUMP e-bikeshare service similarly identified as male, white, and between the ages of 25-44 years. This survey also found that annual household income for the majority of the respondents was greater than $100,000 (69%) and over 90% reported English as the primary language spoken in their household. 

Bikeshare has the potential to increase transportation options, close first/last mile gaps, and provide an affordable way to get around. However, it has been observed that there is a lower proportion of use of bikeshare systems by people of color and lower incomes.  While they may be interested to try bikeshare, there are potential barriers including awareness, payment options and cost. 

Meanwhile, at a time when transportation options are most needed, due to budget impacts and physical distancing requirements, transit services across the country, including the SFMTA, have reduced transit capacity, leaving the people most reliant on transit to get around with fewer transportation options. At the same time, bikeshare use is low in many areas, and enrollment in, and utilization of, the Bay Wheels Bikeshare For All program, which provides deep discount memberships, has dropped month-over-month since the pandemic began.  In addition, use of the Bikeshare For All program in San Francisco's Communities of Concern appear to be significantly lower than other parts of the Bay Area.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequities in San Francisco. For example, as of August 12, 2020, the Bayview District is home to the census tract with the highest infection rates in the City at 555 cases per 10,000 residents and the heart of the Mission District is home to the census tract with the second highest infection rates in the city at 405 cases per 10,000 residents.

This proposal seeks to identify the barriers of bikeshare use by low income residents and people of color, which are also among those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Requirements & Outcomes

The SFMTA is seeking to collaborate closely with a research partner that will: 

  • Identify communities with which to engage. Primary factors to consider include COVID-19 impact and bikeshare utilization. Communities will include those with different levels of COVID-19 impacts and utilization rates as a basis for comparison.
  • Identify interest in and barriers to use of existing bikeshare service in communities with high COVID infection rates.
  • Barriers to consider include knowledge/awareness, cost, safety, convenience, social factors and perceptions.
  • The research must be community informed, and includes a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis.
  • Those engaging with the community must bring cultural and linguistic competence appropriate to the community engaging with.
  • Ability to conduct multilingual engagement, including Chinese (Cantonese), Spanish, Filipino and other languages appropriate to the communities with whom we are engaging.
  • Identify program modifications that could reduce barriers to use.
  • Identify most significant mobility needs among surveyed populations in target locations and opportunities to meet those needs through any available transportation mode.

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