Importance of Biking and Walking in the age of COVID-19
Stories and evidence from across the country show many people are turning to biking and walking as a resilient and reliable option to fill the mobility gap for transportation and to be physically active while following physically distant health guidelines. Some governments are responding to the spike in demand by opening emergency bike lanes or closing roads to create safe places for people to be physically active while being physically distant.
Adding to this greater need is GCRTA’s recent decision to reduce bus and rail service by 15% due to lower ridership and to help protect operators. While these measures are essential for preventing the spread of the virus, they present challenges for the many people who still need to get around for essential tasks like buying food or caring for a loved one. And reliable mobility for essential workers like health care providers, maintenance workers, etc. is more important than ever.
Data shows as people are working from home and limiting social trips, vehicle miles traveled are down over 70% across Cuyahoga County. It’s likely we will see VMT increase when things open back up, but now is the time to rethink mobility in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. By building a connected bike network of stress-free bike facilities, protected bike lanes and trails, and investing in frequent public transit, we will be improving mobility for the over 25% of Clevelander’s who do not have access to a private automobile.
Now, more than ever, is the time to embrace biking and walking as an integral part of our larger transportation system. Cities need more resilient, more equitable mobility options — not only to weather the current storm, but to prepare for future crises. As studies are linking higher deaths rates from COVID-19 with increased pollution rates, this is a mobility justice, environmental justice, and health equity issue. We need to build environments that encourage and create safe places for people to travel outside a car.
As we plan for what our new “normal” will look like post COVID-19 and as things continue to start opening up, we are urging our leaders to think about what the new “normal” needs to be in regards to mobility justice.
To adapt to our current reality Bike Cleveland is realigning our programs and advocacy to meet the needs of the growing number of people riding bikes by:
- Advocating for complete streets that will make biking and walking easier; including developing our Connecting Communities Plan (bikecleveland.org/connecting-communities).
- Providing virtual educational programs and online content that teach people the skills needed to bike safely.
- Developing a program with local bike shops to provide free bike repairs to essential workers, providing them reliable, safe transportation to get to work.
- Creating and promoting places people can be physically active while exploring Cleveland by bike.
You can support this work by becoming a member adding your voice to our calls for safe streets across Cleveland: BikeCleveland.org/member