Walking and Biking More Common in New Homes


Residents of newly built homes are more likely to bike or walk, according to 2013 American Housing Survey (AHS) data recently released by HUD and the Census Bureau.  The data show that nearly 44 percent of households in new construction either bike or walk, compared to about 40 percent of households overall (see the graph immediately below).


In general, walking is more common than biking.  A little under a quarter of households walk but don’t bike, while fewer than 4 percent bike but don’t walk.  The new-overall difference shows up most strongly in the households that both bike and walk: over 16 percent of households in new construction both bike and walk, compared to just under 12 percent of households overall.  This occurs even though, as the next graph shows, many trip  destinations are less often accessible by biking/walking to households in new homes.


For example, a grocery store (the most commonly accessible destination in the chart) is accessible by biking or walking to about one-fifth of households in new construction, compared to more than one-fourth of households overall.  A similar new-overall difference is apparent for every destination down in the graphdown to the least often accessible school or work, accessible to 11.4 percent of households in new construction, and 13.4 percent of households overall.  It’s possible that, in some cases, homes may go up in a new subdivision before stores, banks, etc. in the surrounding area are completely built out.

On the other hand, new homes are more likely to be built in neighborhoods with amenities designed to facilitate walking and biking.  Over 61 percent of households in new homes report that their neighborhoods have sidewalks, compared to 55.7 percent of households overall.  New homes are also more likely to be located in neighborhoods that have well-lit sidewalks and bike lanes (see chart below).


The implication is that, for the sheer number of households walking & biking, neighborhood features like sidewalks and bike lanes are more important than nearness of particular destinations, and these features are somewhat more common in new subdivisions.

The questions on biking and walking were one of several insteresting new additions that HUD and the Census Bureau introduced into the survey in 2013.  Basic tabulations of the new questions—including the ones used in this post—are available online in the 2013 AHS published tables.

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