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Walking IS Transportation

Walking - Crossing Street - New York City - Penn Station - Photo by Nadia Chaudhury

When someone refers to modes of transportation, what comes to mind may be a subway, bus or private car, rather than the oldest, most sustainable mode of all. Walking.

We all know New Yorkers walk a lot; a question on the MAS Livability Survey conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion suggests the importance of walking as daily transportation.

The pollster asked the amount of time the respondent spent walking on his or her way to work or school; (see page 41 of the Marist Poll). As you would expect, not everyone in New York travels to work or school and many of those who do walk don’t walk far. But 48% of those polled reported walking at least 15 minutes on their way to work or school. Of those, 13% walked more than 30 minutes and 10% more than one hour.

How many miles does that represent? We don’t know how slow or fast these New Yorkers walk, but the average adult walking speed is generally described as three miles an hour. Even if we calculate based on the least amount of time reported (say, 15 minutes if the range was 15-30 minutes), the mileage is impressive.

  • If they walk at the rate of three miles an hour, the 25% of New Yorkers who walk at least 15 minutes would be walking over 1.5 million miles every school or work day.
  • Those who walk at least 30 minutes would cover over 1.6 million miles and
  • Those walking at least an hour would walk more than 2.4 million miles.

The total would be over 5.5 million miles walked on the way to work or school on just one day. That’s the equivalent of 220 times around earth at the equator!

These miles require no carbon emissions, no special equipment and compared to the miles racked up during The New York City Marathon—very little sweat.

To learn more about walking as transportation as well as for health and pleasure join us and Public Radio International (PRI) host and award-winning journalist John Hockenberry on Wednesday, November 10, for the 2010 MAS Jane Jacobs Forum, The Walkable (& Rollable) City.

How did we arrive at these calculations?

Survey question:

Overall, how many minutes, if at all, in a typical day do you spend walking to work or school? Please include walking even to use or get to another means of transportation.


NYC adult population: 8,214,426 (1)

Average adult walking speed: 3 miles per hour. (10 minutes per .5 mi., 15 minutes per .75 mi.).

25% of those polled reported they walk 15 to 30 minutes

.25 (8,214,426 adults in NYC)= 2,053,607 New Yorkers walking at least 15 minutes to work/school each day.

.75 mi (2,053,607˜those walking 15 minutes) = at least 1,540,205 miles walked on way to school or work.

13% of those polled reported they walk 30 minutes to just under 1 hour

.13 (8,214,426 adults in NYC)= 1,067,875 New Yorkers walking at least 30 minutes to work/school each day.

1.5 mi. (1,067,875–those walking at least 30 minutes) = at least 1,601,813 miles walked on way to school or work.

10% of those polled reported they walk 1 hour or more

.10 (8,214,426 adults in NYC)= 821,443 New Yorkers walking at least 1 hour to work/school each day

3 mi. (4, 644, 801–those walking 1 hour or longer) = at least 2,464,328 miles walked on way to school or work.

1,540,205 + 1,601,813 + 2,464,328= 5,606,346 miles

Rounded down to 5.5 M miles on the way to work or school on a typical day.

According to the 2006 American Community Survey