The Story of Walking in US Cities, in One Chart

Wherein Correlation does, in fact, equal Causation

The above chart comes from the annual Biking & Walking Benchmarking Report.  Measuring biking and walking isn’t mere do-gooderism. It’s economics.  Biking and walking are the most energy and in-turn cost efficient way to move around (provided the short trip is even possible) for both the public sector (infrastructure) and private (transportation).  The short trip (and the ability to make it in a variety of ways) is what cures congestion.

People walk to work when it’s safe to walk. It also has to be possible.  Walkability is derived qualitatively and quantitatively.  It has to be a safe, pleasant walk and there have to be destinations within proximity.  This isn’t about just the provision of sidewalks, crosswalks, and calmed traffic, but an infrastructural framework that leverages investment (density) which yields proximity, and invites development to engage with the public realm creating a more interesting, active environment.  It’s density that allows transit to work and thus, even less cars on the road killing both fast (collisions) and slow (pollution).

When you add all of those various mutually beneficial aspects together, you have a safer, more prosperous, healthier city.  That’s why walkability matters.  We’re not FORCING people to walk everywhere nor even everywhere.  It’s about basic city-building that provides true choice in housing and transportation empowering the citizenry.  A place where tax base exceeds tax burden (infrastructure).  A place that is attractive to all ages, attracts the middle class, and empowers the poor to access opportunities.  We’re not doing any of those things right at present.


  • topham

    This really rings a bell. Last Friday at lunchtime, I walked from the Chase Tower to the new and improved Farmer’s Market (and back). In beautiful weather, that should be a nice, if longish, stroll. Near the market, along Cesar Chavez, it’s quite walkable, with broad sidewalks (although why Cesar Chavez needs to be ginormously wide is beyond me). And, even in that stretch, it was a bit creepy because it’s was devoid of other pedestrians. North of Young/Canton: terrible. Narrow sidewalks, tons of construction, and generally no thought given to walkability. I wanted to walk from a major office tower to a major city amenity, but the city made it very difficult.