You Have Legs – Use Them!

walking short journeys

I came across a statistic the other day that should be quite shocking but I actually wasn’t surprised at all. Here it is:

Roughly a quarter of all car journeys are less than 2 miles in distance.

The exact figures from the National Transport Survey 2011 (published December 2012) are slightly different for drivers (22%) and passengers (25%) but each person racks up, on average, 36 car journeys of less than 1 mile and 106 of between 1 and 2 miles per year.

Apart from those people who have genuine mobility problems, I question just how many of these trips really require a car. At a good walking pace you can travel a mile in 15 minutes and it would probably take you at least 5 minutes in a car so are those 10 minutes really that precious to you?

The graph below shows the CO2 emissions by journey distance and type and while the shorter journeys only account for a small proportion of the whole, are we saying that we are willing to look the other way in spite of what looks like a good 3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from journeys under 2 miles?

car journey emissions graph


It looks as though shopping is one of the main reasons for driving short journeys and I do understand this to an extent. A weekly grocery shop is likely to require a car but I’m willing to bet that there are people who take the car even when they only need to pick up a bag or two of shopping.

The light blue commuting bar is interesting because I reckon quite a lot of those journeys are to and from a train station in the morning and evening (looking around the office I can identify at least 2 people who do this every workday). If you already face a long commute I know it can be tempting to save some time this way but think of the money you’d save in parking, fuel and general wear and tear (your car engine does not perform efficiently for short journeys) by walking or cycling to catch your train.

How Many KGs Could You Save?

Let’s take the example of those commuters and assume that the journey is 1 mile each way to and from the station. In an average car that equates to 669g of CO2e a day and based on a 5 day working week with 4 weeks holiday a year, that trip to and from the station is contributing 161kg to your carbon footprint each year.

Taking a 10 tonne lifestyle as an average, this short journey each day is 1.61% of your annual carbon footprint.

If we take the exact figures from the survey, and let’s assume a mid-point figure for the actual distances travelled (in other words I’ll take 0.5 miles and 1.5 miles as the actual distances travelled) then we get to 177 miles travelled in car journeys of under 2 miles each year. It works out at just over 59kg a year or 0.59% of a 10 tonne lifestyle.

Even if everyone only switched from car to foot/bike for half of those journeys it would come to roughly 1.77 million tonnes of CO2e saved each year in the UK; a small percentage of the whole but one that is surely worth going after?

Are you guilty of driving when you could walk or cycle? Are you going to try and give up these short car journeys? Leave a comment below.

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

12 Responses to “You Have Legs – Use Them!”

  1. Ann
    January 23, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    I walk as much as I can but do use the car for food shopping once a week. Surely if you walk more you would also be much fitter. Walking in the sun (when we have it) is good for you too as you get a certain vitamin from it. Cant remember which one at the moment. So that is 2 reasons to walk when you can

    • January 23, 2013 at 8:21 PM

      Apparently you can burn anywhere between 60 and 90 calories when walking briskly (at 4 mph) for 15 minutes depending on your age and weight so a moderate amount for sure but still worthwhile and it can improve your mood and mental health. And I believe that it’s vitamin D we get from the sun.

  2. Ewelina
    January 25, 2013 at 4:36 AM

    I always walked a lot. Even when commuting I’d leave the bus/ tram the stop earlier to get some extra fresh air in the morning. I’d use car for food shopping once a week. Now I have little one and it changed slightly – don’t use car for food shopping as I try to push the pram every day and do my shopping when I go to the town market. On other side when the weather is bad (windy/rain/freezing) I use the car – even for journey to the retail park just behind the corner.

    Ann – it’s vitamin d you are getting from the sun / daylight

  3. Zoe
    January 29, 2013 at 2:53 PM

    Walking is great! It helps to keep blood pressure stable as well, so really there is no downside to it!

  4. Mary McKinney
    February 7, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    My husband takes his truck EVERYWHERE! I have seen him pull out of our driveway and into the neighbors. When it would be so much easier, and faster to walk! I don’t get it. I, on the other hand, walk everywhere unless it’s over 1.5 miles. Or, if I have to get groceries. I will have to say there is a noticeable difference in our weight too!

    • February 10, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      Glad to hear you walk for all the short journeys but it sounds like your husband needs to curb his ways and kick the driving habit – I can’t believe he actually drives from one driveway to another!

  5. Thilina
    February 9, 2013 at 8:56 PM

    I can assure that these things are true. I used to walk a lot when in my schooling days and then traveled only by a car for almost a year, believe me I put up 7KGs during that time. Now I always go for walks just to stay fit.

  6. maksud rahman
    February 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Walking is the best work out for our fitness. But most of the time we use car instead of 10 minutes walking. Now I am thinking to walk more. Thanks for the article.

  7. Ana
    February 16, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    I try to walk as much as possible. You’re right, it is good for the environment. And your health!

  8. lisa
    February 21, 2013 at 12:05 AM

    Walking is the best work out for our fitness,I always walked a lot. Even when commuting I’d leave the bus/ tram the stop earlier to get some extra fresh air in the morning.Now I am thinking to walk more. Thanks for the article.

  9. March 13, 2013 at 5:39 PM

    I love walking. I walk everywhere I go. I don’t even live on the east coast. I feel great and now that spring is in the air, my working walks just energize me for the rest of the day.

  10. Pritu
    March 18, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    Walking is always good as long as you have time and energy. Just riding a car everytime would deprive you of good exercise you can get during walking.

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