Health issues relating to bicyclists and pedestrian safety

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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 focus on our infrastructure’s role in improving the health of Cleveland residents. Sign our petition calling on the City of Cleveland to upgrade our bike network to protect riders:

Health issues relating to bicyclists and pedestrian safety

The worst possible health outcome from a traffic crash for a bicyclist or pedestrian is death. And this is a major issue from an equity perspective, as those who die from being hit by cars are disproportionately part of minority groups. In particular, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Black bicyclists and pedestrians are much more likely to be hit by cars and killed, compared to white and Asian bicyclists and pedestrians.

This is a major health equity concern, and it’s important that we do everything we can to make our streets safe for everyone.

Cities across the United States have faced increasing issues regarding pedestrian and bicyclists safety over the past decade or so, with more places adopting Vision Zero plans and policies to help combat this trend. In particular, this issue is especially pervasive in minority and low-income communities.

The Connection Among Redlining, Equity, and Traffic Safety

News outlets, such as Streetsblog, have recently written on the historic connection between redlining and present rates of pedestrian and bicyclists crashes, which disproportionately affect members of minority and low-income groups. Redlining was the policy undertaken by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), which involved the drawing of “residential security maps” that dictated mortgage lending practices. Areas outlined in red were usually Black neighborhoods, where home loans were essentially denied. This policy created a pattern of residential segregation that still exists today, and has continuing impacts regarding bicyclists and pedestrian safety.

Redlining map of Cleveland from 1940. The areas outlined in green received the highest rating, while the areas in red had the lowest. Mortgages were typically denied in the redlined areas, leading to segregation that still exists today. Source: The Ohio State University Libraries

Additionally, children tend to be overrepresented in traffic-related crashes, especially given the fact that the average vehicle size has increased in the United States over the past decade. Greater Greater Washington (GGW), an advocacy and policy news organization based in DC, has called for the implementation of protected bike infrastructure as a necessary part of advancing children’s health. This is because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children get at least 1 hour of physical exercise every day, along with the fact that many kids bike and/or walk to school. 

In addition to bicyclists and pedestrian safety issues related to crashes, GGW also outlines the negative impacts of vehicular pollution on children’s health. In particular, there are links between air pollution from vehicles and increased instances of health conditions such as asthma and lung cancer. In the case of Cleveland, this is an issue because the city was recently ranked as the 27th-most polluted city in the country when measuring ground-level ozone, which is one of the primary pollutants from vehicle exhaust. Not only would a shift toward more sustainable transportation allow for increased prevention of negative health outcomes, but incentivizing active transportation through infrastructure improvements will also produce better health outcomes through increased levels of physical activity. As such, prioritizing protected bike infrastructure and connecting our bike networks is a key to improving safety and health for everyone in Cleveland


The rapid implementation of protected bike infrastructure should be a goal for the City of Cleveland and the broader city power structures due to long-understood issues regarding equity in health outcomes and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. Not only are those who use active transportation modes more seriously impacted by unsafe streets due to their vulnerability, but they can also develop health conditions as a result of being exposed to vehicle exhaust. Additionally, the victims of these crashes and exposure to pollutants tend to disproportionately be from minority and low-income communities and/or children. As such, prioritizing protected bike infrastructure will help to resolve these health inequities, as well as help to safeguard children’s health and promote better health outcomes. 

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 will contribute to increasing health equity and outcomes 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

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