Background Pedometers have become common place in physical activity promotion, yet little information exists on who is using them. The multi-strategy, community-based 10,000 Steps Rockhampton physical activity intervention trial provided an opportunity to examine correlates of pedometer use at the population level. Methods Pedometer use was promoted across all intervention strategies including: local media, pedometer loan schemes through general practice, other health professionals and libraries, direct mail posted to dog owners, walking trail signage, and workplace competitions. Data on pedometer use were collected during the 2-year follow-up telephone interviews from random population samples in Rockhampton, Australia, and a matched comparison community (Mackay). Logistic regression analyses were used to determine the independent influence of interpersonal characteristics and program exposure variables on pedometer use. Results Data from 2478 participants indicated that 18.1% of Rockhampton and 5.6% of Mackay participants used a pedometer in the previous 18-months. Rockhampton pedometer users (n = 222) were more likely to be female (OR = 1.59, 95% CI: 1.11, 2.23), aged 45 or older (OR = 1.69, 95% CI: 1.16, 2.46) and to have higher levels of education (university degree OR = 4.23, 95% CI: 1.86, 9.6). Respondents with a BMI > 30 were more likely to report using a pedometer (OR = 1.68, 95% CI: 1.11, 2.54) than those in the healthy weight range. Compared with those in full-time paid work, respondents in 'home duties' were significantly less likely to report pedometer use (OR = 0.18, 95% CI: 0.06, 0.53). Exposure to individual program components, in particular seeing 10,000 Steps street signage and walking trails or visiting the website, was also significantly associated with greater pedometer use. Conclusion Pedometer use varies between population subgroups, and alternate strategies need to be investigated to engage men, people with lower levels of education and those in full-time 'home duties', when using pedometers in community-based physical activity promotion initiatives.