Americans slow to embrace walking and cycling

Mon May 23, 2011 11:15am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Despite wobbling fuel prices, thickening waistlines and an avalanche of evidence lauding the benefits of active travel, Americans have been slow to embrace walking and cycling.

Research shows that walking has increased only slightly and cycling has stagnated during the past decade. Both activities have decreased among women, children and seniors,

Dr. John Pucher, a professor at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, said the increases have been among men, the employed, well-educated and people without a car.

"What struck me was the social inequity," said Pucher. "Most of the increase is in middle-aged men. That says we're doing something wrong in the United States."

He believes American resistance to active travel has more to do with safety concerns than suburban sprawl.

Pucher, who works at Rutgers' Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, has been studying transportation and ways to make walking and cycling feasible for 15 years.

In a recent study he and his team analyzed government data on active travel from telephone interviews in 2001 and 2009 with tens of thousands of Americans.

He said data from 2009 shows that 25 percent of all trips in American cities are a mile or shorter, and 40 percent are two miles or shorter.   Continued...

<p>A couple holds hands as they cross the street in the early morning in New York October 21, 2009. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>