Dr. Penny Pincher founded the popular personal finance blog Penny Pincher Journal in 2013 and has published two books about saving money.
How fast is average human walking speed?
The average walking speed of a human depends on the individual and the situation. I have observed people in airports hurrying to catch a flight walking at a speed of approximately 6 miles per hour. Families with small kids can walk at a maximum speed of about 5 miles per hour if the children are carried, of if the children are able to run while the adults walk quickly.
The same people in other situations walk much more slowly. People walking in a shopping mall or grocery store walk at a speed of about 3 miles per hour. The faster walkers in the crowd move at a walking speed of about 4 miles per hour in this situation.
Some people walk very slowly. You have probably been stuck walking with or behind someone who walks at an extremely slow pace. I have been stuck behind a person walking at about 1 mile per hour. I suspect this person had health issues that limited his walking speed.
Part of the situation that affects average walking speed is not only the location or environment, but the length of the walk. Over a long distance, the average walking speed tends to slow down due to fatigue. Also on a long walk, you are more likely to encounter terrain such as hills or adverse weather that can slow your average walking speed.
In order to determine the average human walking speed, it would make sense to consider the full range of walking paces, including slower walkers and faster walkers. The average normal walking speed of a human is about 3 miles per hour overall. In situations where people are in a hurry, the average maximum walking speed for a human is 5.5 miles per hour.
Calculate your Walking Speed
How to calculate average walking speed?
Calculate average walking speed by recording the time it takes people to walk a measured distance, for example from the center of one store entrance to another. For example, if the measured distance is 100 feet, this is equivalent to 100/5280 miles since there are 5280 feet per mile. If it takes a person 20 seconds to cover this distance, this is equivalent to 20/3600 hours since there are 3600 seconds per hour. The calculated walking speed in miles per hour is then (100/5280) miles / (10/3600) hours or 3.4 miles per hour.
The key to doing the walking speed calculation correctly is to convert the distance into miles and convert the time into hours. Then simply divide miles by hours to obtain the average walking speed result in miles per hour.
How to measure the distance to determine walking speed?
You can use a long tape measure- 100 foot lengths are common. However, it you want to observe people in a public space, you may not want to draw attention to yourself by making measurements with a tape measure. You can pace of the distance, practice so you can get a consistent pace of about 3 feet. This can provide a good rough estimate. You can also use a pedometer for a more accurate estimate of walking distance.
3 Axis Digital Pedometer- Measure Your Walking Distance
How to measure time to determine average walking speed?
Most cell phones have a stopwatch function. Press the start button when the person is at the starting point, and then press stop to see the elapsed walking time. You can also use a digital watch with a stopwatch function. Even a clock with a second hand can give you a pretty good time measurement. If you have the distance and time, you can estimate walking speed in miles per hour- either for yourself or people you are observing.
How to measure walking speed without measuring distance or time
Radar/Lidar Speed Gun
You can use a radar speed gun or lidar speed gun to measure walking speed. Radar uses radio frequency energy and lidar uses laser light to measure distance and velocity of an object of interest. Point the speed gun at the individual you want to check and the readout shows the speed of the individual. These radars usually have a laser pointer so you can see where it is aimed- you need to aim at the torso and not the swinging arms or moving legs to get a good measurement of walking speed. Radar or Lidar speed guns are used to measure walking speed in some scientific studies, and I once got a chance to measure the speed of people walking in a hospital hallway using a brand new speed gun that a scientist had received and was trying out.
Known Walking Pace
Another way to estimate the speed that people are walking is to get familiar with your own walking pace- then you can evaluate whether people are walking slower or more quickly than your own normal walking pace to obtain an estimate for how fast other people are walking.
If you have a bicycle with a speedometer, you can use this to gauge how fast people are walking on sidewalks. You can coast behind them (at a safe distance, of course) moving at the same speed and check the speed on your speedometer. This way you do not need to measure distance or time- you simply check the speedometer on your bike.
GPS Walking Speed Measurement
If you have a GPS receiver, you carry this will walking and get a measurement of your walking speed on the GPS screen. You can adjust your walking pace to match the people you are observing to determine their walking speed. As with the bicycle speedometer method, the GPS method of measuring walking speed only works outdoors since you cannot get a good GPS signal indoors.
Variation in average human walking speed
The results of observations and measurements of human walking speed may vary a bit from my estimate of average human walking speed of 3 miles per hour. The average depends on which individuals you include in your sample and the situation you are observing. My estimate of 3 miles per hour for overall average walking speed is intended to reflect the average walking speed of a human over a long distance in an unstressed situation. Of course you can find groups of people walking much faster than this when hurrying, and much slower than this when window shopping. Overall, the average walking speed of many individuals averages about 3 miles per hour over a range of typical walking situations.
© 2013 Dr Penny Pincher