Active Communities Facts


The medical costs of physical inactivity are estimated to be $76 billion per year.
Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, Mean Streets 2002

It is a fact that businesses and employers bear a sizeable portion of the direct and indirect health care costs for employees in poor health. Poor exercise habits of employees can result in between 10% and 21% greater employer health care expenditures.
Chenoweth et al., 2001

The Smart Growth Main Streets program found that active community development can provide multiple levels of economic growth. The creation of walkable shopping and business districts within communities has resulted in about approximately $3 billion in economic growth among shops within those districts. International Economic Development Council, 2006

By providing opportunities for employees to walk and bicycle during workdays, a business can yield:

  • $3 to $6 return for every dollar invested over a two to five year period
  • 28% reduction in sick-leave absenteeism
  • 26% reduction in use of health care benefits
  • 30% reduction in worker’s compensation claims and disability management
  • Reduced presenteeism losses (workers are on the job, but not fully functioning)

American Journal of Health Promotion, 2003

In 2000, health care costs associated with obesity alone were estimated at $117 billion. Land use and transportation planning that encourage and support physical activity can battle the inactivity associated with obesity and help lower these costs.

Active Living Leadership; New online calculator estimates financial cost of physical inactivity. (2004, September).Biotech Week, 20

From a study in Lincoln, Nebraska, the cost-benefit ratio of bicycle/pedestrian trails is 2.94, meaning that for every $1 investment in trails for physical activity led to $2.94 in direct medical benefit.
Wang et al. (2005). Cost-benefit analysis of physical activity. Health Promotion Practice.

According to AAA, a car costs an average of 56.1 cents per mile, or $8,410 to own and operate.
AAA Michigan, 2005

If every commuter car in the U. S. carried just one more person, we’d save 8 billion gallons of gas a year.
30 Simple Energy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth, Edison, 1990

If just 1 in 20 sedentary Michigan adults became physically active, a cost avoidance of $575 million per year over the next four years can be realized. This equates for jobs for over 15,400 new employees.
Michigan Department of Community Health, 2003

The cost of operating a bicycle for a year is only $120.
The League of American Bicyclists; Retrieved from:, 2008

According to AAA and U. S. Census Bureau data, ownership of one motor vehicle accounts for more than 18% of a typical household’s income.
AAA, 2004

Traffic congestion creates an annual $78 billion cost to the economy in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of waster fuel.
Schrank & Lomax, 2007

Constructing one mile of urban freeway costs an average of $46,000, 000. Comparatively, costs for:

  • Bicycling improvements = $70,000/mile
  • 12 ft. shared paths = $128,000/mile
  • 5 ft. bicycle lanes = $189,000
  • 5ft. paved shoulders on rural roads = $102, 000/mile

U. S. Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN). 2000 Interbike Bicycle Industry Trade Show

Homes within 1,500 ft. of a recreational or natural park area are found to have significant increases in the homes’ property values. On average, nearness to a natural park increases property value $10,000 and nearness to a neighborhood/specialty park increases property value $6,000.

Contemporary Economic Policy, 2001

Real estate market research has consistently shown that people are willing to pay a much larger amount for homes/property within close proximity to recreational parks and facilities. A 20% increase in property value occurs for homes/property within 2 to 3 blocks of the facility, and a 10% increase occurs for homes/property under 5 blocks in distance.
Journal of Leisure Research, 2001

By becoming more walkable, not only do communities yield environmental benefits, but communities have also reported a range of $171 million to $963 million in benefits from increased revenue, increased tourism, and increase value of life.
Land Economics, 2000

Approximately 45% of Americans said that they would pay relatively more for a home in a community with environmental amenities for recreation such as sidewalks, recreational fields, and bike paths/trails. Approximately 9% said that they would pay substantially more for the same amenities including a natural park/reserve.
National Association of Realtors Survey, 2002


Of the 100 million people who live in areas of unhealthy levels of air pollution, children and elderly are most at risk.
EPA, 2008

Air quality benefits are provided by improved and increased bicycle lanes/paved shoulders, due in part from the increased provision for bicycle travel and to reduced particulate matter from vehicles traveling on unpaved roadways.
Retrieved from:, 2008

If each resident of an American community of 100,000 replaced one car trip with one bike trip just once a month, it would cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 3,764 tons per year in the community.
Complete Streets; Retrieved from:, 2008

Motorized vehicle emissions generate 85% of all carbon monoxide and 69% of nitrogen oxides in the air. Motor vehicle pollutants also include hydrocarbons (HC), particulate matter (PM), and carbon dioxide (CO2). These pollutants together are responsible for an estimated 440 deaths a year and cost approximately $2.2 million each year in medical and environmental costs.
Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 2008

By definition, since they have zero emissions, walking, bicycling, or skating are entirely non-polluting modes of transportation.
Go for Green, 2000

Since 1970, miles driven in automobiles has increased 127%.
United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2008

Each motor trip that is switched to cycling or walking avoids releasing 2.6 grams of hydrocarbon, 367 grams of carbon dioxide, and 1.6 grams of nitrogen oxides per passenger mile.
Go for Green, 2000

Social Equity

Many individuals report that they do not meet the recommended physical activity levels due to affordability. Active living community environments can create affordable physical activity opportunities.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living Resource Center, 2005

More than 50% of older Americans who do not drive stay home on a given day because they lack transportation options.
Complete Streets: Improve Mobility for Older Americans, 2007

There are fewer recreational facilities such as parks and trails are available in areas where low-income or minority populations live, while the demand for such free facilities may be greater.
American Journal of Health Promotion, March/April 2007

A more walkable community helps create an elder-friendly community, encouraging and supporting older citizens to live in and continue to make contributions to their community. And a community that is more livable for older citizens is a livable community for all ages.
Michigan Office of Services to the Aging; Retrieved from:, 2008

Access to and use of community walking trails may be beneficial in promoting physical activity among the segments of the population at highest risk for inactivity, particularly women and people of lower socioeconomic status.
Brownson, R. C., Housemann, R. A., Brown, D. R., et al. (2000). Promoting physical activity in rural communities: Walking trail access, use, and effects. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 92(12)

A recent study revealed large differences between income groups in regard to self-reported exposure to high rates of crime, with 40% more exposure to crime among low-income groups. Perceived safety was found to be positively correlated with physical activity; therefore, low-income groups were found to be less physically active than high-income groups.
Brownson, R. C., Housemann, R. A., Brown, D. R., et al. (2001). Environmental and policy determinants of physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91(12), 1995-2003

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2025, the portion of Americans over the age of 65 will increase by 8%, totaling 62 million Americans. As these individuals age, many will give up driving for safety’s sake, so nearly 20% of Americans will rely upon alternative forms of transportation, particularly walking.
Complete Streets: Improve Mobility for Older Americans, 2007

Incomplete streets are a constant source of frustration and danger for people with disabilities. A recent study found that blind pedestrians waited three times longer to cross the street and made many more dangerous crossings than sighted pedestrians.
Complete Streets: Improve Mobility for Disabled Americans, 2007

A study in Houston found that 3 out of 5 disabled and elderly Americans do not have sidewalks between their home and the nearest bus stop. Fewer than 10% of them use public transportation, even though 50% of them live less than two blocks from the nearest bus stop.
International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 1998

Men bike to work at least three times the rate of women. Men make up 78% of bike trips to work, while women are only 22%.
ACS, 2005

Non-white workers are 1.07 times more likely to bike to work than the average worker.
ACS, 2005

Safety & Security

In 2005, approximately 4,881 pedestrians were killed in crashes with motor vehicles and 64,000 were injured.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006

Approximately 40% of Americans say they would commute by bike if safe facilities were available. Fear of theft is one of the leading deterrents to bicycle commuting.
Rodale Press Survey, quoted in H. R. 1265-Bicycle Commuter Act, Retrieved from:, 2007

Individuals who reside in communities that are more walkable and have lower rates of crime tend to walk more and to have lower Body Mass Indices (BMIs) than people in less walkable and higher crime-prone areas, even when a wide variety of individual variables related to health are controlled.
Doyle, S., Kelly-Schwartz, A., Schlossberg, M., & Stockard, J. (2006). Active community environments and health. Journal of the American Planning Association, 72(1), 19-31

Approximately 25% of walking trips take place on roads without sidewalks or shoulders and bike lanes are only available for about 5% of bike trips.
National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors, 2003 BTS

While 12 percent of all traffic deaths are pedestrians (13.6 percent are bicyclists), less than one percent (0.7 percent) of federal transportation construction, operations, and maintenance funds are spent to ensure a safe walking environment.
Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, Mean Streets 2002

43% of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of their home meet recommended activity levels, while only 27% of those without safe places to walk are active enough.
American Journal of Public Health, 2003

Increasing the number of pedestrians on the street has shown improvement in safety for all pedestrians.
Injury Prevention, 2003

In the case of older adults, physical activity rates were more than 2-fold higher among those perceiving their neighborhoods to be safe.
Brownson, R. C., Baker, E. A., Housemann, R. A. et al. (2001). Environmental and policy determinants of physical activity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 91(12), 1995-2003

Approximately 70% of pedestrian fatalities in 2005 were male.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2006

By accommodating bicycle commuters through bike lanes/paved shoulders, all users benefit from the increased sense of openness on the road and an improved ability to drive the roadway.
Retrieved from:, 2008

Enhanced Community Connections

Recent research has shown that apart from attitudes and preferences, the built environment has been found to be the primary factor enabling or disabling active transportation. Individuals believed that they would increase both non-discretionary walk trips (to school, work, run errands) and discretionary walk trips (entertainment, visit friends, pleasure walks) if their community accommodated such travel.
Frank, L. D. et al (2007). Stepping towards causation: Do built environments or neighborhood and travel preferences explain physical activity, driving, and obesity? Social Science & Medicine, 65, 1898-1914

56% of residents in traditional neighborhoods walked to nearby commercial areas, versus 33% of those living in suburban areas.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living Research, 2005

Investing in community health through increased physical activity initiatives is investing in the community’s social capital. Social capital is the level of social activity and involvement or connectedness of members of a community.
Folland, S. (2006). The value of life and behavior toward health risks: An interpretation of social capital. Health Economics, 15, 159-171

Older adults living near safe walking and bicycling paths, gyms, parks, and recreational centers were more likely to get the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity.
Preventative Medicine, 2000

79.1 million (38%) of all Americans feel that the availability of bikeways, walking paths, and sidewalks for getting to work, shopping, and recreation is very important in choosing where to live.
Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), 2000

According to the 2004 Cool Cities Survey of young adults aged 18-35 in Michigan, “safe streets” and “walkable streets” are in the top three attributes when considering a place to live.
2004 Cool Cities Survey

The NHTS found that walking trips were most likely to occur for social or recreation trip purposes (12.7%) and least likely for work purposes (3.4%).
National Household Travel Survey, 2001

The 2005 Census American Community Survey estimated that 3,291,401 people used walking as their primary mode of travel for their journey to work each week.
Census American Community Survey, 2005; Retrieved from:

Why are Americans walking?

  • 27% for exercise/health
  • 17.3% for personal errands
  • 15.3% for recreation
  • 10.2% to get home
  • 8.8% to visit friends/family
  • 5.1% to get to school/work
  • 4.0% to walk the dog
  • 12.3% for other reasons

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2002


General Health

In a recent study, up to one third of individuals who had previously used the environmental supports within their community reported an increase in physical activity.
American Journal of Public Health, 2001

A Safe Routes to School program in Marin County, California, that included both safety improvements and encouragement, increased the number of children walking to school by 64% in two years.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Active Living Research, 2003

On a daily basis, each additional hour spent driving is associated with a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity, while each additional kilometer walked is associated with a 5% reduction in this likelihood.
American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2004

The leading cause of death in Michigan is heart disease, with approximately 25,000 deaths per 100,000 in 2000.
Michigan Department of Community Health, 2006

The design of communities and the presence of parks, trails and other public recreational facilities affect people's abilities to reach the recommended 30 minutes a day of moderately intense physical activity.
Healthy People 2010; US Department of Health and Human Services, 2003

A recent study reported that by having a park within a half mile of home, children increased their physical activity by an additional 35 minutes per week.
Cohen et al., Pediatrics, 2006

People who live in neighborhoods with a mix of shops and businesses within easy walking distance have a 35% lower risk of obesity.
Robert Wood Foundation, Active Living Network, 2007

An estimated 32% to 35% of all deaths in the United States attributable to coronary heart disease, colon cancer, and diabetes could have been prevented if all persons were highly active.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2007

In a study of physical activity patterns in wealthy countries, the United States was at about midpoint for moderate activity levels and was near the bottom for vigorous physical activity levels.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2004

According to one study, automobile use for all trips in urban areas ranged from a low of 36% in Sweden to a high of 84% in the United States. Walking and biking levels roughly correlated in an inverse fashion with auto usage.
Pucher, J. & Lefevre, C. (1996). The urban transport crisis in Europe and North America. London: Macmillan Press, Ltd.

Bicycle commuting has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, improve cardiovascular health, and burn between 400 and 700 calories per hour.
League of Michigan Bicyclists; Retrieved from:, 2008

In 2003, 20-24% of Michigan residents were obese.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005

According to Michigan’s 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, 22.8% of Michigan residents self-reported that they did not participate in ANY leisure-time physical activity or exercise such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking in the past month.
Michigan Department of Community Health, 2007

The Surgeon General recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on most days of the week to achieve health benefits, yet 53% of Michigan adults do not achieve this minimum recommendation.
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2003

Physical inactivity is responsible for an estimated 200,000 deaths per year.
Robert Wood Johnson, Active Living Research, 2005

Physical activity is recognized as one of the most efficient and powerful tools for preventing chronic diseases and for promoting health and well-being of the entire population.
American Journal of Health Promotion, March/April 2007

Between 1960 and 2000, levels of bicycling and walking to work feel 67% while adult obesity levels rose 241%. At the same time, the number of children who bike or walk to school fell 68% as obesity levels rose 367%.
Thunderhead Alliance Benchmark Executive Summary, 2007

General Transportation

Most people can walk at least one mile and bicycle two miles, yet Americans use their cars for 66% of all trips up to one mile long and for 86% of all trips between one and two miles.
Pucher & Dijkstra, 2003

In the last 20 years, foot travel has dropped 42% for adults.
Killingworth & Lamming, 2001

In Michigan, the percentage of adults who walk to work is 1.8% and only 0.3% bicycle or motorcycle. That is lower than the national average of 2.9% and 1.2%, respectively.
Steele, 2007; Reschovsky, 2004

Of all trips taken in metro areas in the United States, 50% are three miles or less and 28% are one mile or less. Of the trips that are one mile or less, 65% of those trips are taken in an automobile.
2001 NHTS

National data indicate a sharp decline in the number of children ages 5 to 18 who walk or bike to school, from 42% in 1969 to only 16% in 2001.
Transportation Characteristics of School Children: Report No. 4, 1972; National Household Travel Survey, 2003

Schools whose routes were improved through the Safe Routes to School Program in South Carolina had a 15% increase in the number of students who walked to school, compared to a 4% increase in walking among students of schools whose routes were not improved.
American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2005

Only 9.3% of Michigan adults walk for transportation five or more times in the past week.
Michigan Department of Community Health, 2001 BRFSS

There are approximately 35.3 billion walking trips made every year.
National Household Travel Survey, 2001

The percentage of walking trips for the 5-15 year old age group is almost twice that of the 40-64 year old age group; 15.2% to 7.8% respectively.
Pucher & Renne, 2003

Approximately 27% of walking trips are less than 0.25 miles in length and about 15% are more than 2 miles. The average length of a walking trip is 1.2 miles.
National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors, 2002

The highest rates of walking are in the Mid-Atlantic states, with 15.8% of trips made by pedestrians, and the lowest rates of walking are in the East South Central states, with only 6.0% of trips made by foot.
Pucher & Renne, 2003

In Michigan, 0.3% of the population bikes to work, ranking Michigan 28th out of the 50 states. For walking trips to work, Michigan ranks 35th with 1.8% of the population.
ACS, 2005

Approximately 55% of all walking trips to work are made by men.
ACS, 2005