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Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

Cultural Humility and Social Justice

Framework and Goals

Since the Fall of 2017, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition has been working to make our commitment to equity and social justice central to our organization and our work. We are taking on a big challenge – overcoming a long legacy of inequities in the bike movement, and in biking. We need this work to be true to our mission – to create a healthy community, environment, and economy through bicycling for people who live, work, or play in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties and to realize our vision – a community that values, includes, and encourages bicycling for all purposes for all people.

Our Road So Far:

We spent a year learning together, building a common language, surfacing our shared values, and mapping out a plan. This process involved many sessions with SVBC staff, and consultation with an external group of stakeholders we named the external Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee as well as SVBC’s Board of Directors. We chose the terms Cultural Humility and Social Justice to describe this work, because they best convey our commitments. Cultural humility focuses on self-awareness, lifelong learning, and building relationships from a place of humility that honors community expertise and develops “mutually beneficial, non-paternalistic partnerships with communities”.[1] A social justice perspective seeks solutions that address those root causes, at all levels of society, and result in more equitable access to power, privileges, opportunities, and resources.

This framework and plan are designed to address a gap between our mission and the reality of our work. That reality is that we are not reaching a broad cross-section of people who live, work, or play in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. We envision a community where everyone has the opportunity to bike safely, yet the reality is that inequities, both within our society and in the bike movement, impede our ability to realize this aim. People with the least voice in the bike movement also have the least access to resources and less opportunity to bike safely. Low income communities and communities of color are also more at risk for being injured while biking because of the lack of safe infrastructure in their neighborhoods. The inequities experienced by communities are the result of unjust transportation and land use policies that favor people who drive over those who bike, walk, and use public transportation; historic and persistent discrimination resulting in segregation; and inequities in jobs and education. Biking infrastructure and policies have largely responded to the needs of an elite few who have advocated on behalf of the bike movement. These injustices will continue as long as the voices of under-resourced people are left out of policy decisions.

The gap between our mission and who we serve reflects a dynamic that has existed within the bike movement since its inception, within many nonprofits, and within advocacy and politics in general. We appreciate the good work of those who founded the bike advocacy movement, yet we acknowledge that the primary constituency and leadership of bike advocacy has not consisted of the voices of people from systemically excluded communities. Without a broader cross section of voices, our ability to make changes that benefit everyone is severely compromised. 

We are seizing the opportunity to be part of a broader effort to transform a movement that was started by and for white men into a movement that reflects the voices, needs and wants of people of color and others who have been systemically excluded. To do this, we need a movement representing multiple voices and communities, and collaboration with other sectors with shared interests, such as people who walk and take transit, housing advocates, parents and students, and other social justice advocates. Such a movement can build the necessary power to right the wrongs of transportation and land use planning, and build a culture that values bicycling as a mode of transportation that is accessible to all. This work is of paramount importance now, given the escalating attacks against many communities, as well as growing momentum of movements and voices for social justice.


Our values are important because they are a statement of what we care deeply about. We are committed to embodying the following values and having them live throughout all areas of our work.

Equity – We recognize that present and historical injustices stemming from systemic oppression have led to inequities in society and in biking. We see transportation advocacy as social justice work, and focus on removing social, economic and physical barriers that have excluded many people from biking.

Access – We are committed to access for all people to safe bicycling and an inclusive bike movement. We work to develop open and welcoming infrastructure and are proactive about cultural, linguistic, physical, and economic access in all areas of our work.

Community Power – We believe that fundamental change can only happen through recognizing the power of communities and working in solidarity to strengthen our shared power and interdependence. This involves working in solidarity with communities, not for them, as well as building relationships based on shared vision and values, reconciliation, and trust.

Sustainability – We are committed to leaving the world a healthier place. Our actions and decisions are made with the intention of sustainability for the next seven generations and beyond.

Empathy – Our ability to build sustainable connections within our movement requires empathy. We listen deeply to each other and our communities, seeking to understand, appreciate, and value different experiences, perspectives, and contributions.

Plan Overview

We believe that an ongoing process of change is required at all levels in order to create meaningful and sustainable change, as detailed below. Specifically, we believe our work exists at three levels, which is both interconnected and multi-directional. 

  • We will create an inclusive and equitable organization, which will strengthen our work in solidarity with community. As we deepen our community work and relationships, our organization will grow stronger.
  • Our work in solidarity with community will make it possible for us to make transportation and land use systems more equitable. As these systems become more equitable, our communities and movements will become stronger.

A more inclusive and equitable organization will also strengthen the impact of our advocacy on systems, which will in turn strengthen our organization.

Our goals are shown in the first table below. To see the 3-year outcomes for 2018-2021, check out the second table below.

  • Goal 1: Develop and institutionalize systems to sustain the organization’s work around cultural humility and social justice on an ongoing basis.
  • Goal 2: Create an inclusive and equitable staff culture.
  • Goal 3: Build a culturally humble community of members and volunteers who reflect diverse communities and strengthen our community accountability.
  • Goal 4: Integrate cultural humility and social justice values and an inclusive definition of bicycling into our work.
  • Goal 5: Work in solidarity with systemically excluded communities (SECs) and social justice organizations[2] to build community power around bike advocacy and other shared interests.
  • Goal 6: Improve transportation and land use planning, including bicycle infrastructure, to create just and equitable access to safe riding in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
  • Goal 1:

    1.1   Board and staff (including part-time staff) recruitment, retention, and development policies and practices that support cultural humility and social justice values

    1.2   An integrated system for ongoing staff development around cultural humility and social justice

    1.3   Effective systems to address internal conflicts or microagressions

  • Goal 2:

    2.1   Full understanding of our values and how to apply them in our work among staff

    2.2   Continuing development, awareness and understanding of different cultures in Silicon Valley among staff

    2.3   A culture of hearing all voices and open dialogue around culture and difference

  • Goal 3:

    3.1    An inclusive membership model that is accessible to people outside of our current membership base

    3.2.   Ongoing learning about cultural humility and social justice in the bike movement among our members

    3.3.  Membership that reflects broader representation of diverse areas within our two counties

  • Goal 4:

    4.1. An inclusive narrative about biking that is shared among staff, board, and members to guides our communications, advocacy and programming

    4.2. Print/social media resources and messaging that reflect and speak to the diversity of the broader bicycling community

    4.3 Bike-as-Transportation workshop content that is relevant and responsive to systemically excluded communities

    4.4 Use of consistent criteria for initiating programs and pursuing funding opportunities that align with cultural humility and social justice values

    4.5 Ongoing systems to identify and respond to needs and wants of diverse communities and measure our impact

  • Goal 5:

    5.1.  SECs, key issues, leaders, existing relationships, and gaps in our work identified and mapped

    5.2   1-2 additional local teams in and/or from SECs

    5.3   Local teams that reflect the diversity of the communities they represent

    5.4   Program and policy priority planning guidance from SECs

    5.5  Ongoing relationships with SECs and social justice organizations

    5.6   Active engagement with social justice issues that impact local communities

  • Goal 6:

    6.1 An increase in mixed-use housing and jobs near transit/biking, including affordable housing and anti-displacement strategies.

    6.2 An increase in safe bikeways for systematically excluded communities.

    6.3 City planning processes that are more holistic, diverse, equitable, and accountable to communities.

    6.4 City governments and planners who are more diverse, equitable, and inclusive.

We would appreciate your support implementing and staying ‘true’ to our new Cultural Humility and Social Justice framework, by your ongoing support, listening ears, kind corrections and continued compassion.

The SVBC Team

PS: For recommended reading, click here.

. . .

[1] Tervalon, M & Murray-Garcia, J.  Cultural humility versus cultural competence: a critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor & Underserved: May 1998; 9, 2

[2] Organizations that work to change society and social institutions, including policies and laws, to remove inequities and promote fair treatment and access to resources for all members of society. Examples of local social justice organizations include: SURJ at Sacred Heart, and the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center.

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