“It’s annoying, confusing, and it’s irritating”: Lived expertise for epistemic justice and understanding inequitable accessibility

Key takeaways:

  • This study seeks to reframe the narrative around transportation accessibility as a form of epistemic justice, valuing the knowledge of low-income people of color, as well as the diversity of knowledge they hold.
  • “Lived expertise” or lived experience, the researchers argue, should be valued as part of a holistic understanding of transportation accessibility.
  • Quantitative data – such as which demographic groups walk, bike, drive, and use public transportation - and technical language about the condition (or existence) of roads, sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit often takes the spotlight from individuals and groups who live in neighborhoods being studied for transportation research.
  • Framing transportation inequities solely on quantitative data detracts from the lived experience of a neighborhood – access to a car, cost of travel, proximity or structure of the transportation system, and physical limitations or disabilities.
  • Perception is a factor that cannot be quantified. Lived experiences tell the story of harassment, fear for personal safety, fear of certain public spaces, interactions with police, and social judgment.
  • Generating local knowledge derived from lived experiences of low-income people of color requires talking and, more importantly, listening.


  • Engaging residents to better understand their choice of transportation can help to inform how to make walking, biking, and public transit more accessible.  
  • Addressing transportation inequities in a silo can lead to unintended consequences in housing, employment, and education. A holistic approach calls for policies that fully consider transportation, health, education, civic and community engagement, and youth development.
  • Lived experience – collected through focus groups and interviews – is not currently part of transportation decision-making processes. This information should be recognized as an integral piece of how we increase walkability, bikeability, and access to transit in low-income neighborhoods of people with color.

Lowe, K., Barajas, J., Coren, C. “‘It’s annoying, confusing, and it’s irritating’: Lived expertise for epistemic justice and understanding inequitable accessibility.” Journal of Transport Geography 106, (2023).

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