Americans have a less favorable view of walking than driving

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 26, 2023, 3:15 PM GMT+0

Out of 12 countries, Americans are least likely to have a favorable view of walking, train, metro and bus travel

A new international YouGov survey, conducted in 12 countries, looks at favorability towards having to travel by ten forms of transportation (including walking).

Walking is the most favorable way of getting about in most countries, although notably not in the US where the 74% with a positive opinion of foot travel is lower than the 77% for driving in a car or the 81% for being a passenger in a car. This is also the lowest favourability score for walking of all the countries in the study.

That Americans are less likely to favor walking than other countries is perhaps unsurprising when you account for how difficult it is to get anywhere by walking in American cities. According to the organization Walk Score, out of the 130 American cities with populations of 200,000 or more, 90 are branded ‘car dependent’, with most daily errands requiring a car to complete. A separate YouGov study showed 70% of Americans would back having all areas of towns being made accessible by sidewalks.

The US isn't the only country where walking doesn’t top the transport list: in Singapore people have slightly more positive attitudes towards being a car passenger (86%), or taking the train (85%) or bus (82%) than walking (80%).

As well as having the lowest favorability towards walking, Americans are also the least likely to have a favorable view of travelling by public bus (32%), subway or metro (35%) and charter bus (39%), and joint least likely for train travel (59%). Indeed, Americans are the only nationality to have a net negative view of metro travel (-8) and particularly so for having to use a public bus (-23).

The 77% of Americans who have a favorable view of driving a car is among the highest of the survey - slightly behind Australia’s 81%, and similar to Canada’s and Italy’s 77%, Spain’s 76%, and Sweden and Poland’s 74%.

Singaporeans, by contrast, have a far less positive view of having to drive in a car than all the other countries surveyed, with 54% expressing a positive opinion at the prospect and 29% a negative one. This is no surprise given the city-state’s frequent traffic jams, expensive car ownership system, and aggressive drivers.

On your bike… but not in Britain

Britain has the most negative view of travelling by bicycle, being the only country with a net negative view overall, although at -4 this means Britons are effectively divided (43% positive vs 46% negative). This is a far cry from the 80% of Poles who have a favorable view of getting around by bike, making them the most pro-cycling country.

Britons are also only country to have a negative opinion overall of charter bus travel. While the 42% with a favorable view of having to catch a charter bus isn’t quite the lowest level, it is outbalanced by the 48% who have an unfavorable view – the highest of any country.

Despite perennial grumbling about train services in Britain, the nation does not rate bottom for that form of transport. That honour goes to Germany, where 59% of people have a favorable view of trains compared to 33% a negative one. While the same number of Americans have a favorable view of train travel, they are less likely to have an unfavorable view (23%).

In Britain, 65% of people have a positive opinion of taking the train, compared to 28% with a negative opinion.

Germans join Americans in having the lowest proportion of people who have a favorable view of walking (74%), although unlike in the US this score makes it the most popular way of getting around.

Germans and French people have the least favorable opinion of travelling by car as a passenger. Seven in ten in each country (70% and 71%, respectively) have a positive view, but 20% in Germany and 23% in France have a negative view.