Is it really too far? Overestimating walk time and distance reduces walking

Kelcie M. Ralph, Michael J. Smart, Robert B. Noland, Sicheng Wang, Lisa Cintron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In this paper we use an intercept survey of 1,297 people at seven locations in New Jersey to answer three questions about perceived distances and walk times to nearby destinations. First, we seek to clarify conflicting results from the literature by asking: what factors are associated with perceived distance and walk times? Like other studies, we find that people overestimate both walk times and distances. We find that characteristics of the route matter. People are more likely to overestimate in car-dependent locations, along routes with many turns or barriers, or for destinations that are relatively closer. In terms of personal characteristics, experience walking and familiarity with the area both lead to lower estimates, while concerns about crime, getting lost, or carrying something heavy increase estimates. Next, we explore whether overestimating walk times and distances reduces the likelihood of walking. We find that people who overestimate are less likely to walk, everything else equal. Together, these results suggest that wayfinding campaigns that clarify the travel time to nearby destinations and ease the fear of getting lost are likely to improve perceptions and increase walking. We make an additional contribution by highlighting important differences between our university and town center samples, which raises questions about the reliance on student samples in research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-535
Number of pages14
JournalTransportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour
StatePublished - Oct 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Transportation
  • Applied Psychology


  • Perceptions
  • Travel time
  • Walking
  • Wayfinding


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