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The opinions expressed in the studies are those of the consultant and do not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.

Walking and cycling as transport modes

Walking and cycling as transport modes

Of all journeys, 20-40% are travelled by cycle or on foot, with the highest percentage in the Netherlands and the lowest in Finland. Trips on foot take place most frequently in Great Britain, whereas bicycle trips are most frequent in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden [34].

Some groups of traffic participants walk or cycle more than others. These differences are also reflected in their crash involvement (see Crash characteristics). Age groups for which walking is particularly important, are children below the age of 12 and adults aged 75 and above. The bicycle is used most frequently by those younger than 18 years of age [34].

Walking as a transport mode

Walking as a means of transport is commonly used for rather short trips. This means that it is actually difficult to assess pedestrian mobility at country level, as the national travel surveys often do not register the shorter trips. Also, the walking parts of trips made primarily by public transport are usually not taken into account. At present, the importance of walking is therefore underestimated [60].

Survey data from a selection of seven European countries show that 12-30% of all trips is made by walking (as main transport mode), the highest figure being for Great Britain [34]. For short trips under 5 km, the share of walking is higher, with a maximum of 45% in Great Britain. The average length of walking trips varies from just under 1 km (Great Britain) to 2.8 km (Finland). It should be noted, however, that the extent of coverage of short trips may vary from country to country in the national travel surveys. This will affect the comparability of average trip length and the share of walking. In Great Britain, all trip lengths are included, whereas in Denmark trips shorter than 300 metres are excluded from the survey and all trips between 300 and 1500 metres are recorded to be 1 km [34].

Walking is a way of travelling used mainly for two purposes: short trips to specific destinations such as shops when there is probably not too much to carry, and leisure trips where the walking in itself is the main purpose [28]. About 15-30% of all person kilometres walked (on an average day) is for shopping purposes. Home-leisure trips cover about 30-55% of the person kilometres, with Switzerland at the top and Finland at the bottom [34].

Cycling as a transport mode

In most countries, a high proportion of people own a bicycle (in Norway, for instance, 70% of adults own a bicycle, in Switzerland, 69% of households own a bicycle). The number of bicycles per 1 000 inhabitants ranges from 52 in the Czech Republic to 1 000 in the Netherlands. What differs considerably from one country to another is the way in which the bicycle is used. Some cyclists use it every day, as a means of transport, while others do so only occasionally [16].

Survey data from a selection of seven European countries show that 3-28% of all trips made by cycling, the highest figure being for the Netherlands [34]. For short trips under 5 km, the share of cycling varies from 12% (Finland) to 39% (the Netherlands). The average trip length for cycling is around 3 km in most European countries.

The bicycle is used for short trips to shops and for leisure purposes where the bicycle-tour probably is an aim in itself. However, cycling is also a common way for travelling to work [28]. Between about 30 and 40% of the person kilometres by bicycle is travelled on home-work trips. Home-leisure trips cover about 20-45% of the person kilometres, with the most made in Switzerland and the least in Finland [34].

Age groups most involved in walking and cycling

Some groups of traffic participants walk or cycle more than others. These differences are also reflected in their crash involvement. Age groups for which walking is particularly important, are children below the age of 12 and adults aged 75 and above. Data from the Netherlands illustrate this. People aged over 75 years make one-third of their trips on foot. They use the car slightly more often (38%), but considerably less often than younger adults aged 25 to 74 years, who use this vehicle for more than half of their trips. The bicycle is considerably less popular for elderly people: they use the bicycle for only 17% of all trips. Together with people aged between 25 and 29, they use the bicycle the least.

The bicycle is more important in the youngest age categories. Data from the Netherlands (Table 1) show that children in the age group from 0 to 11 years travel by bicycle as often as they walk (both 29%). The same is the case for young adults aged between 18 and 24 years. Next to walking (20%) and cycling (23%), public transport (18%) is a commonly used mode of transport among them. For young people in secondary school (12 to 17 years of age), the bicycle is by far the most important vehicle: they use their bicycle for no less than 52% of all trips.

Data from other European countries show the same pattern: young children and older adults walk the most, whereas somewhat older children cycle the most [34][28].

 0-1112-1718-2425-2930-3940-4950-5960-7475+
Pedestrian29%18%20%19%18%17%18%25%34%
Bicycle29%52%23%17%20%23%22%24%17%
Moped/mofa0%3%2%1%1%1%1%0%1%
Motorcycle/scooter0%0%0%0%0%0%0%0%0%
Passenger car40%17%37%56%56%55%54%46%38%
Bus1%5%8%2%1%1%2%2%4%
Tram/metro0%1%3%2%1%1%1%1%1%
Train0%2%6%3%2%2%1%1%1%
Other1%1%0%0%0%0%0%1%3%
Total100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%100%

Table 1 Modal split by age group in the Netherlands. Source: Wegman & Aarts 2005