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About A Week: Speedy Walkers

City dwellers are in a hurry the world over, as Peter Hinchliffe reports.

Life is speeding up in and cities around the world.

Research reveals that the average walking speed has increased by 10 percent during the past decade.

And the greatest speed-up has been in the fast-developing Far East. Pedestrians in countries such as China and Singapore are moving up to 30 percent faster.

The research, undertaken in selected cities across the globe, was carried out by a British University. Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, who led the study, said that walking speed was a good indicator of the pace of people's lives.

Singapore topped the list as the fastest-paced city, followed by Copenhagen (Denmark) in second place, and Madrid (Spain) in third.

The average time it took to walk 18 metres (60 feet) was measured in seconds.

Here is the list of the top 30 cities, fastest first:

1) Singapore (Singapore); 10.55 seconds
2) Copenhagen (Denmark); 10.82
3) Madrid (Spain); 10.89
4) Guangzhou (China): 10.94
5) Dublin (Ireland); 11.03
6) Curitiba (Brazil); 11.13
7) Berlin (Germany); 11.16
8) New York (United States of America); 12.00
9) Utrecht (Netherlands); 12.04
10) Vienna (Austria); 12.06
11) Warsaw (Poland); 12.07
12) London (United Kingdom); 12.17
13) Zagreb (Croatia); 12.20
14) Prague (Czech Republic); 12.35
15) Wellington (New Zealand); 12.62
16) Paris (France); 12.65
17) Stockholm (Sweden); 12.75
18) Ljubljana (Slovenia); 12.76
19) Tokyo (Japan); 12.83
20) Ottawa (Canada); 13.72
21) Harare (Zimbabwe); 13.92
22) Sofia (Bulgaria); 13.96
23) Taipei (Taiwan): 14.00
24) Cairo (Egypt); 14.18
25) Sana'a (Yemen); 14.29
26) Bucharest (Romania); 14.36
27) Dubai (United Arab Emirates); 14.64
28) Damascus (Syria); 14.94
29) Amman (Jordan); 15.95
30) Bern (Switzerland); 17.37
31) Manama (Bahrain); 17.69
32) Blantyre (Malawi); 31.60

The University of Hertfordshire project was a follow-up to research done by Robert Levine of California State University, who supervised a survey of world walking speeds in 1994.

Walking speed can be a good indicator of general behaviour, and even of a person's state of health. It has been suggested that fast walkers are less likely to stop and help others, and rushing about can court the risk of heart disease.

Meanwhile, a Church of England bishop was this month handing out egg timers to early-morning commuters who were flooding through his local railway station.

Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Reading, challenged the hurrying travellers to transform their lives by remaining silent and still for three minutes each day -- the time it takes to boil an egg.

The Bishop is urging people everywhere to slow down and rest. He has written a book, "Do Nothing To Change Your Life," in which he suggests that taking "time out" can be the start of a journey to self-discovery and creativity.

Among his slow down suggestions are baking bread, preparing tea and coffee in the old-fashioned way rather than the instant pour-on-the-boiling-water method, and switching off all televisions and radios in the house for 60 minutes during times when people would normally have been viewing or listening. The aim of his guidelines is to create a quiet time for personal reflection.

In the book he says, "By learning to sit still, slow down, by discerning when to shut up and when to speak out, you learn to travel through life differently. There is new delight and purpose in the mundane and the ordinary things of life. Making tea becomes a treat. Travelling to work an adventure."


While agreeing with Bishop Cottrell's make-time-to-do-nothing philosophy, might this reporter suggest that one of the best ways of "slowing down" is to go for a walk.

If you're lucky, you will have fields and woods nearby, or maybe a park.

I live on the edge of a country estate established around 1280 by an invading Norman lord. There's a Boy Scouts' camp surrounded by trees in one corner of the estate.

Sheep and cattle graze in the fields. Foxes, badgers, hares, rabbits and squirrels skip and wander across the footpaths.

In Spring sections of the estate are ploughed. In Autumn a grain crop is harvested.

Though the estate is only five miles from the centre of an industrial town, in one of the most heavily populated parts of England, deer roam the woods.

I can assure Bishop Cottrell than an hour's walk amid such surrounding is infinitely more efficacious than bread-baking in helping the mind to freewheel!


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