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.

4 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    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. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    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.

  3. rodney
    rodney says:

    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!

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