Supplemental Infrastructure: How Community Networks and Immigrant Identity Influence Cycling


While factors such as urban form, infrastructure, and attitudes shape cycling behavior, the experience of cycling can vary drastically across socioeconomic and identity groups. For foreign-born residents of the United States, additional factors associated with income and cultural context may influence cycling. In this study, I ask how factors associated with being an immigrant, such as economic status, cultural habits, residential location, and social environments, motivate or deter cycling. Results are based on 23 in-depth interviews with low-income Latino immigrants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Interviews reveal that close-knit social networks buoyed by support from immigrant-serving organizations encourage cycling, providing social infrastructure where other types of infrastructure may be absent. However, neighborhood safety is a significant deterrent that men and women respond to in different ways. Other effects, such as gentrification, immigrant experiences, and cultural narratives, shape individuals’ perceptions of belonging as a cyclist in their neighborhood. Findings suggest that planners should collaborate with immigrant-serving community organizations and be more centrally involved in addressing neighborhood conditions and their effects on travel.

Jesus M. Barajas
Jesus M. Barajas
Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy