Active Travel Among Carless and Car-Owning Low-Income Populations in the United States

Key takeaways:

  • From 2001 to 2017, weekly walking trips increased 35 percent and bicycle trips increased by 12 percent.
  • Low-income, carless households make the highest number of trips per week using walking or biking compared to the other households (low-income with a car and high-income households).
  • Low-income carless household are more likely to use walking and biking out of necessity and lack of other viable options.
  • Individuals in low-income, carless households in suburban areas are associated with up to 14 percent more walking trips and 33 percent more biking trips compared to their counterparts in other areas. The greater use of active travel among people in low-income, carless households in low-density locations could be related to the lower availability of transit in many of these areas that would require people to walk or bike.
  • In urban areas where walking or biking is more feasible to access a destination, individuals from high-income households utilize active transportation more than low-income car-owning households.


  • Low-income households with or without personal vehicles walk and bike significantly more compared to higher-income households. This implies that low-income neighborhoods, especially in suburban and rural areas, would benefit from improvements to support safe biking and walking.  


  • This study drew conclusions on active travel behavior (walking and biking) over time using data from the National Household Travel Survey from 2001, 2009, and 2017.


Ghimire, Subid, and Eleni Bardaka. Active travel among carless and car-owning low-income populations

in the United States. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment, 117 (April 2023): 103627.

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