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Originally published June 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified June 25, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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DOT survey reveals some surprises

One-third of Washington residents say they traveled exclusively by car to get from one place to the other last year, never walking, biking...

Seattle Times staff reporter

One-third of Washington residents say they traveled exclusively by car to get from one place to the other last year, never walking, biking or using public transportation.

Of those who did walk, 92 percent said they walked at least 10 minutes during a usual week, while only 37 percent said they regularly bicycle.

These were among the findings of a report recently issued by Wilbur Smith Associates of Bellevue for the Washington State Department of Transportation.

It's part of the DOT's effort to update its bicycle and pedestrian plan, a plan that hasn't been changed since 1995.

The polling company surveyed 400 residents by telephone from April 5 through April 26 to determine public attitudes about bicycle and pedestrian planning.

Paula Reeves, who is working on the plan for the DOT, said two findings in the survey surprised her. When asked why people didn't bike more, many said either they never learned to ride a bike or didn't know how to bike in traffic.

"We do put some resources into supporting bike clubs and giving training," Reeves said. "This is something we need to put more resources behind."

Another surprising answer came when Washington residents were asked whether they would support new taxes to support pedestrian- and bicycle-safety programs.

"We expected an overall thumbs down," Reeves said, "But a lot of people said they want to bike and walk more and see funding shifted, and looking at new revenue isn't out of the question. That was a surprise and an interesting thing."

As a reason for supporting new taxes, 27 percent said they need a safer place to walk and 22 percent mentioned the health benefits. Those who opposed new taxes said they pay too many taxes already.

The survey found a wide discrepancy in the popularity of walking compared with bicycling. Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed said they had no bike, but if they did they'd be unlikely to use it for transportation compared with the 59 percent of people who said they walked. The average age of respondents was 51.

Asked whether they would like to bicycle more, most of those who have not bicycled, 69 percent, said they would not.

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Among other findings:

• Most of those surveyed who bicycle said they rode less than once a week and the average length of bike rides was 6.5 miles.

• Among those who walk during an average week, 24 percent walked every day and 49 percent walked more often than once a week but not daily. The average distance walked was 1.9 miles.

• Walkers cited lack of sidewalks and busy roads as reasons walking is difficult. Among those who have not walked at all during the past year, 71 percent named no sidewalks.

• For those who said biking was difficult, 26 percent mentioned roads are too busy and 37 percent said there were no bike lanes or shoulders.

• As for improving conditions for walking and biking, 48 percent said they strongly support redistributing funds to pay for improved conditions, but only 21 percent said they support the cause if new taxes are needed to fund it. In fact, 30 percent said they strongly oppose new taxes for bicycle and pedestrian improvements.

• When asked to rate the influence of five factors on choice of transportation modes, amount of time was cited by half of the respondents. Cost was second, followed by weather, comfort and effect of global warming.

Reeves said all the data will be compiled and the state will identify specific needs for improving walking and pedestrian travel. That should be released next spring, she said.

"We hope this will continue to build the case that biking and walking are real modes of transportation, real ways to get around," she said.

While the state won't dictate city and county priorities, "we will establish priorities and make statements on the statewide needs."

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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