Supplemental infrastructure: how community networks and immigrant identity influence cycling

  • Jesus M. Barajas


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.


Bicycling Immigrants Qualitative research Social justice Social environments 



This work was funded in part by the Mineta Transportation Institute (Grant No. 1202) and the University of California Center on Economic Competitiveness in Transportation. Dan Chatman and Asha Weinstein Agrawal provided guidance on development of the interview topic guide. Thanks to Darlene da Silva, Cecilia Chavez, Mar Velez, and Nestor Castillo for their research assistance, to Oscar Grande for his assistance coordinating interviews, and to all the interviewees for their valuable insights. This article is a significantly revised version of a paper presented at the 96th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board. I appreciate the comments from participants and reviewers of that paper. I also thank Ariel Bierbaum and the four anonymous reviewers of this paper for their invaluable feedback.

Author contributions

JM Barajas: conceived, researched, wrote, and edited the entire article.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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