Objects on Foot Are Closer Than They Appear

Ginny Figlar Colón by Ginny Figlar Colón | July 13th, 2012 | No Comments
topic: Family Health, Fitness, Green Living, Green Tech, Health & Wellness, Personal Growth, Weight Loss

Happy family walking togetherIt usually takes me seven minutes to get to my daughter’s preschool. Today, it took 27.

That’s because, for the first time in 18 months, I strapped my 11-month-old son into the double stroller and walked there.

I like to walk. Our family of four has one car, and in the two years that we’ve owned it, we’ve only put 14,000 miles on the odometer.

I’m not alone. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, nearly 80 percent of respondents look for homes in pedestrian-friendly areas and 59 percent would choose a smaller home if it meant less driving.

Still, I find that once I’ve gotten into the habit of driving someplace — my daughter’s preschool, the Trader Joe’s on the other side of the highway, the garden store — I tend to keep on driving there, deeming it too far to reach on foot. The funny thing is, once I decide to test walking to a destination once, I realize not only how doable it is but also how satisfying running that errand becomes.

So now I’m on a quest of sorts: to debunk the myth that certain places in my everyday life are too far to reach on foot.

Miles are deceiving

There’s something about zooming down blocks that seems to distance us from the reality of the experience. And, perhaps traffic and being stopped at lights distorts the distance further by making it seem to take longer than it truly would.

I notice the distortion of walking distance perception most when traveling. Have you ever pulled out a city map thinking it would take at least 30 minutes to reach the attraction on foot only to find that the blocks go by faster than you thought and you get there in half the time? It happens to me all the time.

Measuring walkability

Walk Score, a website that measures the walkability of homes and neighborhoods across the U.S., considers anything 1 mile or less walkable. My home gets a “very walkable” walk score of 77, with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both a 10- to 15-minute walk away and eight restaurants within half a mile. (Find out your home’s walk score!)

If you’ve been in the market for a new home recently, you’ve probably seen walk scores listed as a selling point. Walk scores are increasingly being used as a marketing tool in urban real estate listings, a sign that buyers are looking for walkability.

Other recent technology has also proven to be a walker’s friend, such as Google Maps, which helps estimate distances and map routes on foot. That’s what I used to ultimately figure out that walking the 1.3 miles to my daughter’s school was doable.

In fact, it wasn’t just doable — it was delightful. I discovered that one of my neighbors has created a community book library, using a weatherproof cedar box for storing and sharing the books. While another has put little endearing plastic horses around their yard.

Exercise and a few more reasons to smile — that’s what I call a nice commute!

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