South Aussies keen to stretch their legs longer, RAA survey shows

2 September, 2021

Almost eight-in-ten people wish they could walk more often, an RAA survey has found.

Footpath issues, however, are among the biggest barriers to respondents realising their greater walking ambitions, the survey of more than 600 RAA members found.

The survey was held as part of a collaboration between RAA and the Heart Foundation to investigate ways to promote public health, tourism and reduce traffic congestion.

RAA Senior Manager Safety and Infrastructure Charles Mountain said walking not only provided health benefits but could also reduce the number of vehicles on the road if people substituted a car trip with a stroll on short journeys, such as a visit to the shops or to see family or friends.

“Our survey shows there is a definite desire among members to take advantage of the benefits of walking so we have partnered with the Heart Foundation to explore how we can help fulfill this,’’ he said.

The survey revealed:

  • 77 per cent of respondents wanted to walk more often
  • 77 per cent said fitness/better health was a benefit of walking
  • 59 per cent said it was environmentally friendly
  • 59 per cent said they already walk as often as possible
  • 57 per cent said it saved them money

Despite the overwhelming appetite for ambling, the survey also found there were several impediments to respondents realising their desire to walk more often.

Inclement weather was one reason cited (by 45% of respondents), followed by the distance to their destination (42%), but issues around footpaths were also raised as a barrier to walking more often.

These included obstacles or trip hazards on paths (23%), a lack of roadside paths (22%) and lack of footpath amenities such as street lighting. Those looking for a stroll through nature also raised the issue of a lack of off-road paths and trails.

Mr Mountain said these issues could be addressed by a collaboration of federal, state and local government.

“This would include ensuring all new residential developments include footpaths, maintaining existing ones to a safe standard and, where feasible, retrofit footpaths in suburbs where they are not provided,’’ he said.

“More off-road cycling and walking trials could be created, especially where there is a link to popular recreation and tourist areas.’’

Heart Foundation CEO SA Imelda Lynch said that being active is one of the most important ways South Australians of all ages can reduce their risk of heart disease and improve their health and wellbeing. 

“Walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes as well as helping maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight,’’ Ms Lynch said.

“However, nearly 70 per cent of South Australians are not active enough for good health.

“We would like to see governments invest in walking, cycling and public transport infrastructure to increase walking and active transport.

“A well-connected network of footpaths, or shared paths will allow people to move through their community safely and with ease, and encourage more trips for commuting, recreation and leisure”.