A new poll by AARP finds that many Americans ages 50 and older are driving less as a result of high gas prices. But getting around isn’t always easy – inadequate sidewalks and bike lanes, as well as insufficient public transportation options are obstacles to older Americans saving money by leaving their car at home.

  • Almost one of every three people 50 and over (29 percent) say they are now walking as a way to avoid high gas prices.
  • But as those people set out to walk, almost 40 percent of the 50+ population say they do not have adequate sidewalks in their neighborhoods.
  • Additionally, 44 percent say they do not have nearby public transportation that is accessible.
  • Almost half (47 percent) of poll responders say they cannot cross the main roads safely (this is crucial: 4 in 10 pedestrian fatalities are over the age of 50.)

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  • The good news: Many states, cities and towns are looking for ways to solve this problem by adopting “complete streets” policies. According to AARP, the Columbus, Ohio city council just passed a complete streets resolution on July 29th and both Decatur, Georgia and Seattle, Washington adopted complete streets policies this spring.

    “Some cities like Sacramento, California and Kirkland, Washington are ahead of the curve,” said Elinor Ginzler, AARP’s Senior Vice President for Livable Communities. “They have extra-wide sidewalks, flowered medians and flashing lights embedded in crosswalks at busy intersections. Bike lanes and bus stops line even some of the town’s busiest streets. These amenities allow residents to be safer pedestrians and commuters and even help the flow of vehicle traffic.”

    Walkable cities aren’t just good for the over 50 crowd. Anybody trying to save money and stay healthy has a stake in neighborhoods that can be navigated safely and conveniently without a car.

    The telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,006 Americans age 50 and older was conducted for AARP between July 9 and July 15, 2008 by International Communications Research, Inc. The sampling error is +/- 3.09 percent.