Whether we’re walking to the local shops or to the nearby bus stop, walking is a great way to make physical activity part of our daily routine, which is good for our health and wellbeing.  And the best part, it’s free so it helps to reduce our travel and gym costs!

By replacing short car journeys with walking when we can, we’re also helping to manage congestion by reducing the number of vehicles on our roads.  Plus, it’s a pollution free mode of transport so we’re doing our bit for the environment as well.

The amount we walk is heavily influenced by a number of factors though. These include access to good quality infrastructure such as a well-connected network of footpath and crossings, well-designed and managed spaces, and having local shops, leisure facilities and transport services within easy walking distance.

In October we launched our first ever Walking Survey to help us better understand the community’s views and expectations in regards to walking along streets and through places in WA.  We wanted to know how much you walk, and why, in your local area and further afield, as well as your thoughts on what needs to be done to make walking a safer and more realistic option.

Nearly 600 people took part in the survey and from the responses it’s clear there is a desire for better planning and greater investment in creating pedestrian-friendly environments to encourage more people to walk.

Here’s what we were told:

  • Almost half of respondents (47%) walk for 30 minutes or more per day on an average weekday in their local area (increasing to 58% on weekends), compared with only 27% outside of their local area.
  • One in two respondents who work / attend study typically travels there by car, as a driver.  However, 17% walk to catch public transport and 9% walk all the way.
  • When it comes to the school run, 1 in 4 respondents who have children at school in their local area walk there with them at least once a week (64% never doing so).
  • 63% of respondents find it moderately or extremely easy to walk in their local area, compared to 49% for other areas.
  • Respondents are most satisfied with footpaths and controlled crossings (one in two is at least moderately satisfied with each) and least satisfied with shared paths (only 31% are moderately or extremely satisfied, and a comparable proportion is moderately or extremely dissatisfied).
  • 76% of respondents feel moderately or extremely safe walking in their local area when thinking about personal safety and 63% when thinking about traffic volumes, speeds and other road safety issues (50% and 44% respectively when walking in other areas).
  • Unfortunately though, 21% of respondents do feel unsafe walking in their local area and 24% when walking in other areas due to traffic volumes, speeds and other road safety concerns.
  • Respondents are most satisfied with footpaths and controlled crossings (one in two respondents is moderately or extremely satisfied with each) and least satisfied with shared paths (only 31%, with a comparable proportion being moderately or extremely dissatisfied).

Now, when it came to views on encouraging more people to consider walking:

  • 52% think the State Government should prioritise better planning of communities to provide more destinations / amenities / transport services within walking distance in order to help encourage more people to walk (this was ranked first based on respondent’s top three priorities); and
  • 46% would like to see the State Government invest in improved public transport services (this was ranked second).

RAC supports walking as an active mode of transport, particularly for short journeys, to assist in tackling congestion, helping to reduce vehicle emissions and improving the health and wellbeing of the community.

The survey is just a first step and the results will be used to inform our ongoing advocacy activities to help ensure policy, planning and design practices and infrastructure provision support the creation of streets, places and communities which make it safer, easier and more practical to walk.