Nov 20, 2023 - News

Report: Northwest Arkansas residents are walking less

Daily walking trips per 1,000 people in 2022
Data: StreetLight Data; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

There's been a staggering decline in the number of trips Northwest Arkansas residents take by putting one foot in front of the other.

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 per 1,000 people in Northwest Arkansas dropped 34.6% from 2019 to 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.

  • There were 170 annual average daily walking trips per 1,000 people in 2022, compared to 260 in 2019.

How it works: 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.

The big picture: Nationally, the number of annual average daily walking trips dropped a whopping 36% in the contiguous U.S. from 2019 to 2022.

  • "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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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