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Encourage and Promote Safe Bicycling and Walking

Educating people about safe bicycling and walking, enforcing laws that make it easier and safer for people to bicycle and walk, and encouraging people to bicycle and walk, may help increase walking and bicycling activity, especially when combined with infrastructure improvements. This strategy is related to and supports such programs as Safe Routes to School, Complete Streets, and Expand and Improve Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure.

Education programs may involve

  • teaching walking and bicycling skills to adults and children,
  • training law enforcement officials on bicycling and walking laws, and
  • developing campaigns to promote safety awareness.

Enforcement strategies include

  • refining existing laws,
  • stepping up enforcement of traffic safety laws,
  • targeting issues such as equipment theft and assaults on pedestrians and bicyclists,
  • using non-motorized patrols, and
  • collaborating with law enforcement officials and community members.

Encouragement programs can encompass a wide range of strategies such as

  • broad or targeted media campaigns,
  • public service announcements,
  • bicycling or bike-sharing education,
  • special events, such as community rides or walks,
  • commuter benefit programs,
  • employer or insurer wellness programs, and
  • collaboration with bicycling and walking organizations.

Transportation agencies can leverage partnerships with employers, public health agencies, law enforcement, schools, non-profit and advocacy organizations, chambers of commerce, and local businesses to implement these activities effectively.

Related Transportation and Heath Tool Indicators

How can this strategy result in health benefits?

  • Address chronic disease (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Increase physical activity
  • Improve safety
  • Reduce transportation's contribution to air pollution

How has this worked in practice?

Florida’s Pedestrian and Bicycling Safety Resource Center

The Florida Department of Transportation funds this center to promote safe walking and bicycling for residents and visitors of every age and ability. The center leads training sessions on pedestrian, bicycle, and helmet safety. It provides web updates on bicycle and pedestrian programs, campaigns and funding opportunities. It also provides age-specific educational materials and resources to advocacy groups and interested parties in the state.

New York City Pedestrian Safety Study & Action Plan - Promotional Strategies

To develop the New York City Pedestrian Safety Report and Action Plan, the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) evaluated more than 7,000 records of crashes that resulted in serious injuries or fatalities to pedestrians. The purpose was to identify underlying causes of the crashes. NYCDOT would use that information to help develop strategies to reduce traffic fatalities involving pedestrians. The program implemented a host of citywide improvements. For example, NYCDOT used grant funding from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to launch a safety campaign for pedestrians in 2010. The campaign involved increased enforcement of motorist and cyclist infractions and advertising to raise awareness of the city’s 30 mph speed limit. Another campaign, Go Safe Go Green, provided curricula emphasizing the health and environmental benefits of walking and bicycling through outreach programs and mileage clubs encouraging participants to walk 10,000 steps daily. NYCDOT is promoting pedestrian and bicyclist safety to new immigrant groups through the Safe Kids Coalition injury prevention program. The department is also expanding its non-English outreach programs and education efforts, targeting neighborhoods that face a higher risk for pedestrian fatalities.

Where can I learn more?

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Education and Outreach is an FHWA library of resources and information about making bicycling and walking safer. NHTSA also maintains resources and information to support pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center site offers case studies, research guides, and other information related to pedestrian and bicycle safety, engineering, education, and enforcement.

The League of American Bicyclists provides information about bicycle law enforcement and an inventory of bicycle laws across the country.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking Resource Library has more than 500 resources, including sample documents and publications from member organizations, research and data on bicycling and walking issues, educational resources, public service announcements, models for organizing successful events, and more. Membership is required to access some materials.

The Guide to Community Preventive Services (known as the Community Guide) summarizes what is known about the effectiveness and the feasibility of selected interventions to promote and increase physical activity, including active transportation. Policy approaches detailed in the resource include enhanced access to places for physical activity and improved transportation-related policies and practices that support physical activity. CDC provides administrative, research, and technical support for the Community Preventive Services Task Force, which develops the Community Guide.

Evidence base

American Public Health Association. Promoting Active Transportation: An Opportunity for Public Health; 2012.

Bassett D, Pucher J, Buehler R, Thompson D, Crouter S. Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America and Australia. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2008;5(6):795-814.

Bopp M, Kaczynski AT, Campbell ME. Health-related factors associated with mode of travel to work. Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2013;2013:242383.

Buehler R, Pucher R, Merom D, Bauman A. Active Travel in Germany and the USA: Contributions of Daily Walking and Cycling to Physical Activity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2011;40(9):241-250.

Chen AH, Sallis JF, Castro CM, Lee RE, Hickmann SA, William C, Martin JE. A home-based behavioral intervention to promote walking in sedentary ethnic minority women: Project WALK. Women’s Health: Research on Gender, Behavior, and Policy 1998;4:19-39.

Jacobsen PL. Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling. Injury Prevention 2003;9:205-209.

Kaczynski AT, Bopp MJ, Wittman P. Association of workplace supports with active commuting. Preventing Chronic Disease 2010;7(6):A127.

Pucher J, Buehler R, Bassett D, Dannenberg AL. Walking and cycling to health: A comparative analysis of city, state, and international data. American Journal of Public Health 2010;100(10):1986–1992.

Pucher J, Dill J, Handy S. Infrastructure, programs and policies to increase bicycling: An international review. Preventive Medicine 2010;48(2).

Reger B, Cooper L, Booth-Butterfield S, Smith H, Bauman A, Wootan M, Middlestadt S, Marcus B, Greer F. Wheeling walks: A community campaign using paid media to encourage walking among sedentary older adults. Preventive Medicine 2002;35:285-92.

Rosenberg D, Kerr J, Sallis JF, Patrick K, Moore DJ, King A. Feasibility and outcomes of a multilevel place-based walking intervention for seniors: A pilot study. Health and Place 2009;15:173-179.

Staunton CE, Hubsmith D, and Kallins W. Promoting safe walking and biking to school: the Marin County success story. American Journal of Public Health 2003;93(9):1431-1434.

World Health Organization. Pedestrian safety: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2013.