Singaporeans – world’s fastest walkers?

Yet again, another Numero Uno for Singapore. Apparently Singapore topped a list of 32 cities surveyed by a British Psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman on the speed of each city’s pedestrian walkers. According to the study, Singaporeans took just 10.55 seconds to walk a distance of over 18 metres which is about 4.5 car lengths.

Of course Singapore is probably delighted at being crowned Number One again but is being the most hectic city in the world necessarily a good thing?

Personally I am not sure I can walk 18metres in just 10.55 seconds but this was the average time taken by 35 men and women. While I am tempted to find out how fast I walk, being the world’s fastest walkers is not necessarily a good thing since it’s found that people in fast-moving cities have higher rates of coronary heart disease. Sadly, pace of life in Singapore has increased by 30% since the last study done by an American 10 years ago. So that probably be that chances of us getting an heart attack has also increased by 30% over the last 10 years. Not an encouraging thought!

Perhaps it is time we actually hope not to be first in the world. But really how reliable is this study? Every ranking system always comes with its own personal set of methodology issues and how accurate the measurements really are and likewise, I see infinite amount of loopholes in this one.

Trying not to discount the researcher whose last famous piece of research was on measuring the “world’s funniest joke“, this piece of walking research was based on just 32 capital cities of the world. Make that 31 since Singapore is a city state so where is the capital of Singapore? Was the research down in the downtown Central Business District area? Having just been in Berlin last week, I find it hard to draw a comparison in terms of scale. So “where” the actual measurement taken is considerably important.

Of course, just 35 men and women? What makes them Singaporean? Another tricky question. So if you go down to the square at Raffles Place, can you definitively say which 35 men and women are Singaporean and possibly many of them are not. Instead, they may be say from Copenhagen, the #2 fastest walking pedestrian city in the world.

Alright, maybe it’s not so much the nationality of the walker but the working environment and speed of life itself that determines the pace of walking but how about cities like Hong Kong which is not part of the survey at all! Singaporeans love to say that Hong Kong is a much faster pace of life than Singapore, literally. Sadly, Hong Kong not being the capital city but instead Guangzhou was used to represent China. Seeing how Hong Kong is near the Guangzhou area, perhaps that might suffice but even then that comes up only at #4 on the ranking. But can 35 men and women truly represent our entire population?

This ranking system really confuses me because many things do not make sense at all. 18 meters is hardly a guage of how fast we walk. Maybe that one day I’m in a hurry to deliver a document and I was rushing and some researcher was staking out the street and I happen to walk past. He sees me speeding and times me. Brilliant – 10 seconds. Meanwhile another guy can walk by but seems like he’s walking at a leisurely pace so he was ignored. How do we know how these researchers pick their subjects?

Having just returned from Prague, Warsaw and Berlin, 3 of the cities ranked, I honestly do not find myself walking faster than the people there. True they do not speed about as we do but Europeans, to my interesting discovery, have the amazing capacity to walk long distance which I find Singaporeans ill equipped to do so. They may not cover 18 meters as fast as we do but after 3 km, they will be far ahead while we pant desperately behind. So spurts of energy to cover a short distance of 18m versus the stamina to cover a few kilometers at a time – I think I prefer the latter.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers who take “unembarrassed pride” in their fast pace of life is hardly happy about their 8th position on the list. New York Times even highlighted the population of each city ranked and honestly how can 70 people represent 4.5 million people in Singapore? Of which, 1 million are not even “Singaporeans”!

The editors of “Foreign Policy” equate this fast pace to being “energetic” which would probably make Singaporeans happy at their top spot. But thankfully somebody remembered that this is also a sign that we are getting more impatient and it’s time we slow down! Apparently, the study mentioned that “as we move faster we’re less likely to help others, we risk heart problems, we eat too quickly and we have the attention span of two-year-olds” but obviously most “energetic” reports failed to highlight these issues.

Maybe we should call Singaporeans “World’s Most Impatient Walkers” instead.

Well in case you are interested, here’s the ranking as reproduced by CNN, in order of the cities ranked by the speeds at which people walk:

1) Singapore (Singapore)
2) Copenhagen (Denmark)
3) Madrid (Spain)
4) Guangzhou (China)
5) Dublin (Ireland)
6) Curitiba (Brazil)
7) Berlin (Germany)
8) New York (U.S.)
9) Utrecht (Netherlands)
10) Vienna (Austria)
11) Warsaw (Poland)
12) London (United Kingdom)
13) Zagreb (Croatia)
14) Prague (Czech Republic)
15) Wellington (New Zealand)
16) Paris (France)
17) Stockholm (Sweden)
18) Ljubljana (Slovenia)
19) Tokyo (Japan)
20) Ottawa (Canada)
21) Harare (Zimbabwe)
22) Sofia (Bulgaria)
23) Taipei (Taiwan)
24) Cairo (Egypt)
25) Sana (Yemen)
26) Bucharest (Romania)
27) Dubai (United Arab Emirates)
28) Damascus (Syria)
29) Amman (Jordan)
30) Bern (Switzerland)
31) Manama (Bahrain)
32) Blantyre (Malawi)

10 Comments so far

  1. rb (unregistered) on May 13th, 2007 @ 1:04 am

    is this a bad thing, its good, we know the value of time. And what is this thing about one million non singaporeans, we r all singaporeans by heart. I am appalled by this line.

  2. micamonkey (unregistered) on May 13th, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

    im sorry if you’re appalled but im not sure why you are because 1/4 of our population is actually composed of non-singaporeans! People who are here on work permit, employment pass, ok maybe PR as well but not all of the 4 million population are Singapore citizens! This is a fact by the way.

  3. Darren (unregistered) on May 16th, 2007 @ 11:31 pm

    I suspect part of the reason why Singaporeans walk fast is to escape from that awful, sweltering heat.

  4. rb (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 2:01 am

    Maybe but they have accepted the city in all its glory and they follow the life in a very unique manner which is very Singaporean, I don’t see any reason why they should be called non-Singaporeans when they behave like one. The very definition of a Singaporean according to me is that you are willing to adapt to others as you would when someone new comes in your family. Thats what makes them and the people originally from Singapore special. Don’t tell me that is not true.

  5. micamonkey (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 2:19 am

    Being a migrant country, I think what makes a Singaporean is totally debatable. You cannot say that all asian and non-asian expatriates feel the same way. and that’s all i was trying to say is that how do we generalize and say SINGAPOREANS (all of 70 individuals surveyed) are the fastest walkers.. all based on 70 people. Why don’t they measure how fast the heartlanders walk in toa payoh or sengkang?

    Please do not misconstrue what I am trying to say

  6. rahul (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 2:52 am

    yes i would have to agree with you, I was wrong to say that all people are alike. But I guess its not such a bad thing being labeled as world’s fastest walking city, its way better than Mumbai, which was labeled as the world’s rudest city in a Reader’s Digest poll last year.

  7. micamonkey (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 3:23 am

    lol ok i must agree that it is better than being world’s rudest city. :x

  8. rahul (unregistered) on May 17th, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

    am glad we agree on it. BTW, I am joining you guys to write on Singapore, hope we’ll have fun :)

  9. winnie (unregistered) on May 20th, 2007 @ 4:57 pm

    This survey is not accurate as one should include Hong Kong though I am a Singaporean but I work here.

    Hong Kong is the busiest business District in Asia, how can this be left out?

    Stand at Central MTR station and one will know what I mean.


  10. micamonkey (unregistered) on May 21st, 2007 @ 11:00 pm

    yep i totally agree with you. like i said, singaporeans all “know” that hongkong is more hectic than us! :P it’s like a “fact” that somehows preserve our sanity but now they made us the fastest instead. oh booey lol

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