What gives a city its feel, what gives a city its personality? A Radiolab episode on “Cities” uncovers what gives a city its walking speed:
On the high end you’ve got the Dubliners who take on average (10.76 steps to cover 60 feet). Compare that with to Buchanan, Liberia whose walkers covered the same distance in about 21 seconds. In football terms, by the time the Dubliner has scored a touchdown, the guy from Buchanan is somewhere around midfield. (~9:00)
That’s Bob Levine’s research, where he explains how he measures time as it relates to the feel or rhythm of a city. To figure this out, he measures the percentage of people wearing watches, bank tellers’ speed at making change, the speed of people talking (numbers of syllables per second). Does the city do this rhythm to its people or do people do it to a city, Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich ask. They go on to talk to two physicists from the Santa Fe Institute who reveal that every city has an underlying “beat” and knowing that they can predict — accurately — a whole range of statistics.
I’ll stop there, as with any Radiolab episode, they can’t be summarized, but must be listened to, felt, done so with a sort of odd, singular attention. Either way, don’t miss this episode on your ride to wherever you’re headed today.