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US cities rank low on list of worlds most active, walkable cities, analysis finds


(NEW YORK) — Plenty of travelers, whether visiting a new city or returning somewhere familiar, can relate to the surprise and delight of seeing your step count after a day of strolling the sights. And beyond the well-documented health benefits of walking, finding a pedestrian-friendly destination can make it all the easier to get around.

Now, new analysis has revealed which cities across the globe will help you reach your step-count goals — and in which you might fall short.

A recent study published in the journal Environment International by researchers Rafael Prieto-Curiel and Juan Pablo Ospina gathered data from nearly 800 cities across 61 countries to determine and model their various modes of transport: active mobility — walking or biking — public transport and cars.

The data was collected from nearly 850 million people in remote and urban regions alike to get a snapshot of where and why people ditch public transit or cars in favor of their own two feet for more active forms of travel.

An analysis of that data from The Economist has since revealed the most and least-walkable cities across the globe.

Most and least-walkable cities in the U.S.

For anyone looking to avoid a car, North America may not be the best spot to do so, as the study found. According to the study’s findings, nearly 92% of respondents in the U.S. and Canada regularly journey by car. Less than 4% of respondents in the U.S. and Canada said they walk or bike, and just under 5% take public transit.

The 100 least active walkable cities were all found in North America, which as The Economist noted may be the result of pro-car policies and government subsidies over decades.

Cities in the U.S. including New York, Boston and Houston were all clustered in the bottom left quadrant of The Economist’s plot chart depicting populations that mostly took journeys by car instead of active mobility, like walking or biking.

Unsurprisingly, larger, sprawled out cities tend to be less active than their smaller, densely populated counterparts, where people more frequently journey places by foot or on a bike.

There was not a single U.S. city in the top 10 list of most active walkable cities, and many showed up far down The Economist’s list: Corvallis, Oregon, for example, ranked 415. Flagstaff, Arizona, came in at 427, Boulder, Colorado, came in at 429 and Manhattan, New York, was ranked 434.

Most active, walkable cities around the world

The most active walkable city, according to The Economist’s analysis, is Quelimane, a small seaport town in Mozambique.

The other cities that rounded out the top 10 are in Europe, including four in Spain.

Peja, Kosovo, ranked No. 2 on the list, and the tree-lined canal streets of Utrecht in the Netherlands scored the No. 3 spot.

The Spanish port city Bilbao, which is known for the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum, landed at No. 8 on the list, and León in northwest Spain, full of Roman ruins and Gothic cathedrals, was situated at No. 9.

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