Nov 20, 2023 - News

Walking trips have fallen sharply in the Triangle since the 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 Triangle — has plummeted since the pandemic.

Why it matters: Walking is good for us, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick writes.

  • 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).

By the numbers: The number of annual average daily walking trips in the Raleigh metro area fell by 39% and Durham's dropped 42% between 2019 and 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.

  • That outpaces the national decline of 36%.
  • "In every metro and state that StreetLight analyzed, walking trips declined over the three-year period by at least 20%," per the report.

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'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 and shops open, there's less reason for locals and visitors to have a walkabout.

Both of those trends have had major influences in the Triangle, with one of the highest rates for remote work in the U.S.

Zoom in: However, the region's sprawling, car-centric culture has never made it particularly walking friendly.

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