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Posted by on Mar 23, 2009 in Bicycle Culture, General | 4 comments

The Distance Perception Thing

I have thought for a long time that people who habitually drive in town tend over-estimate distances. A blogger in NYC noticed the same thing.

The blogger is living in The City now, but she grew up in Missouri and she is writing a five part series about cycling in the ‘burbs and what she remembers. Just last month, I posted about the same thing.

It’s all about perception and it has little to do with reality.


  1. So true!

    Especially in town, it takes so long to get from one place to another in a car that it’s easy to overestimate the distance.

    Years ago, I remember riding to places across town that I thought would be epic rides and discovering it was only 10 or 15 miles. What a buzzkill 😉

    from the article:
    “it looks as if a lot of car use is not borne of necessity, but of laziness or misinformation.”

    … and habit… culturally ingrained habit.

  2. I swear it takes 30 minutes to drive anywhere in Orlando.

  3. Not only the inability to judge distance, but the belief that short distances are too far to travel by human power. Tell the average couch potato it’s a half mile to the park and he’ll say, “Way too far to walk.” But tell him it’s a 10 minute walk and he’ll say “No problem.”

    A few years ago I led a Xmas light night ride with a handful of novices. I billed it as an “hour-and-a-half ride” and didn’t give a distance (it was about 10 miles). At the ride start a few people kept bugging me to tell them how many miles it was. I finally gave in and told them. There was an audible collective gasp. A number of people thought of bailing out. Fortunately they didn’t. People who hadn’t been on bikes in years later told me it was nearly effortless.

  4. Wow, another fine piece of work! I recall thinking about making a 7 mile “trek” to pick up a loaner vehicle while my truck was in repair.

    I had already ridden my return trip commute and was dreading this little jaunt. I knew and expected about a 25 minute trip, but was surprised to make my destination in under 20 minutes. Before I knew it, I was there.

    I used to think that alternative transportation was for those who didn’t have money (with one kid and another on the way, watch as I slowly begin to raise MY hand) or couldn’t afford a vehicle. Actually, its for anyone who will use it! I find myself taking my bike on trips and planning routes to take by bike.

    Wonderful post and article!