Walking has plummeted across America
There's been a staggering decline in the number of trips Americans take by putting one foot in front of the other, per a new report.
Why it matters: Walking is good for us.
- That's true both on an individual level (thanks to the many health benefits it confers) and in the big-picture climate change sense (given that it's the OG form of zero-emissions travel).
Driving the news: The number of annual average daily walking trips dropped a whopping 36% in the contiguous U.S. between 2019 and 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.
- "In every metro and state that StreetLight analyzed, walking trips declined over the three-year period by at least 20%," per the report.
- The rate of decline slowed from -16% between 2019 and 2020 and -19% between 2020 and 2021 to -6% between 2021 and 2022. But that's still a significant overall drop, from about 120 million trips in 2019 to fewer than 80 million in 2022.
How it works: StreetLight measures travel behavior based on anonymized data from mobile devices, vehicle GPS systems and more.
- For this analysis, one "walking trip" is any trip taken by foot that is more than 250 meters — about 820 feet — from start to finish.
Zoom in: New York City ranks highest among the top 50 U.S. metro areas sorted by annual average daily walking trips per capita in 2022, at 390 per 1,000 people — no surprise to anyone who's ever lived there and racked up a few miles of walking every day in the normal course of life.
- Orlando (350), Las Vegas (320) and San Diego (320) follow.
- Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Ogden, Utah, are all tied for last place, at just 220 trips per 1,000 people.
Bucking the trend: Los Angeles (+19%), San Diego (+14%) and Modesto, California (+13%) all saw an increase in annual average daily walking trips in 2022 compared to the previous year.
- That's not a shocker, given their often pleasant weather.
The intrigue: "Active transportation" — that is, walking and biking — accounted for just 10% of overall trips in 2022, down from 14% in 2019.
- Driving, however, is only 4% below 2019 levels — yet another sign that America is a country of car lovers.
Our thought bubble: So much for all that walking people were doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What they're saying: It's clear that the pandemic had an "obvious impact," StreetLight says. But beyond that, the group isn't sure what's keeping Americans off their feet.
- Some of this could be remote work, which can make it all too easy to become overly sedentary.
- And some of it could be part of the downtown recovery story — if a city has fewer restaurants, shops and so on open, there's less reason for locals and visitors to have a walkabout.
The bottom line: "For communities focused on safety, climate, health and equity initiatives, an all-hands-on-deck strategy across safety, transit, land use and more will be needed to increase walking activity," per StreetLight's report.