Walking: The Forgotten Mode

With all the emphasis on crumbling roads and bridges we’ve lost track of the second most frequent form of transportation – one that costs little and is good for the environment – walking.

Think of transportation and you don’t think of walking. But every walking trip is one less trip in the car. Here are four reasons we’ve got to take walking more seriously.

Public health –  There  is a clear connection between vehicle miles traveled AND growing obesity rates. One out of three Americans are overweight.

Climate change — The US produces about 23 tons of carbon per capita. To get to goals of 80 percent below 1990 levels we’d have to get down to one ton of carbon per person. That will take a lot less driving and a lot more walking.

Social capital – As documented by Robert Putnam, every ten minutes spent driving is ten percent less likely engagement in the local community.

Costs – Car ownership ranges from $6,000 to $10,000 a year – at above $.50 cents a mile when fully accounted for.

Yet, the vast majority of transportation dollars are spent supporting and perpetuating an auto-centered transportation system. An astonishing 84 percent of trips are in cars followed by walking at 10-11 percent.

You can’t endorse and fund auto-dependence and also expect other modes–walking, biking, public transit, car-pooling–to thrive. In Vermont, for example, we spent less than 8 percent of the total transportation budget (above $650 million in 2015) on providing alternatives to personal vehicle travel (take out transit and that drops to less than one percent).

Imagine for a minute if  half of this was spent on providing real alternatives to automobiles? If we gave people real choices? Safe sidewalks, transit systems that worked, bike routes that didn’t end?


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