SCAM ALERTS: Report a phishing scam or learn about the latest phishing emails

TRAFFIC UPDATES: Several roads have been impacted by recent weather events. We’ll provide updates on our Journey Planner website as information becomes available. View our traffic map for road closures and delays(external link)

SCAM ALERTS: Report a phishing scam or learn about the latest phishing emails

CONTACT CENTRE WAIT TIMES: Our Contact Centre is currently experiencing significant wait times. View frequently asked questions

ONLINE TRANSACTIONS: We are experiencing issues with credit and debit card transactions on our website. We are working with the payment provider to resolve this as soon as we can. 

CONTACT CENTRE WAIT TIMES: Our Contact Centre is currently experiencing significant wait times. View frequently asked questions

REGO AND RUC LABEL ERROR: There was a postage error with labels purchased on the 15 August 2022. Find out more

ROAD USER CHARGES (RUC) DISCOUNT: Find out more about the temporary RUC reduction scheme

ONLINE SERVICES: We are currently experiencing issues with all our online services at the moment. We are working to resolve the services as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

COVID-19 SERVICES UPDATE: Information on Waka Kotahi services, extensions and more

ONLINE SERVICES: We currently have an issue with receiving some payments and are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience.

EASTER WEEKEND – PLAN AHEAD: Heading away for the long weekend? Check our holiday journeys tool(external link)

SCAM ALERTS: Refund email and Vehicle licence (rego) renewal phishing emails

CONTACT CENTRE PHONE LINES: Our Contact Centre phone lines are currently unavailable. View frequently asked questions

Back to Resources

New Zealand pedestrian profile

This profile aims to make visible the extent and importance of pedestrian activity and injury in New Zealand. Its focus is on walking as a transport mode, and it aims to provide an accessible overview to those who plan our communities and manage our roads.

5. Overview of pedestrian activity in New Zealand


5.1   Extent of our pedestrian activity

Nearly one in five travel trips are undertaken on foot

Walking makes up a significant proportion of the travel of New Zealanders. According to the New Zealand Travel Survey (1997/98), of the more than six billion trips estimated as being undertaken by New Zealand households annually, 1.1 billion (18.7%) are undertaken on foot.

Overall, walking is the most commonly used form of transport after private motor vehicle use. Walking accounts for seven times as many trips as does public transport, 10 times as many trips as cycling.

As a result of their walking activity, New Zealanders spend 215 million hours in the road environment annually as pedestrians, and make 2.4 billion road crossings on foot.

Walking accounts for one in three of our trips to education; one in five of our shopping and personal business trips; one in 5.5 of our trips to work.

Walking is more prevalent in regions with larger urban populations

People in some regions of New Zealand walk more than in others. Walking is most prevalent in Wellington and Taranaki, where more than one quarter of trips are made on foot. Generally it is also more common in regions with major urban populations, including Canterbury, Auckland and Otago. As would be expected, in regions with significant rural populations, walking accounts for a slightly smaller percentage of household travel. For example in Southland, it accounts for only one in eight trips.

Figure 2: Percentage of household travel trips by mode

Figure 2


5.2   Nature of our pedestrian activity

Walking done on its own and in association with other transport modes

In the New Zealand Travel Survey, two kinds of pedestrian trips can be identified.

The majority of our walking trips (70%) involve walking as the sole mode of transport used to fulfil a single purpose — for example, a child walking from home to school solely on foot. Usually this type of walking journey is undertaken in or around local communities.

Other pedestrian trips are part of ‘multi-mode’ journeys.This type of journey combines trips by two or more modes to fulfill a single purpose — for example, a worker walking to a bus stop, travelling between suburbs by bus, then getting off and walking at the other end to their place of work. Walking trips undertaken as part of ‘multi-mode’ journeys account for 30% of our walking trips nationally.

The involvement of walking in ‘multi-mode’ journeys appears to be particularly important in some parts of urban New Zealand (see When we step out of our cars we are all pedestrians).

Short trips are most common, but 30% are likely to be over a kilometre in length

Walking is most commonly used for short trips in the road environment.

While the New Zealand Travel Survey does not currently record distances for walking trips (only times), based on a walking speed of 12 minutes per kilometre, it appears that 70% of our walking trips are for distances of under one kilometre, while 30% are likely to involve longer distances.

Journeys undertaken solely on foot tend to be longer in duration, with 34% lasting for more than 12 minutes (or a distance of approximately one kilometre or longer), compared to only 15% of walking trips undertaken as part of ‘multi-mode’ journeys.

It is worth noting that short durations and distances are also common within our motorised transport trips. For example, 52% of all trips undertaken by drivers of private motor vehicles last less than 10 minutes, 30% are for distances under two kilometres, and 13% are for distances under one kilometre.

Note: A figure of 12 minutes per kilometre is given by the Australian Road Research Board as an average walking speed for an unimpeded pedestrian. More time may be required in ‘stop-start’ urban walking environments or for children and older adults who are likely to have slower walking speeds. On the other hand, runners and commuting walkers may take less time to cover a similar distance on quieter suburban streets.

Figure 3: Percentage of walking trips by duration

Figure 3


5.3   Who walks?

We walk throughout our lives – but especially when young, and as seniors.

While, overall, walking accounts for 18.7% of our travel trips, for some age groups, it is particularly significant as a transport mode.

Children and young people

Forty three percent of our walking trips are undertaken by ‘under 25s’ (38% of the population). Nationally walking accounts for 25% of all travel trips for those aged 5-24 years, and slightly more (28%) of trips for 10-14 year olds. ‘Walk only’ trips feature highly amongst children, accounting for 80% of their walking activity, while over a third of the walking trips of young people are as part of ‘multi-mode’ journeys (e.g. in association with public transport).

Adults

Just under half of walking trips are undertaken by people aged 25-64. However, for this age group walking trips decline in relation to other modes, ebbing to 13.5% of all travel trips for those in their 40's. Around a third of the walking trips of adults involve walking as part of a ‘multi-mode’ journey.

Older adults

With retirement, pedestrian activity rises again in importance. Those aged 65 or older undertake 10% of our walking trips.Walking accounts for 22% of all travel trips for this age group, and 27% of trips for those aged 80 years plus. Eighty percent of the walking trips of older adults are ‘walk only’ trips in which walking is the sole mode of transport used to fulfil a purpose.

Females make the most walking trips, except as children

As children, males make slightly more walking trips than females, however from 15 years of age, this situation reverses. In all, females undertake 55% of all walking trips.This is most pronounced between the ages of 20-55, when women undertake 58% of walking trips, compared to 42% for males.

Overall, walking is more important in the transport mix for women, accounting for a higher percentage of their household travel trips (20%) in comparison to males (17%).

Time spent walking varies with ethnicity and economic status

Pacific peoples, then Maori spend the most time in the road environment as pedestrians, with Europeans spending the least time. Among people aged 18 years or older, those at the higher and lower ends of the economic spectrum (with incomes over $50,000 or under $20,000) spend the most time walking.


5.4   Why we walk

We walk for a wide variety of purposes, but social/leisure and shopping trips are most common.

The following table compares the purpose breakdown of walking trips, with that of household travel trips by all modes combined.*

Trip purpose Walking trips Trips by all transport modes combined
Social or leisure purpose 36% 30%
Shopping/personal business 29% 28%
Work journey and employer business 18% 22%
Education related 11% 6%
To transport or accompany others 6% 15%

In comparison with trips by all modes combined, walking trips are more likely to occur for education, social/leisure or shopping purposes, and less likely to occur for work purposes or to transport or accompany others to destinations for their own purposes (e.g. walking a child to school).

‘Walk only’ trips are most commonly undertaken for social/leisure purposes (39% of such trips) or for shopping/personal business (30%).Walking as part of a ‘multi-mode journey’ is most commonly undertaken for shopping/personal business (29% of such trips), work (25%), or social/leisure purposes (25%).

Nearly two thirds of walking trips undertaken for education purposes are ‘walk only’ trips.

* Thirty one percent of all household travel trips involve trips home from one or more of the above activities. These are classified separately in the NZTS, with their purpose listed as ‘home’. These were excluded when calculating the percentages shown above.

Figure 4: Percentage of walking trips by purpose

Figure 4

5.5   Trends in pedestrian activity

As a nation we are undertaking 400,000 fewer ‘walk only’ trips daily.

Walking as a transport mode is certainly ‘alive’ — but is it ‘well’?

As the above figures show, walking as a transport mode in New Zealand is very much alive. However, while the number of annual transport trips undertaken on foot rose slightly between 1989/90 and 1997/98, this rise did not keep pace with population growth.

Walking also lost ground in terms of the percentage share it makes up of our household travel, dropping from 21% of household travel trips in 89/90, to under 19% in 97/98.

Fewer trips made solely on foot; children and young people walking less

The decline in our walking activity is most apparent in two areas - our children and young people are walking less, and we are making fewer trips solely on foot. Between 1989/90 and 1997/98:

  • The number of walking trips undertaken by those aged between five and 20 years of age declined by 10%.
  • Being driven by car took over from walking as the most common mode of transport for the school journey. Among journeys to school for 5-17 year olds, walking used as the sole mode of transport declined in its mode share from 36% to 26%, while journeys involving a child being driven rose from 27% to 43%.
  • The percentage of our travel journeys in which walking was the sole mode of transport used dropped 3% (from 17% in 1989/90). Taking into account population growth, this equates to approximately 400,000 fewer ‘walk only’ trips being taken each day in New Zealand than was the case in 1989/90.