Parks & Trails Access to Healthy Food Transportation Modes Health/Income Relationship

Place Indicators: Transportation Modes

Walking and biking as primary modes of transportation benefit both people and places. For people, walking and biking may help to reduce obesity and high blood pressure, lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, reduce stress and boost the immune system. Despite these positive outcomes, between 1960 and 2009 U.S. biking and walking levels dropped 66% alongside a 156% increase in obesity (Alliance for Biking and Walking, 2012). More below…

The benefit to place is that walking and biking help to reduce toxins – not just in the air, but also the toxins and diesel particulate matter that make their way into the watershed. In a study of nearly 20,000 Danish children ages 5 to 19, researchers found that those who cycled or walked to school performed measurably better on tasks demanding concentration. As of 2009, only 13% of U.S. children walked or biked to school, down from 50% in 1969 (McDonald et al., 2009).

According to the Alliance for Biking and Walking’s 2014 Benchmarking Report, the city of Houston ranks 36th of 52 large U.S. cities in cycling to work and 32nd in walking to work, better than Dallas, yet worse than other competitor cities. Residents in the Houston region are much more dependent on autos than other major metropolitan areas, with 90.9% of adults commuting to work by car, truck, or van. Based on data from the 2012 5-year American Community Survey, 1.7% of work trips in the Houston region were by bike and on foot, as compared to 1.4% in Dallas, 3.7% in Chicago, 6.7% in New York, and 3.6% in Los Angeles. Biking and walking hold great potential for commuting given that the data show that over 25% of trips were less than one mile long, yet Americans used cars for 69% of those trips (Alliance for Biking and Walking, 2014).

However, there have been some recent improvements. From 2000 to 2009 there was a 25.27% increase in the number of workers commuting on foot in Houston and a 47% increase in the number of workers commuting on bikes (CHF 2013).

Sources cited

“Biking and Walking in the United States: 2014 Benchmarking Report,” Alliance for Biking and Walking, 2014, Retrieved from:

McDonald, N., A. Brown, L. Marchetti, & M. Pedroso, “U.S. School Travel 2009: An Assessment of Trends,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2011.

“Healthy Communities Indicator Report 2013,” Center for Houston’s Future, 2013. Available at: