The federal government has allocated only about 2 percent of its transportation funds to encourage walking and cycling, not nearly enough to make a significant difference, according to Ralph Buehler, associate professor and chair of the urban affairs and planning program in the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs.
In a recently released study of National Household Travel Surveys from 2001 and 2017 designed to estimate the frequency, duration, and distance of walking and cycling per capita, Buehler and his collaborators, John Pucher from Rutgers University and Adrian Bauman from the University of Sydney, found only a slight increase in walking and no increase in cycling.
It is not at all surprising that the small increase in walking was in dense, urban cities like Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., where measures have been taken to improve infrastructure and programs and policies have been adopted to make walking and cycling easier and safer." Ralph Buehler, associate professor and chair of the urban affairs and planning program in the Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs
The study showed the most significant increase in walking was among well-educated adults 25-64 years.
While walking rates are roughly the same for men and women, cycling remains highest among white, higher-income males. In fact, three times more men than women are likely to cycle, Buehler said.
"In general, women will only cycle if they think the entire ride will be safe," said Buehler. "If they perceive that there will be any danger at all along the way they will resist."
Another obstacle to increasing walking and cycling in the U.S., said Buehler, is that driving is still very attractive and, aside from urban areas, parking is typically free or inexpensive. The study found that when compared to individuals in households without cars, those in households with at least one car were less than half as likely to cycle in 2001 and only slightly more than a third as likely in 2017. Rates were even lower for households with two cars and lowest for those with three or more cars.
The study was recently published online in the March issue of the Journal of Transport and Health .
"Public health researchers know that walking and cycling have many health benefits, as well as being environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable means of urban travel," said Buehler, who noted that one big advantage of these physical activities is that they can easily be integrated into daily routines. Related Stories
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