Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)

Department

City Planning and Real Estate Development

Committee Member

Dr. Luis Enrique Ramos-Santiago, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Barry Nocks

Committee Member

Dr. Timothy Green

Abstract

Lack of mobility in low-moderate income neighborhoods can lead to mobility-based social exclusion and can contribute to a path of generational poverty, diminished quality of life, among other health and socio-economic disadvantages for residents. Community bike shops provide opportunities for youth residents in low-moderate income neighborhoods to learn new mechanical and riding skills through earn-a-bike programs in addition to providing access to a bicycle and facilitate group riding experiences. These new experiences can improve student’s mobility and accessibility and thus help alleviate mobility-based exclusion. A mixed methods case study of two community bike shops, Village Wrench in Greenville, South Carolina and Trips for Kids in Charlotte, North Carolina, was conducted to determine how these earn-a-bike programs influence their participants and advance their mission and vision statements. The study also documented bicycle travel behavior outside of the programs’ scheduled activities. Youth participants were surveyed, and program directors and a selection of mentors were interviewed. This led to a qualitative and quantitative analysis that resulted in two main themes: freedom and empowerment. The freedom and improved accessibility the bicycle gave the youth, together with new skills learned in the programs empowered them and contributed to a feeling of accomplishment. These community-based programs succeed in facilitating youth in low-moderate income neighborhoods with transformative experiences that help their development as individuals and contribute to the betterment of their communities and society in general. Ways to support, replicate, and/or expand this type of grassroot youth-development initiative is warranted given the documented benefits in this study and their potential to contribute in other low-moderate income neighborhoods across the nation.

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