Chart of the Day: Perceived Walking Distance by Land Use Type

Here’s a chart from a 2007 University of Minnesota study all about how people perceive walking distance in various ways, depending on where they live and how they get around.



I’ve long been fascinated by this topic, and the results of the study show that it’s a very complex issue. Some walks can feel very long, while others can feel very short. Everything depends on your individual perception. And, really, from this study, it’s difficult to come up with any conclusions. Here are some of the results…

This analysis shows that individuals’ perception of distance and travel time is fraught with error; only about one-third of respondents correctly estimated the amount of time it would take to walk from their home to the nearest retail destinations.


According to all of the logistic regressions run for this study, placing businesses within a five minute walk of as many homes as possible is the most reliable means of increasing awareness about the destination. Of course, due to consumer choice, this approach will not necessarily reduce the amount that residents travel because they may choose to travel farther to a different store despite the fact that they are aware of the nearer opportunity and the travel time there, however that is an issue beyond the scope of this paper. The important finding is that holding distance to a destination constant, this analysis found that specific elements of urban form such as trails, parks, and intersections do not have a consistent impact on perceived accessibility.

Not all half-mile walks are made equal. [See also: Perceived comfort of varying bicycle facilities.]

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.