When walking peters out: investigating distance-decay and time-decay for daily walking

In Switzerland, walking accounts for 30% of trips and 44% of single-mode episodes. This is higher than in many countries but does not account for walking distances or durations, which tend to be short according to evidence from North America. This contribution investigates distances and times at which walking peters out, comparing Switzerland, Canada and the USA. We used the 2010 Swiss mobility and transport micro-census, a country-wide representative sample of 62'868 residents who underwent a telephone and computer-assisted interview relating to their mobility behaviour on a single day. We extracted single-mode walking episodes, excluding those starting and terminating at home. Results: in Switzerland, among the 66'090 identified single-mode walking episodes, 45% were leisure-related. Mean and median values differed considerably due to negative exponential distributions. Mean values were around 550-930 metres for most types of destination; only leisure-related walks were significantly longer, at 1.8 km (overall average: 1.3 km). Mean walking time was 20 minutes, strongly influenced by leisure-related walking whose duration (33 minutes) was 2-3 times higher than for other motives. Mean walks to work took six-and-a-half minutes, over 581 metres; shopping-related walks averaged 9 minutes for 613 metres. In Halifax, a county-sized municipality in Canada, Millward et al. (2013) found mean values for single-episode walking of 9 minutes for 670 metres. The 25th, 50th (median) and 75th percentiles were 3, 6 and 12 minutes, for respectively 230, 480 and 860 metres. Corresponding values in Switzerland were 5, 10 and 20 minutes, for 300, 600 and 1500 metres, respectively. Investigation of USA-wide travel survey results (Yang and Diez-Roux, 2012) yielded mean and median walking distances (all purposes combined) of respectively 1.13 km and 800 m, with mean and median durations of around 15 and 10 minutes, respectively. However, the USA data included walks originating and finishing at home, which tend to be longer. Conclusions: in all three countries, half of all walking trips are under the 500-800 metre mark and last less than 6-10 minutes. Policy implications: up to now, the global walking-promotion agenda has concentrated on increasing mode shares; this research suggests that emphasis should be put on increasing walking times and distances, especially for non-leisure destinations. Municipalities require the support of other policy levels to answer this challenge.

Presented at:
Active Living Research Conference, Banff, Canada, 11-14 February 2018
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 Record created 2018-02-20, last modified 2019-06-19

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