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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: Biking Preferences in Lower-income Neighborhoods May Vary by Race

Blacks and Hispanics living in Roxbury, MA, a low-income Boston neighborhood, prefer riding on safe-from-traffic bicycle routes such as cycle tracks—rather than biking with traffic in roadways—and they want more secure places to park their bicycles to prevent theft, according to a new Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study. However, like many such neighborhoods across the country, Roxbury does not have these amenities.

The final version of the study was published online May 25 in Preventive Medicine Reports.

Lead author Dr. Anne Lusk, research scientist in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard, and her colleagues conducted surveys in August 2014 of residents who live and bike near Malcolm X Boulevard in the city’s Roxbury neighborhood to learn about their biking preferences and biking habits.

Among the key findings:

Such bicycling preferences should be considered by urban planners to encourage physical activity and healthier lifestyles in low-income, predominantly minority communities, the authors wrote. A 2011-2012 study on the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. cited by the authors reported that nearly 78 percent of Hispanics and about 76 percent of blacks are considered obese compared with about 67 percent of whites. A previous study by Dr. Lusk and colleagues found bicycling to be an effective way to control weight.

“Lower income primarily-minority neighborhoods are less likely than other neighborhoods to get the safest bicycle facilities,” Dr. Lusk said. The safest bicycle systems, such as cycle tracks, are built because forceful advocates lobby transportation officials, but this takes volunteer time and knowledge about bicycle design options, she said. “This research was intended to give residents in Roxbury a voice.”

Listen to an interview with Dr. Lusk on This Week in Health: How can we make biking safer and easier?

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