Americans eager to walk more, support plans to improve pedestrian environments
On April 1, 2003, the Surface Transportation Policy Project released the results of a new national survey on attitudes toward walking that finds that Americans want to walk more places more often, and are willing to invest in making it possible.
Poll results show that if given a choice between walking more and driving more, 55 percent of adults choose walking more. The poll shows overwhelming support for policies to make the walking environment less dangerous for people of all ages, and especially children. A majority (68 percent) favor putting more federal dollars toward improving walkability, even within a constrained budget.
"We need to make walking a safe, easy and appealing option for all Americans," said Anne Canby, president, Surface Transportation Policy Project.
"Walking is a critical part of the transportation system, but our institutions, programs, policies, and funding aren't providing the balance that citizens wantin part because of development patterns, but also because we plan, design and build transportation facilities for automobiles at the expense of other modes," said Canby.
Canby noted that nearly half of Americans consider traffic where they live a problem, yet building new roads is the least popular long-term solution among choices offered in the survey. Sixty-six percent say the best solution is "improve public transportation" or "develop communities where people do not have to drive long distances to work or shop." Only 25 percent of Americans advocate building new roads.
Policies that would make streets more friendly for walkers find overwhelming support in the poll:
Having a walking-friendly environment is especially important in light of the current epidemics of obesity, overweight and diabetes, which are caused and exacerbated by physical inactivity. Currently, one in five American adults is obese. Fifteen percent of children are overweight, three times the percentage that were overweight in 1980 (Centers for Disease Control). The
"In America, we have super-sized our food, our highways, and now, unfortunately, our waistlines," said Richard Hamburg, director, government relations for the American Heart Association. "The simple remedy is to get 30 minutes of walking in a day, doing routine things."
Consumer demand for communities designed with walking in mind is being embraced by some developers. "We have realized greater long term value in our projects by locating close to transit, and in districts that feature great walking streets" said William Fleissig, co-founder, Continuum
"We were able to make our 16 Market Square project more competitive in the local rental market by locating on the downtown pedestrian and transit mall."
Local governments that have invested in pedestrian facilities are seeing the benefits of increased foot traffic to local businesses and increased transit use. "When we invest to make walking safe, people walk. In Arlington,
"Americans are voting with their feetwalking is already the number one fitness activity in the nation, but we need to build a world where everyone can enjoy everyday walking for transportation. It's the simplest way to
"The accident rate for pedestrians is disproportionately high, and we need to address this by investing in safe, convenient facilities for walking," said Canby.
Currently, less than one percent of federal transportation
The Surface Transportation Policy Project made recommendations to Congress on how the federal transportation law, up for reauthorization this year, could give communities the resources to become more walkable:
This poll was made possible by the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The poll was conducted by telephone in October 2002 by Belden, Russonello and Stewart, with a sample size of 800 adults 18 years and over. The margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points.
STPP is a national not for profit coalition of more than 800 organizations working to ensure that transportation policy and investments strengthen the economy, promote social equity, and make communities more livable.
Nearly half of Americans consider traffic where they live a problem, yet building new roads is the least popular long-term solution among choices offered in the survey