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Woman walking in the UK countryside

Walking Statistics & Trends in the UK

Every month around 19 million of us throw on our walking boots and head out to explore Britain’s glorious countryside. From leisurely rambles to challenging trails, walking is one of the UK’s best-loved pastimes. So we’ve gathered the top walking statistics in the UK to see who’s walking, why we’re walking, the popularity of walking and what our barriers are.

 

What’s the popularity of walking?

Walking for leisure
  • The popularity of walking for leisure looks to be rising: the number of English adults walking recreationally twice in the last 28 days rose by 514,000 from the previous year. 19.7 million adults in England now was for leisure*, which is more than 3 times the number that swim (4.7 million) and cycle for leisure and sport (6.3 million) (Sport England, 2019).
  • Green spaces prove to be important to almost everyone, with the top reason being because they’re a good place to walk (78%). Also people are planning to walk more when COVID-19 restrictions have ended (Ramblers, 2020).
  • In Scotland recreational walking (for at least 30 minutes) has consistently been the most popular type of physical activity amongst adults. Participation has risen from 57% in 2011 to 68% in 2018 (Scottish Government, 2019).
  • In Wales 33% of adults walked more than 2 miles within a 4-week timeframe. 12.3% swim and 5.4% cycle (Welsh Government, 2018).
*Taken part in walking for leisure as an activity twice in the last 28 days.

Walking as transport
  • 15.2 million adults in England walked for travel (Sport England, 2019).
  • While 51% of primary school children walk to school compared to 35% of secondary school children in England (Department of Transport, 2018).
  • Walking made up 25% of the daily trips in London in 2017 (Transport for London, 2018).
  • Just under a quarter of Scottish journeys were made by walking (21%). In Scotland 12% of adults commute to work on foot and 52% of school children travel to school on foot (Transport Scotland, 2019).
  • In Wales 58% of adults walked more than once a week for active travel purposes (Welsh Government, 2018).
  • 44% of children in Wales actively travel to primary school compared to 34% to secondary school (Welsh Government, 2018).

 

Who walks?

  • More people aged between 30-39 walk than those in other age groups.
  • In England adults aged 30-39 took more than 284 walking trips that were over a mile per year (Department of Transport, 2018).
  • Meanwhile in Scotland, 22.5% of adults aged 30-39 years walked somewhere as a means of transport (Transport Scotland, 2019).
  • In Wales 36% of adults aged 16-24 years walked for at least 10 minutes every day compared to 14% of adults aged 75+ (Welsh Government, 2019).
  • Leisure walking is enjoyed by women more than men in England and Scotland. More women (62.5%) walk recreationally than men (39.8%) (Sport England, 2018).
  • In Scotland 18.6% of men walked as a means of transport compared to 20% of women (people aged 16+) (Transport Scotland, 2017).
  • In Wales 32% of men walk (over 2 miles) compared to 33% of women (Welsh Government, 2018).
  • Physical activity levels are highest for people from mixed (71%), white other (66%) and white British (63%) backgrounds. The ethnic groups with the lowest activity levels are those from South Asian (55%), Black (57%) and other (57%) backgrounds. (Sport England, 2018).
  • Only 57% of British adults questioned in our survey said that they lived within a 5 minute walk of green space, like a local park, nearby field or canal path.
  • That figure fell to just 39% for people from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and 46% among all British adults with a household income of under £15,000 (compared to 63% of those with a household income over £35,000 and 70% over £70,000) (Ramblers, 2020).

 

Barriers to walking

Health reasons:
  • ‘Health reasons’ was the biggest reason people did not spend time outdoors (23%) (Natural England, 2018).
  • Poor physical and mental health is frequently cited as one of the main barriers to recreational walking (PAHRC, 2019).
The walking environment:
  • 67% of people in the UK would walk more often if green spaces were better maintained (TCPA for the Ramblers, 2018).
  • One tenth of the public rights of way network is in serious disrepair (The Ramblers, 2015).
  • 35% of people over 75 said they would walk more often if there were more benches in their park (TCPA for the Ramblers, 2018).
Fears for safety & personal security:
  • 33% of 16-24-year olds are likely to be discouraged from walking in local parks and green spaces in the UK due to safety concerns (TCPA for the Ramblers, 2018).
  • Sustrans Scotland found in a study of women in Glasgow where 60% of pedestrians feel unsafe or very unsafe from threats related to crime or anti-social behaviour when travelling at night in Glasgow (Sustrans Scotland, 2018).
Being busy/not having enough time:
  • ‘I’m too busy/not enough time’ was the most common reason for people not visiting woodland in 2019 (Forestry Commission, 2019).
  • ‘Time pressures’ was the biggest reason that made it harder for people to go walking in Scotland (Scot Pulse for Ramblers Scotland, 2018).

 

Provision for walking

  • In England and Wales, we have approximately 140,000 miles of rights of way. However an estimated 49,000 miles of paths across England and Wales are at risk of being lost forever unless they are recorded on the map by 2026 (Ramblers.org.uk).
  • In Scotland there are 20,000km of core path recorded. However there are around 80,000 km of paths that need to be recorded (Ramblers Scotland).
  • There are 215k hectares of total green space provision and 32.94 sqm of green space provision in Great Britain (Fields in Trust, 2020).
  • However, there are 2.69 million people who do not live within 10 minutes of a green space (Fields in Trust, 2020).
References (click here)


Department for Transport (2020) Gear Change
Department for Transport (2018) National Travel Survey
Department for Transport (2019) Walking and Cycling Statistics
Fields in Trust (2018) Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces, Measuring their economic and wellbeing value to individuals
Fields in Trust (2020) Green Space Index
Forestry Commission (2019) Public Opinion of Forestry 2019, UK and England
Natural England (2018) Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment 2018, The National Survey on people and the natural environment
Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) (2019) Barriers and Facilitators to Recreational Walking: An Evidence Review
Ramblers (2015) The Big Pathwatch: The State of Our Paths Today
Ramblers (2018) Transforming the Ramblers, People’s Postcode Lottery 2018 Impact Report
Ramblers (2020) The grass isn’t greener for everyone: why access to green space matters
ScotPulse for Ramblers Scotland (2018) OutThere Survey
Scottish Government (2019) Scottish household survey 2018: annual report
Sport England (2019) Active Lives Survey
Sustrans (2018) “Are we nearly there yet?” Exploring gender and active travel
Sydenham, Angela (2010) Public Rights of Way and Access to Land
Town and Country Planning Association for The Ramblers (2018) Walking in Urban Parks and Green Spaces
Transport for London (2018) Travel in London Report 11
Transport Scotland (2019) Scottish Transport Statistics 2018 Edition
Welsh Government (2018) National Survey for Wales: Headline results, April 2017 - March 2018
Welsh Government (2018) Sport and Active Lifestyles. State of the Nation. A statistical release from the National Survey for Wales 2017-18
Welsh Government (2018) Walking and Cycling in Wales: Active Travel, 2017-2018

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