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  #21  
Old 10 November 2011, 02:53 PM
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Oh. They don't look much like carts, though. I was thinking more like golf carts.
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  #22  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:11 PM
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The ones that are available for use in grocery stores have shopping cart baskets attached to the front. I tend to call those carts and the ones without baskets scooters. I think the technical term is "mobility scooter".
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  #23  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Skeptic View Post
There were entire car parks full of them outside theme park rides.
I can't even figure out what this is supposed to mean. I've never seen a theme park ride with a car park -- that's a synonym for parking lot, right? -- outside of it. And the only vehicles I've ever seen parked outside a theme park ride are strollers and wagons.

And I'll second that your sister was not qualified to judge whether someone in a cart was disabled or not.
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  #24  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:20 PM
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The use of the word carts just added to the confusion, but it also indicated to me that that she might have been entirely misunderstanding something she was seeing. Maybe there is some place in the country where the youth are lazy and use carts to get around, I just haven't seen it.

Which brings up another issue with that observation, we've got a pretty big and very diverse country here. Spending a week in and around any single place in the country doesn't say squat for how 'Americans' do anything.
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  #25  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
And I'll second that your sister was not qualified to judge whether someone in a cart was disabled or not.
No one who is not a doctor with direct access to the person's files is qualified to judge whether someone needs a scooter. There are a great many "invisible" disabilities.

Even seeing the person walking around on another day proves nothing, because many people have good days and bad days, or can handle short walks but not long ones.
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  #26  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:29 PM
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I wonder if Skeptic's sister didn't perhaps happen upon an outing of an organized group of people with some sort of disability/disease. That would explain a large concentration of carts at theme park rides.
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  #27  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:33 PM
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Or maybe the parking lot where they store carts for disabled visitors when they are not in use? Anyone who parked in the lot is obviously not using their cart to get around the park.
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  #28  
Old 10 November 2011, 03:58 PM
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Going back to the OP; I wonder (as some have suggested) if they mean walking as transportation (or at least as exercise) as opposed to simply locomotion using ones feet. As mentioned just walking around my house on the average day may come close to or exceed that number, certainly a trip to a supermarket or other large store would even if I drove there. However (outside of the aforementioned mobility scooters) usually you don't have a motorized option for those situations. Where you do though is when you are going around the city. I have no idea if the numbers are right (I still doubt it honestly) but I do know a lot of people (whom I personally know not to be disabled) do elect to drive rather than walk short distances a disturbing amount of time just cause that is what they are used to doing. I don't think its so much that they are lazy though as much as they have just made a habit of it for so long. For example my brother drives to go to the fast food stand that is less than a half mile away.

I also wonder if maybe it meant that we drive if we have to walk more than 350 yards at once for transportation (like if the store is more than 350 yards away you drive it). Again, this seems unlikely still and (as mentioned earlier) it wouldn't take many people walking long distances to drag that average up even if you counted completely sedentary people.

But really at this point you'd have to define "walking" pretty narrowly.

If this guy has a history of being bigoted towards Americans I'd suspect its just more of that.
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  #29  
Old 10 November 2011, 04:37 PM
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If I could find the actual researcher or a copy of the actual study it would answer these questions. I think the evidence is pretty strong that, if there was a study, it has been badly bastardized. This "fact" has been used SO much I wonder, if there really is a researcher behind it, what he/she thinks of how it has gotten propagated like this.
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  #30  
Old 10 November 2011, 07:05 PM
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What doesn't ring true. The statement was that she was amazed at the number of them, not that it was meant to prove anything.
It doesn't ring true as a description of average American life. If you go out shopping or whatever, you don't often see people riding around in little mobility scooters. It's not even a realistic description of what goes on at any theme parks I've been to. I've seen carts like that at some of the bigger amusement parks in Florida, but the typical user is not a child but a grandparent, unless the child is joyriding on their grandparents. Those big Disney type rides might have hundreds of people in line on a busy day, so it's possible there might be a couple accumulating out front.

In my everday life, I see hundreds of pedestrians walking around each day and usually don't see a motorized pedestrian vehicle. When I do, often it's one particular quadriplegic guy who lives downtown and drives his wheelchair super fast with loud music, or occasionally a group of disabled people making a day trip or a flock of tourists taking a tour on Segways. Rarely you'll see a very heavy or old person on a mobility scooter, but it's not an everyday thing, and if they have kids with them the kids walk.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chloe View Post
Or maybe the parking lot where they store carts for disabled visitors when they are not in use? Anyone who parked in the lot is obviously not using their cart to get around the park.
I've seen a place like that near the entrance to some of the big parks, where the park stores a bunch of them so they can loan them out to elderly or disabled visitors, but it's not accurate to say they have those near individual rides.

Last edited by Errata; 10 November 2011 at 07:17 PM.
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  #31  
Old 10 November 2011, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Lainie View Post
I wonder if Skeptic's sister didn't perhaps happen upon an outing of an organized group of people with some sort of disability/disease. That would explain a large concentration of carts at theme park rides.
Something like that happened to me at a theme park once. My girlfriend at the time made a vaguely racist observation that sure were a lot of Jews living up there. After another hour or so of seeing kids dressed a certain way, I figured out that it was the day of a field trip from an Orthodox Jewish private school.
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  #32  
Old 10 November 2011, 07:42 PM
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DD and I once ended up at the zoo on the same day that a local group of (mostly white) parents who'd adopted babies from China was having its annual get-together. If we'd been from out of town and hadn't seen the sign, we might have drawn some inaccurate conclusions about adoption trends in the area.
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  #33  
Old 10 November 2011, 07:44 PM
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I wonder if she saw the carts that the staff use to get around? Employees who work at places like sports arenas, amusement parks, universities, zoos, etc. often use Cushman carts.
http://www.cushman.com/golf_turf/gt_...transport.html
Some places like Six Flags have carts that roam the parking lot taking people back and forth from parking to the gates. And if youíve ever had a tired six year old in tow, you know how nice that service is.

Last spring, my family went to a baseball game in Arlington. My dad had had surgery and was using a cane. Heís 75 and somewhat blind, and it was a night game. I had no idea how we were going to get him back to the car after the game. (he told the doctor he didnít need the temporary disabled parking permit because he wasnít driving; he wonít make that mistake again) Luckily, one of the Rangers volunteers told me that if you go to the home plate exit after the game, they have staff that will drive elderly or disabled people to their cars. So that people donít get separated or lost, they take the whole group. So yeah, three people who didnít have mobility issues got out of the cart, but thatís because we were with one who did.
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  #34  
Old 12 November 2011, 01:33 AM
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I never know quite how to respond to the gist of this rumour when supported by my mum and dad, who claim that when they've gone to visit their American (St. Louis, if you're interested) relatives and never brought me along they've noticed that 'Americans' will drive down the street rather than walk and will also act confused and concerned if they, the British guests, decide to go for a stroll down the street even during the daytime just for the sake of 'going for a walk'.

I mean, I've never been invited to one of these visits to relatives so I wouldn't know from personal experience. But it seems to me that by comparing our family (who tend to walk quite a lot) to another family at what to all intents and purposes is basically random but American I'm not being given the full scope of attitudes towards walking as a practical function and a hobby across the Atlantic.
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  #35  
Old 12 November 2011, 05:13 AM
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They're definitely attempting to extract too much data from a single data point. There are some people in the US who walk ridiculously little and will drive even in situations where it doesn't seem necessary. But there are also many people who walk. The ratio depends on the exact location, because not all parts of the US are identical, and some are much more walkable than others. The way averages work, even if some people walk very little, the ones who do walk would skew the average way up.

The main reason that Europeans walk more isn't due to their innate superiority complex. It's history and geography. The same reason that people in some parts of the US walk a lot more than in others. Europe packs more human beings into less land and their major cities go back much further in time. Cities that were large and densely populated before the advent of the automobile tend to be well optimized for pedestrians. Cities that sprung up in the past century with plenty of free space to work with tend to be more car oriented. Some of those are so poorly designed for pedestrians that even if places are close as the crow flies there aren't good sidewalks or crossings, and things are spaced out to suit cars rather than people.

Suburbs tend to be the worst. A lot of them don't even bother with sidewalks, and there's nothing within miles worth walking to anyway. Rural areas tend to be car dependent, but at least you can go for a nice hike if you want. But in dense urban centers that are older than the automobile, there are still plenty of great pedestrian oriented downtowns, and the people who live there make use of them. I consider walkability an important aspect of quality of life that influences my decisions about where to live.
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  #36  
Old 12 November 2011, 07:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Errata View Post
The main reason that Europeans walk more isn't due to their innate superiority complex. It's history and geography.
Plus there's nothing else to do on Sundays, when everything is closed. [/steotypical expat rant]. Switzerland, among other countries, does not allow stores to be open on Sundays, with the exception of the stores at the airport / train station / tourist traps. Sundays are walking/hiking/skiing days in Switzerland. Actually, Sundays are family days - the entire family goes for a walk on Sunday afternoon, or goes up in the mountains, etc.

I drive to work - it's faster, easier, and I carpool with my husband. But I walk to the grocery store (it's closer to home than the cafeteria is to my office) and today we'll take the train to Luzern to buy a toaster. We could drive. But that means waiting in traffic, waiting in line for a parking place and spending more money on parking that we would for the train ticket (we have a transit pass, like many in the area).

My parents, who live in Seattle suburbia, walk a lot, compared to most of their relatives (their friends also like to walk). But they generally walk for the sake of walking (and talking), not for normal errands, such as going to the grocery store, post office, etc.

Which reminds me. I need to buy stamps. Must go.
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  #37  
Old 12 November 2011, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Errata View Post
Cities that sprung up in the past century with plenty of free space to work with tend to be more car oriented. Some of those are so poorly designed for pedestrians that even if places are close as the crow flies there aren't good sidewalks or crossings, and things are spaced out to suit cars rather than people.
This is pretty much the way Tucson is. Lots of areas don't have sidewalks, or very rudimentary ones, so walking-or using wheelchairs- can be dangerous. My immediate upstairs neighbor works across the street. There are days when she goes back and gets her car and drives there because the cars are so bad about letting her use the crosswalks that she can't make it safely.

Also, frankly, when it's 110 out, people just don't walk very much here if they can help it. Though I do think they take it to extremes when they get out of their brand new car walk 50 feet to the store and back all while clutching their water bottles as if that 50 feet of heat will kill them if they don't have a water bottle.
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  #38  
Old 12 November 2011, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by hstarr View Post
If I could find the actual researcher or a copy of the actual study it would answer these questions. I think the evidence is pretty strong that, if there was a study, it has been badly bastardized. This "fact" has been used SO much I wonder, if there really is a researcher behind it, what he/she thinks of how it has gotten propagated like this.
Thanks for asking about this, hstarr. It's an interesting question.

Bill Bryson seems to have first mentioned this factoid in 1997ish, so whatever presumed study suggests that the average American only walks 1.4 miles a week would have to antedate that.

I suspect that it would be worth your while to contact Paul T. Williams of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley. (You shouldn't have any trouble finding Williams's e-mail address in Berkeley Lab's staff directory.) Williams is an epidemiologist who looks at the health benefits derived from specific forms of exercise (e.g., running, walking); he has a long list of publications, none of which seem to directly relate to Bryson's contention that we only walk 1.4 miles per week. On the other hand, of particular note is that Williams has headed up the National Runners' Health Survey and, according to a press release issued in February, 1997, a National Walkers' Study (which doesn't seem to have gotten off the ground).

In any event, it's possible that Bryson based his observation on something related to Williams's research, perhaps a misread press release or summary (maybe in the popular press) of an early phase of the walking study. Even if Bryson's contention has nothing to do with Williams's research, it's possible that Williams, who fits the description of a Berkeley researcher interested in Americans' walking habits, may have been asked about Bryson's comment in the past. (By the way, I haven't looked to see whether something Williams published "concluded that 85 per cent of people in the United States are 'essentially' sedentary and 35 per cent are 'totally' sedentary." Those figures still seem a little high to me, but the point is that Bryson may have learned of the 350 yards per day estimation elsewhere and tacked it on to someone's "sedentary/essentially sendentary" finding, making the two look connected. It might be helpful to figure out where the "85%/35%" estimate comes from.)

-- Bonnie

Last edited by Bonnie; 12 November 2011 at 01:13 PM.
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  #39  
Old 12 November 2011, 01:45 PM
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Also, frankly, when it's 110 out, people just don't walk very much here if they can help it. Though I do think they take it to extremes when they get out of their brand new car walk 50 feet to the store and back all while clutching their water bottles as if that 50 feet of heat will kill them if they don't have a water bottle.

I am not sure I'd say everyone here has the water bottle, but I will agree with you that few walk very far in temps of 110 or higher.

I do remember one afternoon where we had temps in the high 120s, and the vehicle air conditioners would stop working due to high head pressure on the hot gas side of the system. This would last only for a few minutes and then the system would come back on line, but none the less, it would get rather warm inside the vehicles.

Luckily, we never had any problems like this with the air conditioning at work or at the house, but in either case, we did have access to water, which we could spray on the condenser coils of the A/C systems.
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  #40  
Old 12 November 2011, 03:44 PM
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It was eye-opening for me when I visited Las Vegas for the first time. I'm used to walking everywhere, in all conditions. Obviously I'm used to cold weather (Just walked home carrying 47 pounds of groceries in the snow last weekend), but we also get some brutally hot days in the summer. My friend and I wanted to travel from hotel to hotel in Vegas, so we just started walking down the strip. I made it one block before I absolutely had to duck back into a building with A/C and grab a bottle of water.

I've been guilty of being judgmental in the past about people's walking habits, just because I find it so easy and convenient. Because of conversations I've had here, I've been paying more attention to walking conditions in other places, and it's grim. Even the nearest small city to mine is almost unwalkable - I tried and had to hike across uneven grass, through mud and mosquitoes, and almost got hit by a couple cars who weren't used to the idea that someone might be on the crosswalk when they wanted to make a turn. Walking in a place like that is just plain unpleasant, so it's good to be reminded that it's not as simple as "Point A, Move legs, Point B".
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