NEW YORK – March 21, 2018 – People are more willing to commute by car in warm weather than they are in cool weather, a new study has found.
The findings suggest that people might be willing to take a few minutes out of their lives to enjoy the outdoors in a warmer climate.
The research was published online in the journal Environment Research Letters.
“We found that in warm climates, people were more likely than they were in cooler climates to agree that ‘going for a walk is the best way to get outdoors and spend some time in nature,'” said study author Mark L. Wrangham, a professor of environmental sciences at New York University.
“But in cool climates, the opposite was true, with people more likely saying they would prefer to commute.”
Wrantham and his colleagues analyzed data from more than 5,000 people who participated in a survey conducted by the National Weather Service.
The study found that people were willing to drive to the city or town of their choice if the weather was just right.
For instance, if the temperature was just below freezing, people would drive less often if it was around 45 degrees.
They also were less willing to travel farther if it wasn’t so cold.
The researchers used a “walk-to-work” technique to create a list of destinations where they expected people would have a commute.
They selected locations where people were already planning to drive, such as restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, and other locations where they thought people might have a car.
“Most people have heard of walk-to and bicycle commuting, but it turns out that these methods aren’t always ideal,” said study co-author Robert G. Stearns, an environmental science professor at the University of California, Davis.
“So the study found people are willing to use a lot of resources to get to places that are less likely to have car transportation.”
The researchers found that those who were willing, or at least willing to wait, to drive were more willing than those who weren’t.
Wrengham said he and his co-authors were interested in the idea that people who are willing, but don’t have the luxury of a car, might have less energy, focus and productivity when it comes to driving.
“This is something that needs to be taken into account,” Wrentham said.
“A lot of people think that because they are not driving they don’t need to worry about the environment.
And it’s true, but they are also not driving as much as they might be able to.”
The findings may help explain why people who live in warm places tend to have fewer allergies, asthma and other chronic health conditions than people who don’t.
And they may help to explain why, despite having a car in the home, people may have fewer health problems such as heart disease, stroke and cancer than people living in cold places, Stears said.
Wannham and Stear, who is also a professor at Northeastern University, said they expect that people’s views on walking will change as the weather warms and the climate changes.
But they noted that people may still need to be vigilant when it’s time to take their dogs for a stroll.
“I think we’ll need to keep an eye out for this trend, because it’s really changing,” Wranheams said.
The paper, “Measuring the Climate Effects of Walk-to Transportation: How Much Better Would a Walk in Cool or Warm Temps?,” is published in Environment Research Notes.