As the weather get’s warmer in the good ol’ Midwest (yes, it’s indeed happening) I’ve decided to time how long it takes me walk various routes. My obvious goal is to encourage others to walk more as a way to lower their carbon footprint, engage with their surroundings and improve their overall health by making choices that keep them active in their day-to-day lives as well as save money on transit fares or gas. I frequently encounter people arguing against walking somewhere, because whatever the destination a walk will take too long. Period.
But why do we think that?
A 15 minute walk is not a bad one, and indeed gets us pretty far. Although it’s true that driving may be quicker, walking has benefits for us that are probably greater than the time we saved by jumping in a car (which ultimately might not be as quick door-to-door if we need to first get to where we parked our car before getting on our way). In my opinion we only perceive that driving is quicker, even if it’s ultimately it isn’t. Or worse yet we are hindered from walking more because of barriers to doing so.
According to a report from the Federal Highway Administration (link; see ‘How People Use the Transportation System’) about 1/3 of people reported they had not made a single trip by foot when asked about their travel habits from the previous week. Many of those questioned reported only walking short distances for exercise or dog walking. Reasons for not walking included that roads were too large to cross safely, lack of paths or sidewalks, or lack of time to walk more frequently. These are all too often true statements. In total, 2/3rd of all trips between 1/2-2 miles were made by car, even though in the City of Chicago it’s estimated that most trips people make in a day are less than 1 mile.
It’s time to embrace the 15 minute walk though! Walking a distance of about a mile to do daily chores or run errands is a good way to walk for some of the reasons stated above while also completing a task (even dog walking: dog friendly chain stores, dog friendly workplaces and locations dogs are allowed**; walking as a form of transportation not just exercise achieves multiple goals (get’s where we’re going in a relatively timely fashion door-to-door, keeps us and our planet healthy, saves money). We’re at a point when choosing to walk or bike any trip that is less than a mile (I’d argue anything less than 2 miles) should be our initially reaction. To create a culture of walking and biking requires realizing that walking is not as time consuming as initially perceived and realizing even if does take a few minutes longer (according to Google Maps I would only save 9 minutes by driving this route, and that’s if my car was waiting right outside for me and I could park right at my end destination)* the benefits are worth the cost on our time.
So here’s the first one:
Location: University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, start point is the Engineering Campus and end point is the beginning of lower State Street, a popular dining and shopping area adjacent to the center of campus, Library and State Street Mall.
According to Google Maps the route I took should have taken approximately 17 minutes to complete. In reality it took me only 13.4 minutes about 3.5-4 minutes less than expected.
*This is based on time actual amount of time it took me to make this trip by foot and not the times Google estimated. I still base time it takes to drive on the estimate made by Google.
** According to this list dogs are not allowed in Home Depot, although the first link says the opposite.