Active Travel in Germany and the USA

Contributions of Daily Walking and Cycling to Physical Activity
Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

Travel surveys in Europe and the USA show large differences in the proportion of walking and cycling trips without considering implications for physical activity. This study estimates differences between Germany and the USA over time in population levels of daily walking and cycling at different health-enhancing thresholds across socio-demographic groups. Uniquely comparable national travel surveys for the USA (NHTS 2001 and 2009) and Germany (MiD 2002 and 2008) were used to calculate the number, duration, and distance of active trips per capita. The population-weighted person and trip files for each survey were merged to calculate population levels of any walking/cycling, walking/cycling 30 minutes/day, and achieving 30 minutes in bouts of at least 10 minutes. Logistic regression models controlled for the influence of socioeconomic variables. Between 2001/2002 and 2008/2009 the proportion of 'any walking' was stable in the USA (18.5%) but increased in Germany from 36.5% to 42.3%. The proportion of 'any cycling' in the USA remained at 1.8% but increased in Germany from 12.1% to 14.1%. In 2008/2009 the proportion of '30 minutes walking and cycling' in Germany was 21.2% and 7.8%, respectively, compared to 7.7% and 1.0% in the USA. There is much less variation in active travel among socioeconomic groups in Germany than in the USA. German women, children, and seniors walk and cycle at much higher rates than their counterparts in the USA. High rates of active travel in Germany show that daily walking and cycling can help a large proportion of the population to meet recommended physical activity levels.

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