Active Travel Among Carless and Car-owning Low-income Populations in the United States

Key takeaways:

  • Individuals in urban areas participate the most in active transportation overall, compared to suburban and rural areas.
  • Low-income individuals and carless households participate in active transportation more than individuals in low-income areas who own cars and individuals in high-income households. This association is strongest in suburban areas.
  • Active transportation among low-income individuals is two to four times higher than that of high-income individuals. For these individuals – living in urban, suburban, and rural communities - walking and cycling serve utilitarian purposes, connecting them to work, school, food and healthcare.
  • In suburban and rural areas, individuals from low-income car-owning households participate in more active travel than their higher-income counterparts.
  • In dense, multi-use urban areas, high-income households use active travel more than individuals from low-income, car-owning households.
  • Overall, the greatest dependence on active transportation is for individuals in low-income carless households, in suburban and rural areas.


  • Active transportation is not only an urban issue. People need to have safe and reliable options to bike, walk or take public transit, regardless of the type of community they live in, suburban, rural, or urban.
  • Low-income individuals in suburban and rural areas suffer a transportation disadvantage due to lack of available transit. Improved regional transportation policies are needed to include outlying areas to better connect them within their communities and to nearby urban centers.
  • Improvements to sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, and intersections, as well as increased access to transit, will benefit accessibility to work, healthy food, and healthcare for low-income individuals.

Ghimire, S. and Bardaka, E. “Active Travel Among Carless and Car-owning Low-income Populations in the United States. Transportation Research, Part D (2023).

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