Physical activity from walking and cycling for daily travel in the United States, 2001–2017: Demographic, socioeconomic, and geographic variation
Abstract Introduction Research shows that walking and cycling are sustainable means of travel that contribute to improved physical, mental, and social health. Those documented benefits justify the increased investment by federal, state, and local governments in walking and cycling infrastructure and programs in the United States, especially since 2000. This study examines to what extent daily walking and cycling rates have increased between 2001 and 2017, nationally and for subgroups and regions. Methods The 2001, 2017 National Household Travel Surveys were used to estimate the frequency, duration, and distance of walking and cycling per capita. Person and trip files were merged to calculate the prevalence of achieving three different thresholds of minutes walking and cycling per day. Logistic regression was used to calculate prevalence rates for each variable subgroup (e.g. gender) while controlling for the effects of other variables influencing walking and cycling. Results National rates of daily walking rose slightly from 2001 to 2017, while cycling rates remained unchanged. There was substantial demographic, socioeconomic, and spatial variation for each year and over time. Walking and cycling were highest among well-educated persons, households with low car ownership, and residents of high-density neighborhoods. Walking and cycling fell among 5-15 year-olds, while increasing among 16-44 year-olds. Men were three times as likely to cycle as women, while walking rates were roughly the same for men and women. Conclusions National aggregate rates of walking and cycling have not changed substantially from 2001 to 2017, suggesting that much more needs to be done. Successful efforts of some American cities show that active travel can significantly increase with improved infrastructure, programs, and policies that make walking and cycling safer and more convenient. Such efforts should be implemented on a much greater, nationwide scale to have an impact on the prevalence of active travel among Americans.