Philadelphia has walked its way – literally -- on to another top ten list. A recent report shows the city ranks sixth among the country’s 52 largest cities for the share of commuters who travel to work on foot.
"Philly, like a lot of cities on the East Coast, have some good bones since the city was built at a time when walking was the primary mode of transportation," said Jeffrey Miller, president of the Washington-based Alliance for Biking and Walking, which released its biennial Benchmarking report in late April.
In Philly, 8.8 percent of commuters walk to work, putting the city ahead of the national average of 2.8 percent, but well behind top-ranked Boston, which has 15.0 percent of its commuters heading to the office by foot.
The numbers come as no surprise to the Mayor’s office, which has been working for at least five years to encourage Philadelphians to improve their health by walking.
"We are a great city to take short trips in because we have lots of jobs, services and residences all within two miles of each other,” said Andrew Stober, spokeman for the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities.
Both Stober and Miller say the figures likely underestimate the true number of pedestrians hitting the streets since the report used data that only tracked the mode of transportation to work.
"Trips to work only account for 20 percent of the trips people take each day," Stober explained. "Think of all the people who travel by other means to Center City who then use their feet for other trips throughout the day.”
Even though the city is doing better than the average, Miller says even more can be done to get more workers to walk.
"There are some really good pieces to the network that Philadelphia has in place," Miller said. "So the biggest bang for the buck is closing some of the gaps and making sure some other neighborhoods do connect to downtown and the financial districts.”
City officials do not have any campaigns planned to persuade more commuters to walk to work, but new efforts to better pedestrian safety will likely spur others to stretch their legs, Stober said.
"We are taking what is called a complete streets approach to all our projects," he said. "Every project is not just evaluated on its impact on cars, but also its impact on pedestrians."
Rounding out the list of the top five cities with the highest share of commuters who walk to work are Washington, New York City, San Francisco and Honolulu.