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National Household Travel Survey — short trips analysis

As promised, here are some more numbers from the National Household Travel Survey. The League and America Bikes have put together this fact sheet on trip distance and mode. The good news is that the share of all trips made by bicycle is up 25 percent since 2001, to one percent. The bad news is that even short trips are still dominated by privately owned vehicles, a category of vehicle that does not include bikes. Half of all trips are three miles or less, but fewer than 2 percent of those trips are made by bicycle, while 72 percent of them are driven. Private vehicles like cars, pick-up trucks, and SUVs, account for 60 percent of trips of a mile or less. Think about that next time you hear people wondering why we have such big problems with the environment, health and childhood obesity, and traffic congestion. Eighty-five percent of bicycling trips are three miles or less, but nearly 58 percent of transit trips are longer than that. This fact — that most transit trips are longer than most bike trips — reinforces the compatible nature of the two. In regions with transit service, biking and transit together will get you pretty much wherever you want to go. Transit agencies should do more to promote bike-transit connections. There are many worthy tables and graphs to be made with this data. For now, here is a simple one that illustrates the 30-40-50 trip distance concept. That is, nearly 30 percent of trips are a mile or shorter, 40 percent are two miles or shorter and 50 percent are three miles or shorter. It gives you a sense of how much of our daily travel involves distances that can be easily walked and biked.

Trip distance in miles



Cumulative Percent

1 mile or less



1.1 – 2 miles



2.1 – 3 miles



3.1 – 4 miles



4.1 – 5 miles



More the 5 miles



Again, check out the fact sheet for more: …and see our earlier post on the 2009 NHTS. Our thanks to the FHWA Office of Policy for help accessing these data.

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