Sedentary behaviour has become part of our everyday lives. It’s dangerous for our health, wellbeing, the environment, and the economy. Walking provides an antidote. But what do you really know about the wonders of walking? And just how can it benefit your city? From fun facts to serious stats, here we compile the key numbers and tantalising titbits that will convince anyone to lace up and stride out.
Did You Know…?
- Walking is the oldest and most common form of transport.
- We’ve been walking on two legs for 6 million years
- On average, humans walk at a speed of 3.1 miles per hour.
- Mutt motivation: dog walkers wander for almost 9 hours each week.
- In a lifetime, you will walk the same distance as 3 times the earth’s circumference – 65,000 miles (roughly 105,000 km).
- The global average count of steps per day is 4,961.
- The highest step-count, 6,880, is amassed by Hong Kong.
- Indonesians walk the least, at 3,513 daily steps.
- Of the 7.5 billion trips in urban locations each day, walking and cycling accounted for 37%. Trends vary by continent:
- In Europe, between 12% and 30% of all trips are made on foot
- More than 75% of daily trips in Africa are walked
- In South America, people spend just 10.6% of their travel time walking
- Europeans engage in walking (and cycling) at a rate at least double that of Australia and the US
- At 3.2 km, “Strøget” in Copenhagen is the world’s longest – and oldest – pedestrian street system. It opened in 1962.
- Those who beat the streets are in good company – famous figures who credited walking for sparking inspiration included Aristotle, Darwin, Beethoven, and Steve Jobs.
- Citizens walk further in cities boasting light railway or metro networks compared to those favouring buses. Pedestrian zones also tend to be larger.
- 40% of trips to shops, 35% to work, and 60% to recreational activities are within 1 mile (1.6 km) – easy walking distance.
- Reasons why people do not walk include:
- Fear for personal safety
- An unfamiliarity with routes
- Traffic noise and fumes
- Poor path maintenance
- Unpleasant aesthetics en route
- Lack of lighting
- Misconceptions of longer journey times (compared with other modes of travel)
Health & Happiness
- 270,000 walkers per year are killed in road accidents.
- A regular ramble cuts the risk of obesity, premature death, high cholesterol, and chronic illnesses, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- A half-hour stroll can reduce the risk of heart disease by 35%.
- Put your best foot forward to enjoy:
- more self-confidence
- increased bone density and joint health (helping to prevent arthritis)
- better coordination
- 15 minutes of daily footfall helps beat cravings for the sweet stuff.
- Walking can be as effective as antidepressants in treating poor mood, stress, and low self-esteem. It also:
- cuts depression by 71%
- reduces the chance of contracting dementia by 13% and boosts the immune systems for 24 hours
Easier On the Environment
- Walking “is the most sustainable form of transport”, playing a major role in combating climate change.
- Walking makes more sense:
- One-quarter of CO2 emissions worldwide originate from transport: around 75% of this is from road vehicles
- Each car churns out 423 g of CO2 per mile per year. Walking doesn’t
- Heading out on foot for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) rather than going by car cuts greenhouse gas releases by 75%
- Pulling on your trainers once a week can slash 25% of an individual’s CO2 transport-based emissions.
- No excuses: despite pollution levels, air quality is safe for strolling in 99% of the world’s cities.
- “Walking instead of driving helps reduce the traffic and the noise levels”, so biodiversity can thrive.
Create a Leg-acy: Social Stats
- Removing 1 car from the streets makes room for 20 walkers.
- Urban centres accessible on foot fare far better in terms of social equity.
- Walking improves concentration and cognitive ability, leading to improved educational attainment and a more productive workforce.
- Free and requiring no special equipment or skill level, walking spans socioeconomic barriers, making it fully accessible.
- Pedestrianisation has been proven to reduce injuries to city walkers by up to 40%.
- In some cities, pedestrianisation reduced violent crime by 96%.
- A walking culture benefits the workplace:
- Meetings on the go help workers feel 8.5% more engaged
- Regular walkers report 43% fewer sick days
- Reclaiming pedestrian spaces is good for business:
- In New Your City, retail has increased by 172%
- Time spent in shops and eateries has jumped 216% in London
- Walkable cities have 5 times fewer vacant shops
- For every $1 they pay in taxes, drivers cost $9.20 (in road building, maintenance, healthcare, pollution, etc.) but pedestrians cost only $0.01
- In the UK, every £1 spent on walking schemes generates £4-£19 in economic benefits.
- Roads create just £3-£5 for the same investment
- Each $1 million invested in walkable projects creates up to 11 jobs
- Sheffield in the UK is a notable example, where employment rose through events, supply chains, and maintenance associated with the construction of paved areas and footpaths
- This generates a further $29,000 in wages and $59,000 in revenue per person
- In the US, “property values of homes in walkable neighborhoods were $6,500 higher than those in car-dependent areas”.
- Per capita, commutes by foot of up to 2.5 km equate to a saving of $1,900 in annual healthcare costs.
So, for happier, longer, more productive lives – and healthier bank accounts – it makes sense to take a hike. And the best news is, you only need to clock up 4,400 steps per day to experience the long-term benefits. What are you waiting for? Get going!
To test specific elements of walkability in your city, check out Pedestrians First‘s interactive measurement tool.
The ‘Walk Score’ tool allows you to see how well your city ranks in terms of overall walkability.
You can also compare the modal split for many major European cities, here.
 London Councils, Living Streets and Walk London (2008). Breaking down barriers to walking in London a joint paper by London Councils, Living Streets and Walk London. London Councils. https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/node/6274