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Cycling While Black: Black Cyclists Are Four Times More Likely to Die in Traffic, Despite Riding Less

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A recent study in the June issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has shed light on an unfortunate reality for those who share the road.  According to the report, the traffic fatality rate for Black cyclists is 4.5 times higher than for white cyclists — even though fewer Black people ride bicycles.

Many of you know that cycling is my escape and has been my consistent passion for the past 12 years.

The study, titled “Disparities in Activity and Traffic Fatalities by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that Black people are four times as likely as white people to be killed in traffic crashes while cycling, and more than two times as likely to die in a traffic fatality while simply walking (again, compared to white people).

Ernani Choma, one of the authors of the study, told ABC News that this could be the result of a lack of access to safe riding areas or infrastructure like bike lanes. “It might indicate that, for example, Black Americans or Hispanic Americans are less able to cycle, they don’t have access to transportation in that way. Maybe it’s less bike lanes. Maybe they don’t even bike because they feel unsafe,” she told ABC News.

Some feel that minority groups may be missing out on the health benefits that come with walking and cycling, like better heart health and access to fresh air.

Another author of the study, Matthew Raifman, said this is an opportunity for the government to address the lack of infrastructure that could help get more people of color to walk and cycle. The benefits would go far beyond plain road safety. “Instead of just investing in reducing traffic fatalities, why not do it in a way that’s also addressing the systemic, structural racism challenges in our society?” he said.

The authors believe that these findings, in aggregate, are potential evidence of structural racism in the safety of the transportation sector meriting further causal analysis. Regardless of mode and particularly for walking and cycling, Black and Hispanic Americans are at higher risk of traffic fatality per mile traveled.

The findings are particularly troubling because they suggest that Black and Hispanic Americans are less able to safely enjoy the health benefits of walking and cycling, namely increased physical activity, which has been linked to improved cardiovascular and respiratory health.

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