It could change your life! Survey results

Ten Questions for Walking Commuters

Executive Summary

Having walked to work for many years, I thought it would make a great topic for a blog. I created the survey “Ten Questions for Walking Commuters” because I was curious to know more about others who walk to work in Toronto. My questions related to how and why people started, their challenges and what they liked best and least about walking to work.

The survey was aimed specifically at walking commuters in Toronto, Canada. It was created using SurveyMonkey and was open February 28 to March 31, 2017. A copy of the survey is available here. Potential respondents were approached directly and through social media network sharing on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. A total of 20 responded.

As it turns out, my own personal experience as a walking commuter is not radically different from that of the survey respondents. However, I was surprised by the popularity of FitBits and the reasons why people like to use them. I was also very touched to read the nuggets of wisdom shared on the final survey question; advice for non-walkers ranges from tough-love to practical tips to inspirational slogans.

Each question is shown below, with responses and respondent comments. My own comments are shown in blue.

Survey responses

Q1 How frequently do you walk to work?

Chart showing how often respondents walked to work

RESPONDENT COMMENTS on Q1 How frequently do you walk to work?

  • I drive from Vaughan, take the TTC and walk from my subway stop to my office. I try to get off a few stops before my “designated” stop so I can get more steps.
  • When the weather is good: more often. When it’s bright out in the mornings & evenings: more often. When it’s raining: rarely. When the snow has piled up: never!
  • I do not walk as much (at all?) in winter months.
  • Actually I walk home from work.

A full 50% of respondents walk all or part of their commute the majority of the time. This indicates that it may be true that we are creatures of habit!


Q2 How far do you walk to work? (one way)

Distance walked to work, one way, pie chart

RESPONDENT COMMENTS on Q2 How far do you walk to work? (one way)

  • Not really sure.

None of the respondents walked more than 5 km. The huge majority, 70% walked less than 3 km, a distance that would take between 20 and 40 minutes to walk depending on speed.


Q3 How long ago did you start walking to work?

Responses to Q3 How long ago did you start walking to work? pie chart

A walking commute seems to have a timeless appeal. Recent and longtime walkers were equally represented among respondents.


Q4 Why did you start walking to work? Choose all that apply

Answer Choices Responses
Health (physical, mental) 85%

(17)

Reliability 40%

(8)

Faster 25%

(5)

Affordability 35%

(7)

Good for the environment 25%

(5)

Enjoyment 60%

(12)

RESPONDENT COMMENTS on Q4 Why did you start walking to work?

  • New job close to home.
  • It started for exercise. Then became faster than a Queen Street streetcar! And now it’s also for enjoyment.

I was not surprised to see that health was the most popular reason to start walking to work: exercise improves physical and mental health, and it’s easy to increase exercise with walking part or all of a commute. Enjoyment of walking came in second, and this makes sense given the feeling of well-being that walking generates. My personal top reason, reliability, was only the third choice. It’s worth noting here that all the listed reasons, including affordability and environment were important to at least 25% of the respondents. The most surprising result to me was that 25% found a walking commute to be faster!


Q5 Do you sometimes commute in other ways? Choose all that apply.

Responses to Do you sometimes commute in other ways? bar chart

RESPONDENT COMMENTS on Q5 Do you sometimes commute in other ways?

  • Sometimes I take a car because I have a large item to transport. Sometimes take the subway if I am late.

When choosing another way to commute, walkers take public transit the huge majority of the time. Next most popular was a car or taxi. Cycling was least popular. Roller skating and skateboarding were not chosen by any respondents.


Q6 When you don’t walk to work, what is the most common reason? Rank the reasons below from 1 (most common) to 6 (least common).

Reason 1 2 3 4 5 6 Total Score
Weather 50%

(10)

20%

(4)

15%

(3)

5%

(1)

0%

(0)

10%

(2)

20 4.85
Feeling tired 0%

(0)

10%

(2)

20%

(4)

35%

(7)

30%

(6)

5%

(1)

20 3.00
In a hurry (late) 30%

(6)

40%

(8)

20%

(4)

10%

(2)

0%

(0)

0%

(0)

20 4.90
Items to carry 10%

(2)

30%

(6)

30%

(6)

20%

(4)

10%

(2)

0%

(0)

20 4.10
Many errands to run 5%

(1)

0%

(0)

5%

(1)

25%

(5)

50%

(10)

15%

(3)

20 2.40
Needing a vehicle after work 5%

(1)

0%

(0)

10%

(2)

5%

(1)

10%

(2)

70%

(14)

20 1.75

I was most interested to see the answers to this question which reveal the top difficulties of a walking commute. Weather was the #1 reason for choosing not to walk for half the respondents. However, being in a hurry outranked weather overall. Items to carry was the third ranked reason for not walking. Needing a vehicle after work was ranked lowest.


Q7 Do you use a FitBit or similar app to track your walking?

Q7 Do you use a FitBit or similar app to track your walking?

RESPONDENT COMMENTS on Q7 Do you use a FitBit or similar app to track your walking?

  • Very useful. I’ve set a daily mileage goal and the Fitbit keeps track of it for me.
  • I actually used to but have fallen out of the habit of using it.
  • I have a basic goal of 10K steps but I want to make sure I get that, and more, so that is why I often get off at subway stops earlier than my designated one.
  • I used to… but now that I know what the distance is & how many steps it takes me to get there & back… I stopped!
  • Allows me to eat a chocolate bar every day

Activity trackers are very popular and there are many to choose from. Survey respondents were split 60-40 on their use.  Users made interesting comments. Goal-setting and tracking helps people stick to their plans. So for some, if they are short of their goal that day, they will walk more to make up the distance. The trackers also help some to adjust their calorie intake vis-à-vis their calories burned. “Allows me to eat a chocolate bar every day” was a reason given by a FitBit wearer.

According to Business Wire, “FitBit … is the leader in the connected health and fitness market.” Even though I personally don’t use one, I found these Amazing FitBit Statistics by DMR Stats Gadgets (Feb. 2017) quite interesting.


Q8 What do you like BEST about walking to work?

An interesting variety of answers were given and all are shown below. Recurring themes are clearing the mind (9), getting some exercise (7), and getting outside (6). Affordability was mentioned three times, and reliability twice.

  • Fresh air, sky, wind, the world in general.
  • In control of how fast I get there, e.g. no TTC delays. Clears mind.
  • Feel energetic.
  • Pleasure and affordability.
  • Exercise.
  • I like to see new neighborhoods; I like to feel like I’m a part of the city; I like to feel like I’m doing something good for my body by walking, because I sit at a desk all day. I like the fresh air and being out and about.
  • Easy.
  • The tranquillity of time to myself, walking thru interesting neighbourhoods.
  • The fresh morning air.
  • The mental time and clarity.
  • Saves money, burns calories, clears my head!
  • Time to think and unwind.
  • Quietness.
  • When I walked it was usually on the way home, rather than to work. Good way to decompress and get some exercise at the same time.
  • It boosts my energy for the day.
  • Feeling active, saving money (and stress) by not taking TTC, passing time between when my GO train gets in and when I start work.
  • People are not in your face.
  • Getting outside.
  • Air.

Q9 What do you like LEAST about walking to work?

Not surprisingly, weather conditions, particularly rain or snow, make walking conditions less pleasant and were cited by fully half of respondents. Second most-mentioned were traffic, both vehicle and pedestrian. Other least-liked aspects of walking were the extra time it takes,  being tired or finding the walk difficult, safety concerns and air quality.

  • Cars.
  • Weather if it is too cold or too hot or raining.
  • Tired legs.
  • Smokers, and traffic.
  • Adds extra time, and rude drivers especially taxis.
  • When I come into work early in the morning, or stay later, I don’t like walking when it is dark outside because I do not feel safe. That is stressful.
  • Weather.
  • Slippery or icy sidewalks in the winter.
  • The uphill part of the walk home.
  • Bad weather.
  • Sometimes my route can get sketchy (uninvited company…. syringes/condoms on the ground… puddles of vomit, etc.).
  • Bad weather.
  • Weather.
  • Time consuming, not fun in bad weather.
  • Crowded sidewalks.
  • Weather.
  • Rain! Snow is fine, but hate rain.
  • The cold and Rain.
  • Crowded sidewalks.

Q10 What advice would you like to share with someone who was thinking about walking to work but hadn’t tried it?

This part of the survey is my favourite! Respondents are clearly enthusiastic about walking to work, and share their advice.

  • Do it. Get off  your a**.
  • It’s worth it. Great for your health. Great for your mind. Great for your pocket.
  • Walk walk walk it’s good for mental and physical health. Also a chance to connect with your surroundings!
  • Give it a shot, it could change your life!
  • Get in the habit but keep your head up for erratic drivers.
  • It gives you time to yourself to either psych up for the day, or wind down at the end of the day. It’s relaxing and will get you in a good mood!
  • Just do it! (In comfy shoes)
  • There are so many benefits to it. Health, it’s good for the environment and your mind.
  • It’s the most reliable way to commute. You are in control of your time.
  • Saves money & burns calories! But when in doubt, pick a convenient time to try it first: such as…. on your way home (so you can get a sense of the distance, time & effort required!).
  • Wear comfy shoes and find a quiet route.
  • In the beginning, I would take TTC but get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way. I would continue to reduce the number of subway stops until I walked the full distance to work.
  • I use some wax on my ankles and it works well for preventing blisters.
  • Try it! Get some music or a podcast or something to entertain yourself and pick a nice day and go.
  • Just do it you will fall in love with it.
  • It’s a great stress reliever and good for you! Feels great to get out and move especially if you have a desk job.
  • Invest in good shoes.

Conclusion

The story of walking commuters starts with “Why walk?” This survey shows that though 85% walk for health reasons, health is far from the only reason people continue to walk on a regular basis. The enjoyment of walking was chosen by 60% of respondents.

Enjoyment of walking may be influenced by many factors, the most important of which is weather conditions. The survey results show that unfavourable weather was the least-liked aspect of walking, and the second-most popular reason for choosing another form of commute.

How far do they walk? The most common distance is under 3 km, a 20 to 40 minute walk. None of the respondents walked more than 5 km, indicating that all commutes were under an hour.

Do they track their walking? Forty percent do it because they have set a goal and want to monitor their progress. Some tracked their walking only to find that once a routine was established, tracking became irrelevant. Sixty percent don’t track their walking.

Are walking commuters cheapskates? If they are, this survey did not uncover that fact! Thirty-five percent indicated that affordability was one of the multiple reasons they started walking, but it was mentioned by only 1.5% of respondents as one of the things they liked best about walking.

When not walking, most take the TTC or drive. I was surprised at the lack of crossover with cycling to work, but believe it to be connected to the top reason for not walking: weather.

The story of walking commuters is told by the walkers themselves through this survey. Collecting data and crunching numbers produced some interesting insights. But the comments were, for me, by far the most engaging way to listen to the story.

I would like to thank all survey respondents for their contributions.

And to close, here’s my favourite quote from the survey.

“Give it a shot, it could change your life!”

Tweet: It could change your life! Survey results from #thewalkingcommuter https://ctt.ec/UOcFJ+ #digitaledu

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2 thoughts on “It could change your life! Survey results

  1. I don’t walk to work even though it would not take me very long to get there. However, my city is not very friendly for anyone that decides to walk and it’s a shame. I have only done it if I have been forced to because I did not have my car due to issues with it. Anytime that I am in Toronto my car is parked the entire time I am there and use the TTC and walk. There is so much to see and it makes things more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comment. It seems like walkability will be higher on the agenda politically as the policymakers realize that “complete streets” have so many benefits for the community. I think there is a tourism value as well – as your comments demonstrate! It’s a nice way to explore when you visit.

      Like

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