Homeless Movement: Biking and Bricolage in a City of Automobiles

Authors: Cory Parker*, University of California - Davis
Topics: Transportation Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Homelessness, mobility, spatial exclusion
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Contemporary transportation systems perpetuate social and spatial inequities by limiting access to those who can afford a car. For homeless people, the resulting transportation exclusions limit access to far-flung urban resources and networks of people, such as family and potential employers, who might offer support. How does this exclusion occur in the everyday lives of homeless people? And what are potential ways they overcome this exclusion? I draw from mobile participant observation of homeless pedestrians and bicyclists in Sacramento, California to learn how and why they move through the city, as well as what barriers they experience. I also map transportation behavior of observed homeless people to determine patterns of movement. I found three types of barriers to movement: 1) economic barriers preventing access to expensive transportation modes, 2) environmental barriers due to moving within a world devoted to cars, and 3) personal barriers due to ‘household’ management. The results confirm earlier research which suggests that, in general, homeless people are constrained within poor, service-oriented neighborhoods. Yet, the speed and spatial dominance of the car-oriented system also creates conditions of habitability, concealed pockets of calm and rest occupying traffic easements and right of way. Many homeless people transcend barriers to movement by transgression, biking and bricolage, making do with what is available. On-going research with homeless communities continues to elicit patterns of this movement pertinent to more inclusive transportation planning.

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