Active Transportation Information

This page last reviewed on January 7, 2014

Bicycling and walking, together called active transportation, play a significant role in supporting public health efforts and meeting climate change goals in California.  Thanks in part to recent improvements in bicycling and pedestrian planning, Californians are increasingly likely to get out of their cars and opt to walk or bicycle instead.  This change helps promote higher quality of life, improved opportunities for exercise, lower transportation costs, and progress towards meeting air quality and climate change goals for California.

Why Active Transportation?

Walk to School Day participants


A growing share of Californians struggle with various chronic health issues, such as obesity, that could be prevented with greater physical activity.  At the same time, many Californians live in communities where driving feels more convenient and safer than walking or bicycling.  Also, costs of automobile ownership continue to rise.  In response, local and regional-level plans that increase walking and/or bicycling are helping California to reduce harmful vehicle tailpipe emissions, address chronic health issues, and lower transportation costs.  


Quality of Life

In addition to health benefits, Californians choose to walk and bicycle for quality-of-life reasons.  In recent years, events to showcase the quality-of-life benefits of active transportation have grown across the state.  Multiple “car-free” events, such as CicLAvia in Los Angeles and Sunday Streets in San Francisco, provide residents a chance to experience walking and bicycling in a low-stress, car-free environment.  In addition, there has been significant growth in participation in Walk to School Day, and educators and parents report that their students arrive at school energized and ready to learn after walking or bicycling to school.


Climate Change

Many of California’s local and regional governments have improved their active transportation planning efforts due in part to SB 375 and its requirement to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions from cars.  Many of the state’s Metropolitan Planning Organizations expressly outline in their Sustainable Communities Strategies, which required by SB 375, a marked increase in walking and bicycling.  ARB strongly encourages efforts to promote active transportation as a climate change mitigation strategy.

Statewide Facts

The latest Caltrans travel survey shows substantial growth in statewide active transportation trips. Walking trips grew to 16.2% while bicycling grew to 1.5% of all trips in California.  A U.S. Census data analysis by the League of American Bicyclists showed substantial growth between 2000 to 2012 in bicycle commuting amongst a number of California cities.   San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento were three of the top 20 cities nationwide for bicycle commuting in 2012.

Improving Active Transportation Opportunities

Local and Regional Planning

Local governments are working with health groups, environmental justice advocates, transportation organizations, and others to make active transportation in California safer and more convenient.  Over 80 local jurisdictions have adopted pedestrian, bicycle, or combined pedestrian/bicycle master plans.  In Southern California alone, local and regional planning agencies have proposed nearly 6,000 miles of new bikeways in their regional transportation plan by 2035. The Bay Area Bike Share program, launched in summer 2013, plans to expand to 100 stations with 1,000 bicycles throughout the region.  Plans in the Sacramento area outline a vision for investing $2.8 billion in bicycle and pedestrian projects by 2035.  The San Diego region aims to double the share of bicycle trips by 2050.


Statewide Efforts

Many state agencies (such as the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research, Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Motor Vehicle, the California Department of Public Health, the Strategic Growth Council, and the California Office of Traffic Safety) support active transportation safety, planning, and implementation efforts.  California continues to pass legislation and build programs that boost use of active transportation.  Examples include the Complete Streets Act, the Active Transportation Program, the Three Feet for Safety Act, the Sustainable Communities Planning Grants, and the Caltrans Complete Streets Deputy Directive.  Please see the California Active Transportation Safety Information Pages for a more comprehensive listing of state active transportation resources. 



Developing a transportation system where bicycling and walking is comfortable, safe, and convenient will require the cooperation of a number of government agencies and many stakeholders.  The changes in state law requiring an integrated approach to land use and transportation planning have already begun to catalyze pedestrian and bicycle upgrades. Through greater collaboration, active transportation will continue to be incorporated into all levels of transportation planning. State, regional, and local agencies will need to continue to work together with stakeholders so that Californians see the most benefits from active transportation as possible. 

For more information or to submit a comment, please contact
Sarah Dominguez at (626) 450-6243.

Active Transportation in California
Transportation Strategies and Air Quality