Walking the line

Apparently New York, Sydney and Vancouver are among the most “walkable” cities in the world. Turning to Route data, we can determine which of our 24 urban conurbations is the most “walkable” in our own way; by establishing who marches the furthest in an average week.

What we did

The first step was to dig deep into the Route travel survey data which is built from the GPS traces of the 26,957 Route participants over the last 5 years. The sample is representative of the GB population aged 15+ in terms of age, gender, social grade, working status and region. We then aggregated all of the 1.9 million individual journeys recorded as part of the Route dataset and categorised these as being either vehicular (as a passenger or driver) or pedestrian (on foot).

How far do people walk?

Route data shows that the average person in Great Britain covers 23.7 miles per week. This distance varies markedly by both location and demographics. Route data confirms a recent finding from Stanford University which demonstrates that males travel further on foot than females (26.4miles vs 21.1miles) and for 15-34s than other age groups too (30miles per week).

Chart 1: Weekly walking distance by demographic groups

How does the average distance walked differ by region?

When looking at how far people from various geographic areas walk, we see that six conurbations travel the equivalent of a marathon (26.2miles) on foot each week. Analysis of the 24 Route conurbations, show that the sea-front locations of Southend-On-Sea and Brighton emerge as the “most walkable” areas according to miles covered. Our sample of residents from Southend-on-Sea manage an average of 43.3 miles whereas those in Brighton trek 39 miles.

While Edinburgh natives Charlie and Craig Reid would happily walk 500 miles, and indeed 500 more just to be the men who fall down on your door, they are unique in that sense, as the average Edinburgher marches 34.7miles per week, placing it third in the list of most walkable cities in GB.

Below is a list of the top 10 conurbations ranked by the distance covered on foot in an average week:

Plotting these distances as radii on a map we can get a better understanding of how far this actually is.

For the fit folk of Southend, their weekly walking distance is the equivalent to them meandering from the town centre to Richmond in West London each week.

Fig 1: Distance which the average person in Southend walks in a week, plotted on a map.

Those in Brighton could make it up and over the South Downs into Farnham or just shy of the Isle Of Wight though they’d get pretty wet doing that.

Fig 2: Distance which the average person in Brighton walks in a week, plotted on a map.

Fig 3: Distance which the average person in Edinburgh walks in a week, plotted on a map

Those in Edinburgh could walking the length of the M8 through to the Eastern suburbs of Glasgow or north to Perth. While it’s not quite in keeping stride with the Proclaimers’ offer to walk to Amsterdam and back, it’s still a fair distance.

Fig 4: Distance that the average Edinburgh resident walks per week compared to the Proclaimers

Despite the relative bounty of public transport options available to them, Londoners also walk further than the average, trekking as they do for 31 miles per week. We also see that those residents from north of the river walk further than their south of the river counterparts (32.6miles vs 31.1miles).

What does this mean for advertisers?

From an advertiser’s perspective, pedestrians help to generate high impacts and frequency of advertising. Targeting outdoor ads in areas of relatively high pedestrian traffic is therefore likely to lead to relatively high audiences. This is because pedestrians tend to be slower moving than those in vehicles and tend to spend more time in contact with ads. Thus, the probability of their seeing the ad is increased.

Pedestrian impacts are of particular importance in generating audiences for digital OOH campaigns. Impacts from pedestrians make up around 54% of a typical one week campaign audience[1] yet they make up 65% of impacts from a typical one week digital campaign.

So, according to the distances walked in an average week, Southend-On-Sea is GB’s most walkable city, closely followed by Brighton and then Edinburgh, making each of them an appealing locale for OOH ads.

[1] Based on average of 10 campaigns, each including 500 randomly selected frames, either posters or screens and running for a week in duration, scheduled in September. For the digital figures, the method was repeated with 200 randomly selected digital screens being run.


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