Barriers to Walking
Things that could stop a person from walking or exercising include working the whole day, getting sweaty, or bad weather.
People may care about their health. They would like to walk more or exercise, but they don’t want to do it at the wrong time because it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient.
”I don’t work out during the weekday. I’d get sweaty.”
”When I get home, I am pretty much “In”. I won’t go out again.”
”I will take bus instead of walking when it rains outside.”
A future system should help users walk under the constraints of a lack of time and a lack of desire to become uncomfortable during their regular schedule.
Use of Device
Using a device can either promote or hinder walking experiences.
During the interviews, participants expressed two different opinions on the device use while walking. One group of people said they were actively using some kinds of devices to enhance their walking performance or make their walking experience more enjoyable. On the other hand, the other group of people said they didn’t like using any devices while walking because they don’t want any interruptions.
“I listen to audiobooks and it makes me feel less tired and go longer.”
“I don’t use any device because I don’t want any interruptions.”
Walking as a Social Activity
Walking can be either a social activity or a solitary thing with time to think quietly.
One group of people described walking (hiking and biking) as a social activity. They prefer walking with others and some people said they could even walk with strangers if their walking pace is same. On the other hand, the other group of people said they preferred walking alone. Walking is a solitary activity for them and it gives them a time to think quietly by themselves. 4 participants talked about their walking speed and its effect on walking with others even though we didn’t ask explicitly.
“I would walk with anyone, no matter who, across generations, as long as they are fast enough.”
“I think about things while walking by myself. If a good idea came up, I’d call to my own voicemail.”
We can think about a design solution that encourages people to walk either as a group or by themselves. In either case, the new device or any form of our solution should not be disturbing when users want to accomplish their original goal of walking.
Walking & Safety
Perception of safety is one of the major constraints we have concerning our design problem, and we tried to get thoughts about this. If we are to encourage people to go walk at night, will they even consider it if it’s not safe? People are basically in two camps:
- They’re okay with walking at night, and even if they’ve had strange experiences.
- It’s dangerous at night regardless.
A “vibe” about safety is affected by lighting & number of people around.
The area and environment has a large impact on how the users perceive safety. Some users said they will not take shortcuts at night that they may take during the day. Lighting isn’t a make-or-break factor for some people, but it generally gives people more comfort with walking at night the brighter it is. The other factor is population. People will feel more comfortable if more people are around them at night, even if drunk.
“When I’m out at night, I prefer running into nobody, or tons of people.”
“I feel that the brightness of the street is important for walking.”
“Taking shortcuts can be dangerous.”
Actionable Intelligence, Part One
For our design we need to consider different ways of appeasing peoples’ concerns for safeties. Or, just help them find the safest way from A to B. It will be wise to take lighting, the presence of people, and alternative routes into account.
Specific past encounters inform, but do not deter, some walkers.
Walkers that venture out at night gladly do so, but may be suspicious or cautious when walking around. Some people come across others at night that may seem suspicious. One user even said that they are concerned about dogs and other animal attacks that happen at night. Even though people are aware of dangers, the people that walk at night do not become deterred, rather it gives them more incentive to keep aware of their surroundings.
“I come across drunk people at night, but I don’t feel scared.”
Actionable Intelligence, Part Two
The more knowledge users have of their surroundings the better. If we can help enable users to be aware of potential dangers, they’ll feel more confident at night.
Combining Outside World and Inside
Walking is a way to combine experiences of the outside world (environment) with mental (and physical) health.
Interviewees talked about walking both in terms of motivation and experience. They moved fluidly from talking about observations made while walking to describing benefits and reasons for walking.
“I like learning something while walking; I like having a map with historical facts.”
“I like looking in peoples’ houses at night and seeing what they are doing.”
“I walk for health, mental well-being and my commitment to the environment.”
A future system should recognize that users do not think about walking in terms of only direct benefit. While walking for health might be one stated motivation for users, the combination of motivation and experience makes people come back again and again. A system that leverages the user day-to-day, internal experiences as well as addresses stated motivations will seem more natural to users than a system that overlooks unique walking experiences.
Walking and the Community
Walking exists in context of the community/marketplace
Interviewees have lived in other places, and they observed how other places integrated walkability into the city. One interviewee had lived in Europe for a number of years, and pointed out missing designated pedestrian zones. Another interviewee missed the ability to walk around at all times of the night, and tended to walk less and go home earlier in the new environment. Interviewees were aware that the community determined how late stores were open, with one responding that she thought stores were open late enough, and another wishing stores were always open.
“I feel that a walkable town enables you to go to a store and get groceries by hand.”