Believing that “what counts, counts”, we are always keen to see data measuring how much walking is being done. So we were pleased to see two new measures of walking appear recently.
The National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey has been undertaken in 2021. This continues a biennial series for measuring cycling that began in 2013. This is the first time that it has also covered walking. This is a telephone survey in which a member of a household who is at least 15 years of age is asked to respond for each member of the household. In South Australia, this involved 529 households, covering 1,324 households.
Practically all of us (96%) walked for more than five minutes in the week before the survey. And we walked quite a lot: among those aged 15 and over, the median hours walked in the previous seven days was 3.0 hours, or almost a half an hour a day.
This was slightly less than the 3.5 hours recorded for Australia as a whole. A cynic might say that this is because parking is easier than in the big cities on the east coast, but we should note that the most popular reason for walking recorded was for recreational/ health purposes. See the figures reproduced below. (The lines at the top of each column are the error bars, to indicate the 95% confidence interval.)
These figures might be an over-estimate. Because answering is voluntary (48% of households approached agreed to be surveyed), there is probably a self-selection bias toward households that are pre-disposed toward walking and cycling. Also, the average household surveyed had 2.5 members, compared with 2.4 recorded in the most recent census. So there was probably a slight bias toward younger/ more active households.
Nevertheless, the key value of the National Walking and Cycling Participation Survey is that it provides a consistent methodology over time, so we look forward to accurate trends in the years to come.
The other recent source of data is survey of members by the Royal Automobile Association (RAA). 624 members responded to a questionnaire about how much walking they do, their attitudes towards walking and what might encourage them to walk more often. As with the National survey, almost all respondents (in this case 94%) said that they walked for at least five minutes in the past week. Over a third said that they did this every day. Half said that on a typical day they walked for at least 30 minutes.
What was striking was the proportions who said that they could easily walk at least a kilometre to access local shops and similar destination: 85% in the case of parks; two thirds to shops, cafes and restaurants.
Three quarters said that they would like to walk more than they do, but the biggest barrier to doing this was the lack of time.
Once again there is probably a self-selectivity bias here: the survey was voluntary. Nevertheless, the survey suggests that that, with over half of our car trips 3km or less, there is a lot of scope for replacing short car trips with walking.