Nov 20, 2023 - Culture

SF Bay Area residents are not walking as much as they used to

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 San Francisco Bay Area residents 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 per 1,000 people in the San Francisco metro area dropped by a third between 2019 and 2022, per a new StreetLight Data report.

  • There were 280 annual average daily walking trips per 1,000 people in 2022, compared to 420 in 2019.

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" was any trip taken by foot that was 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. 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.
  • 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.

What they're saying: The pandemic had an "obvious impact," StreetLight said. 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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