Walking is the oldest form of transportation. Although since the industrial era, there has been a trend of walking less and driving more, recent history indicates a resurgence in walking – more people recognize it as a good way to improve their health, make short trips, and get more in touch with their surroundings. Even when using other forms of transportation to get where you need to go, every trip begins and ends as a pedestrian.
A pedestrian is defined by Title 23 of the US Code §217(j) as “any person traveling on foot and any mobility impaired person using a wheelchair.” North Carolina law does not directly define a pedestrian, but it does state that “a person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device shall have all rights and duties of a pedestrian” (NCGS 20-175.6(c)). Learn more about these rights and duties under Pedestrian Laws in the Laws & Policies section.
The NCDOT acknowledged the importance of meeting transportation needs for pedestrian activity when the original Bicycle Program expanded to become the Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation in 1992. The following year, the Board of Transportation allocated the first funds specifically for pedestrian projects. Since then, NCDOT has initiated policies, programs, and guidance that aim to improve the pedestrian environment and make walking a viable transportation mode.
Parks and recreation departments, planning departments, visitor’s centers, chambers of commerce, and community centers are all great resources to check out for good places to walk within a community. Some localities even provide maps of designated greenways, walking trails, or urban routes. Other popular resources for where to walk can be found through the NC State Parks System, the US Forest Service in NC, and the National Park Service.
Whether one walks by choice or because that is the only means of travel available, it is important to be safe while doing it. Goals 2 and 4 of the DBPT’s Long Range Plan highlight the department’s commitment to improve safety through education and enforcement strategies as well as promoting safe walking options. Improving safety for pedestrians is particularly important in reducing pedestrian injuries and fatalities resulting from a conflict with a motor vehicle. To help communities understand where and why these crashes occur, many utilize the Crash Data Tool to access these statistics. One of the best ways to walk safely is to know the law and how it applies to both pedestrians and other roadway users.
Walking can be a fun and healthy mode of transportation that puts us in touch with our surroundings as we travel to our destinations or connect to other transportation modes. Learn more below about the many reasons to consider walking for your next trip.
Health and Environmental Benefits
Walking increases physical activity. All ages of the population can benefit from increasing physical activity. You can reap significant health benefits from incorporating walking into your everyday routine – you don’t have to make time for a power walk or other strenuous activity in order to garner the rewards. Just 30 minutes a day can result in measurable benefits, especially for those least active.
Walking as a form of transportation also translates to less motor vehicles on the road, which has a direct impact on air pollution and our depletion of natural resources like oil.
- Reduce risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic diseases.
- Improve quality of life and feel better overall.
- Improve mental outlook, reduce stress, and sleep better.
- Increase likelihood for older adults to remain independent.
- Help prevent obesity, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis.
- Improve air quality and reduce incidences of asthma-related hospital visits.
- Conserve oil and reduce carbon usage.
About 40 percent of all trips we take are less than two miles, which takes the average person about 30 minutes if walking. Therefore, many of our trips we take using motor vehicles could be accomplished on foot, assuming that the proper infrastructure is in place to safely accommodate pedestrians. Shifting to this mode leads to many benefits for our transportation system as a whole.
- Reduce roadway congestion, gridlock and driver frustration.
- Improve the overall proportion of space per traveler (less overall infrastructure is needed to accommodate pedestrians).
- Enhance safety for motorists.
- Save money on transportation expenses (walking is free!)
Many of the benefits above can be translated into some form of economic benefit to individuals or society as a whole. The typical cost of owning and operating a car for one year is about $7,834. When people have the option to walk and can spend less of their budget on transportation expenses, it frees them up to save that money or to spend it on other needs. This is particularly important when considering those who have no choice but to walk – children, people with certain disabilities, adults with no drivers’ license, and those unable to afford a car. Providing facilities for pedestrians ensures that all people have access to viable transportation options and allows them to distribute resources to other household expenditures.
- Free up your budget to spend on other household costs or to save more.
- Reduce healthcare-related costs by improving overall health.
- Reduce congestion, which translates into less wasted time and energy.
Relevant Pedestrian Policies
Relevant Research & Reports
Relevant Project Development and Design Guidelines
Pedestrian Advocacy Groups
Citizens can get involved to help create pedestrian-friendly conditions within their communities. By participating in public involvement processes through local governments, citizens can advocate for pedestrian improvements that enhance the convenience and safety of walking to places important to them. Many different groups—on the local, state, and national levels—sponsor pedestrian activities and work to improve conditions for pedestrians. Use the links below to access some of these organizations, many of which have additional resources on their websites.