Understanding Changes in Walking and Biking in America’s Cities

With so much information at our fingertips day in and day out, sifting through it for clarity and analysis can be challenging. One of the things we try to do at 1000 Friends of Wisconsin is to shed light on underlying trends and patterns that can help communities make better decisions about design, services, and infrastructure.

This is particularly true in the case of understanding and advocating walkability and bikeability. We and many others have argued for the personal, community, and environmental health benefits of getting more people out walking and biking. The ultimate test of communities’ efforts to improve walkability and bikeability, though, is whether people are actually walking and biking more.

Enter the U.S. Census. While the decennial census is a broad, bigger-picture count of the nation’s population, the American Community Survey takes a sophisticated survey of a percentage of the public on a number of more detailed issues more frequently. Thanks to the ACS, we can look at numbers relating to employment, commuting, and lifestyle through 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year snapshots of American life.