Editorial: Bicycles and Equity

bike_cleveland_logo_GIFWhether it’s cruising between local establishments with friends, exploring the city on two-wheels, blasting through the Metroparks on your mountain bike, or leaning into a corner at 30mph during a race: bikes are great for everyone! Bicycles grant children feelings of freedom and independence, and offers grownups a portal to their youthful experiences of carefree and joyful abandon.

But bikes are more than just fun; they’re a critical component of a healthy and livable urban landscape. We need to think of the bicycle as more than a recreational vehicle, and view it as an instrument of change for our region. Environment, equity, and public health are at the heart of Bike Cleveland’s goals; we exist because we understand that bikes are tools that improve all three. Over one quarter of our city’s households do not have access to a car, and it’s important to remember that mobility and economic opportunity are inseparable. Our rail assets are fixed; designed for an urban form that assumes most jobs are located in the core, but this is no longer the case and it hasn’t been for quite some time. Jobs are scattered all over now, and no longer primarily located adjacent to inner city neighborhoods where people without cars live. Urban planners call it “spatial mismatch” and it is a serious barrier to upward mobility. If we want to talk about economic development beyond glittering downtown apartments and gentrified neighborhoods, population mobility needs to be at the forefront of this conversation. We need affordable ways to connect people and their neighborhoods to RTA service, schools, and jobs.

Bicycles are a legitimate mode of transportation that have been accepted in other areas as an equitable method of moving people around: to work, to school, to the store, to safe and clean recreational areas. There are dozens of case studies and statistics that show when cities and neighborhoods embrace bicycles, the whole area benefits. Retail sales increase, property values go up, and poverty goes down. We want to make sure that our region understands the necessity of bicycle related infrastructure beyond recreational trails like the towpath (which is great, by the way). We are pushing every day to make sure any legitimate discussion around transportation policy or infrastructure includes cyclists and pedestrians because we want our region to be designed for all of our residents, not just those who own cars.

Everywhere you turn these days it seems like someone wants a piece of you. There are a million causes out there, a million asks for you to donate your hard earned money, and we at Bike Cleveland are no exception. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit we rely heavily on the generosity of others to fund our mission to make Greater Cleveland a safe and fun place to ride your bicycle, or get around on foot. I could talk about all the perks you get from being a Bike Cleveland member, like discounts at local bike businesses and invitations to special events, but we both know that’s not what it is about. At the end of the day you join Bike Cleveland because you share a similar mindset to us, and you want to help us achieve our goals on behalf of all cyclists and the region at large.

If you care about equity, economic development, and environment; join our ranks! The more members we have, the more powerful our voice. Learn more and sign up at – www.bikecleveland.org/member

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