Nov 22, 2023 - News

Walking trips plummet in San Diego post-pandemic

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

There's been a significant decline in the number of trips San Diego residents take by putting one foot in front of the other, per a new report, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

Why it matters: Walking is healthy for us, and good for the planet when it replaces short car trips.

Driving the news: The number of annual average daily walking trips per 1,000 people in the San Diego metro area dropped 29% between 2019 and 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.

  • There were 320 annual average daily walking trips per 1,000 people in 2022, compared to 450 in 2019.

Yes, but: San Diego saw one of the smallest declines and ranks 4th among the top 50 U.S. metros for walking activity per capita in 2022.

Bucking the trend: San Diego also saw a 14% increase in annual average daily walking trips in 2022 compared to the previous year.

  • Los Angeles (+19%) and Modesto, California (+13%) also saw increases, which isn't surprising given the typically pleasant weather.

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's more than 250 meters — about 820 feet — from start to finish.

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

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

Between the lines: 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.
  • Though San Diego's downtown activity bounced back fairly well as it relies less on office jobs and more on a mix of tourism, workers and full-time residents.
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