life in the fast lane // the world’s speediest cities
original photo: clashot
Most city-dwellers can understand the frustration of being stuck behind a slow walker.
If you’re a long-term Londoner, it’s likely that you will have mastered the art of weaving through Piccadilly Circus on foot. We slip sideways through crowds of tourists, run up the left-hand-side of escalators and step on-and-off pavements to narrowly avoid fleets of Boris bikes.
Second to train delays and traffic jams, slow walking groups of tourist may just be the biggest grievance of busy commuters.
But speedy walking isn’t limited within the city walls of the M25, nor is pedestrian rage purely a symptom of being British. In fact, according to the research of Professor Richard Wiseman and the British Council, the whole world is walking faster than ever before.
Professor Wiseman attributes the increasing pace of life to the modern day need-for-speed.
“We’re just moving faster and faster and getting back to people as quickly as we can — and that’s minutes and not hours. That’s driving us to think everything has to happen now.”
photo: alastair humphreys
Tethered to technology and accustom to instant communication, we’ve forgotten how to embrace the pace of life that existed prior to our smartphones and laptops.
When 4G dips, WiFi cuts out and batteries drain, it has become a natural response to feel frustrated by the lack of instant information and notifications. Put simply, as the world moves faster our impatience grows.
The Pace of Life Project
In order to measure the ‘pace’ of cities across the world, Wiseman and the British Council completed a study in 2006 to track the time it took pedestrians to walk a 60 foot distance.
The research took place in 31 cities across the world, and each experiment was measured on a busy street with a wide, flat pavement that was sufficiently free from obstacles and uncrowded enough to allow people to walk along at their maximum speed.
35 men and 35 women were secretly timed as they walked along the designated stretch of pavement. Only adults were monitored, and the study excluded anyone walking in groups, holding a telephone conversation or struggling with shopping bags.
In comparison to an earlier study in the 90s, Wiseman’s 2006 results show an overall 10% increase in walking speeds. But with ever-expanding urban populations and advancing technologies, we’re moving faster and communicating more quickly than ever before. And a further nine years on from Wiseman’s study, we’d expect these cities to be even speedier!
So, there’s no better time to kick off your work shoes and rest your feet.
Slip into mahabis, it’s time to slow down.
Check out the results from the top 15 fastest cities below:
Off the tip of the Malay peninsula, this Asian city-state ranks top with a walking speed of 10.55 seconds/ 60ft… approximately 6.15km per hour!
More famous for its cyclists, this highly populated Danish city comes second in Wiseman’s research with just 10.82 seconds. And according to the UN’s 2013 World Happiness Report it trumps every country in the world, with the highest global happiness score.
Not only is this Spanish city filled with some of the world’s fastest walkers, but the fastest talkers too. Clocking some of the highest number of syllables per second, the Spanish language comes second only to Japanese in speech speed.
The thriving metropolis of Guangdong province in South China, Guangzhou is one of China’s richest trading hubs.
Debunking the myth of the laid-back Irish, this research measures the Dublin walking speed at 11.03. And in Robert Levine’s earlier study (1999), Dubliners ranked top overall!
One of the most populous cities in Brazil with an urban master plan for sustainable living, Curitiba trumps NYC and London for its walking speed.
With more bridges than Venice and around 180km of navigable waterways in the city, it may be easier to explore Berlin by boat than foot. Recent urban research has also uncovered that the city has some of the most dangerous pedestrian crossings in Europe!
8. New York
In between the yellow taxis and tourists of Times Square, New Yorkers measured up at 12 seconds.
The student centre of the Netherlands is bustling hub of transport. Pedestrians weave in between trams, canals, buses and taxis, not to mention the famous Dutch bicycles.
The cultural capital of Austria comes in at number 10 with pedestrians taking an average of 12.06 seconds to walk 60 feet.
Climbing the ranks as the financial hub of Central and Eastern Europe, Warsaw comes in at number 11 for the world’s fastest cities.
With a population of over 8.6 million and record breaking numbers of international tourists, London’s red buses transport an average of 6.25 million passengers every day.
The largest city in the Republic of Croatia, and the only metropolitan area in the country with a population of over 1 million.
Taking 12.35 seconds to walk 60 feet, the Czech Republic’s largest city comes in at number 14.
At the end of our list is Wellington, New Zealand: the world’s most southerly capital city.