Home » Our Work » News

The role of bicycling in reducing carbon emissions and how protected infrastructure can help

In this summer blog series, we will be examining the intersectionality of multiple issues related to mobility and the need to expand protected bike infrastructure. This week’s post will discuss the effect that increasing bike ridership can have on decarbonization. Sign our petition calling on the City of Cleveland to upgrade our bike network to protect riders: https://p2a.co/Fc6MvSY

The role of bicycling in reducing carbon emissions and how protected infrastructure can help

Decarbonization is usually considered to be the process by which carbon emissions are lowered across multiple facets of society. The eventual goal of decarbonization is to create a carbon – neutral society, where any emissions that are created are offset. Many countries have committed to reaching this goal by 2050; this is also the target date for the City of Cleveland.

As seen here, carbon emissions from passenger cars make up the largest percentage globally among different transportation modes. As such, reducing the use of cars will make a significant dent in both US and global carbon emissions. Source: Our World in Data

In order to achieve this goal, there must be a collective change in how we live our lives, part of which will revolve around utilizing modes of transportation that emit less carbon dioxide. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, cars account for 29% of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, the largest single source. While we are currently seeing a rise in the popularity of electric vehicles, these simply do not solve the issue if the electricity which they use is produced from fossil fuels. In addition to this, electric vehicles are rather expensive and are not attainable for many people. 

As such, increasing the rates of biking, walking, and public transportation is going to be crucial in helping to reduce carbon emissions. In particular, increasing the use of biking is extremely feasible when utilizing low-cost solutions to create high-quality protected bike infrastructure. As has been detailed in previous posts in this blog series, there is evidence that adding protected infrastructure for bicyclists leads to significantly increased ridership. However, I would like to go into further detail over how these numbers could change if there is a modal shift toward bicycling in the City of Cleveland.

In Cleveland, bicycling represents an extremely small percentage of commuting mode share. This needs to change if we wish to significantly reduce carbon emissions from transportation. Source: US Census

One peer city of Cleveland where demonstrable increases in biking occurred following the construction of protected infrastructure is Chicago. About a decade ago, Chicago added a protected lane on Kinzie Street – this was found to have led to a 55% increase in bicycle traffic along the corridor. Assuming that similar increases could be achieved along multiple corridors in Cleveland that are prime for upgrades, this could correspond to a massive shift away from driving. Expanding our low – stress bike network in Cleveland will almost certainly increase ridership, which will lead to a reduction in carbon emissions. 


Considering the large percentage of carbon emissions that come from transportation in the United States, a primary way to reduce these emissions would be to incentivize bicycling by making it more appealing to people of all ages and abilities. In the City of Cleveland, the perfect incentive would be to create low-cost protected bike infrastructure, which has been shown to increase the number of people bicycling in other cities. 

What can you do? 

Our 2023 Policy Priorities revolve around maintaining and investing in 27 miles of existing bicycling corridors to provide safety and comfort requirements of potential users. This work can contribute to economic development in the City of Cleveland.

Support our 2023 Policy Priorities!

This summer blog series will be written by Connor Brentar, an intern at Bike Cleveland, and will focus on issues relating to advocacy and education surrounding biking. You can contact Connor with questions at connor@bikecleveland.org