Day 95: MLWC and walking–what a concept!

Tom writes in this entry about how weird people think it is to walk even the most minimal amount–like it’s wrong somehow, which is an interesting idea. I think the response is is tied up with our overly-scheduled time-freak culture and the onslaught of marketing from Day One that encourages us to 1)get somewhere, 2)get somewhere fast, and 3) get somewhere easy. If you can look cool while doing it, so much the better. People who need to get somewhere have interesting lives, right?

When I first started this project of tracking how I get around, what I do, and why I do it, I have to admit, walking wasn’t a big part of my plan for transportation. Mainly because I was really pretty mindless about the whole gotta-get-somewhere-fast thing.


Walking still isn’t as big a part of my consciousness as I’d like (but there’s time and summer’s just about the best time for walking in Seattle as anywhere on the planet) but I do like to run/jog through the park and down by the beach. And the walk clears my head like nothing else. It’s really–really–like nothing else. And beats the hell out of driving, which irritates me, and I’m guessing lots of other people, considering how cranky people are on the road.

But check this out: do a google search for “walk more” , the first hits are interesting. Also, take a look at 43 things and you’ll be pleased to see how many people put “walk more” on their list of things they really want to do. The will is there, and when gas prices go over 5 bucks a gallon, I’m betting we’ll all be looking a tad trimmer.

An interesting thing: I filled out a profile for a physical and it asked for exercise information. Under the moderate part, it specifically noted that walking didn’t count–in fact, walking didn’t count in any of the sections. But come on, do you really think we’d be the fattest nation in the universe if people walked more?

Daily Stats: (Monday)
Car: 0
Foot: 3.5 miles
Bus: 0

7 responses to “Day 95: MLWC and walking–what a concept!

  1. Pingback: No tech legs « MyTechVision

  2. I second Tom’s post about the intangibles of walking over other forms of “commuting.” As Spring has sprung here in Seattle, I’m disembarking from the bus a mile or so from my office so I can get 20 minutes of walking in. Or if I have to drive, I’m parking several miles away for the same reason. What I get from walking is time to notice the world: flowers in bloom, wind rustling the leaves, light shimmering off a window, the interplay between two folks momentarily sharing a sidewalk — stuff like that. Meanwhile I choreograph the sublime visuals to a soundtrack of music, or a design podcast, or an audiobook (currently “Freakonomics” — obtained from the library.)

    I think this approach dovetails with Gore’s emphasis on “long term” while our cultural focus on “getting there fast” is like the market’s drive for quarterly profits. The former approach is grounded in thoughtful sustainable actions, whereas the latter is impulse and fear driven.

    Lastly, walking certainly does count as exercise. If I walk four miles today (which is my plan), I won’t need to jump on the treadmill. It will take me three times longer to burn 300+ calories, but I’ll get to smell the spring air now refreshed by last night’s downpour — instead of static basement air. I’ll enjoy the larger space of the world I live in rather then the constrained space of an exercise machine.

  3. Agree totally about the need for more walking. However, we’ve also got to re-think a lot of our urban infrastructure and slowly change the things that actively encourage car use and discourage walking or cycling, so that people think of walking or bicycling as the norm rather than as something out of the ordinary

    I lived in a couple of mid-sized Western European cities for a total of 6 years, and I didn’t own a car or ever feel the need to own one. I walked, cycled, or used the cheap and widely available transit systems in both cities. I used to walk literally miles a day, and this was not anything out of the ordinary. It was simply considered normal, largely because the social, economic, and urban infrastructure made it easy to act this way. It wasn’t because I was on an individual program to reduce my “carbon footprint.” It was because the whole society was structured in a way that this was a “normal” way to act. The skids were greased for me to act in this way.

    When I moved back to the States, I immediately noticed all of the structural things that actively discourage doing anything but getting around by car:

    — lack of, or badly designed, sidewalks
    — pedestrian access around roadways added as an afterthought or not at all
    — basic services, like grocery stores, located far away from where people live — necessitating a trip by car (or a very very long, dangerous or unpleasant walk) to do things like buy food
    — no pedestrian zones in city centers
    — crappy and/or inconsistent bike paths (even in supposedly bike-friendly cities like Seattle)
    — still cheap to own a car; sure gas is currently getting more expensive, but it really doesn’t compare to the cost of owning, maintaining, and operating a vehicle in Europe
    — excise taxes on cars do not penalize driving a bigger car that burns more fuel (we should be taxing the shit out of big gas guzzling SUVs, for instance)

    I think that of all these things, the pedestrian zones would the most effective way to encourage alternate transportation in many cities in North America. Many European cities simply shut down the city centers to all traffic except delivery and emergency vehicles, and a small set of transit vehicles or trains.

    When I lived in Europe, this was the thing I loved about every city I visited — just wandering around the pedestrian zone and getting a feel for the city. I also used to walk the 2 miles from my apartment to work at the university everyday by walking straight through the pedestrian zone — not only the most pleasant way to get there but also the fastest. I still remember with great pleasure the feeling of being in touch with the rhythm of everyday life as I loped through the streets.

    What would it take to start a “pedestrian zone” movement in the States? Thoughts?

  4. Thank you for linking to my site.


  5. Pingback: Day 96: MLwC and the walking thang « What it’s like

  6. Pingback: Day 102 & 103: WLwC and doing more, not less « What it’s like

  7. Pingback: Days 360-365: MLwC hits the Year End Mark « What it’s like

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