Nov 28, 2023 - News

Walking trips fall sharply in Portland post-pandemic

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

The number of daily walking trips taken by Americans — including here in the City of Roses — has plummeted since the pandemic.

Why it matters: Walking is not only good for our health, but also benefits the environment since it's the original form of zero-emissions travel.

By the numbers: The number of annual average daily walking trips in the Portland metro area fell by 36% between 2019 and 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.

  • That slightly outpaces the national decline of 36%.
  • Of the top 100 metropolitan areas, Portland ranked 46th for walking rates.

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.

What they found: 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 the prevalence of 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 and shops open, there's less reason for locals and visitors to have a walkabout.

Both of those trends have had major influences in Portland, as the city has one of the highest rates for remote work in the country, according to census data.

  • In 2022, 23% of people in the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area worked from home.

The big picture: "Active transportation" — that is, walking and biking — accounted for just 10% of overall trips nationwide 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.

Zoom in: Despite being renowned for its bicycle culture, walkability and sprawling public transportation system, it's not always safe for pedestrians to get around here due to reckless driving and speeding.


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