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Active travel trends under the microscope


02 February 2018

The distance people walk on public highways is continuing to fall despite the mass of public health messages, according to analysis by the DfT.

National Travel Survey (NTS) data shows that walking trip rates on the public highway fell 19 per cent between 2005 and 2015, from about 4.7 trips per week per person to 3.8. Walking stages (a trip can have more than one stage) fell 12 per cent per cent, and distance walked fell 8 per cent, from about 3.8 miles per week to 3.5.

The DfT’s new report on walking and cycling cross-references a separate report that suggests the fall in walking trips is largely explained by a sharp decline in trips under one mile in length (see story above).

Walking trip data for 2016 is excluded from the walking and cycling report, because the NTS method for recording walking trips changed that year, leading to a break in the time series. The DfT is to re-weight the data to allow comparison with previous years.  

The NTS suggests that cycling trips on the public highway fell 16 per cent between 2006 and 2016 and cycle stages dropped 14%. But the average cycling distance travelled per person rose 26%, from 42 miles a year to 53.

The DfT thinks the cycle trip decline “is more likely to be due to sampling variation rather than a real decrease in cycling trips”.

Walking still accounts for 25 per cent of trips whereas cycling accounts for 2 per cent.

People without access to a car make an average of 333 walk trips a year and travel 280 miles on foot. That compares with 224 walk trips a year and 181 miles on foot for those with car access. 

People without access to a car make on average 24 cycle trips a year, travelling 72 miles. That compared with 13 cycle trips and  49 miles for those with car access.

Men appear to cycle three times more often and four times further than women. Men cycle much more often when teenagers and young adults.

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