Why don’t we walk more? It’s a simple question, but one that has been inviting discussion in recent years as cities look at what’s called “walkability” as a solution to traffic and other problems.
We live in cities and communities that are predominantly set up for transportation by car rather than foot. But there’s now a movement to encourage pedestrian traffic in many communities, including Santa Cruz, which has numerous projects under way.
I read about an intriguing startup recently called Walk (Your City) which began several years ago when an urban planning grad student wondered why residents would drive short distances rather than walk.
According to an article in Slate, Matt Tomasulo noticed that few people walked in his neighborhood in Raleigh, N.C., even though it was pretty perfect for strolling. “They would drive two minutes just to get dinner,” Tomasulo told Slate.
And that got him questioning people about why they didn’t walk. He found that most overestimated the amount of time it would take to get to their destination on foot.
This led to Tomasulo began making signs that told people the amount of time it would take to get from certain points to popular places, and posting them around Raleigh. That was the start of Walk (Your City) (walkyourcity.org), which has templates that anyone can use to customize similar signs.
What can you put on these signs? Things such as “It’s a five-minute walk to the park” or “It’s a 15-minute walk to the grocery store.” Anything, really, that is useful as far as desirable destinations and the length of time it takes to get there using foot power.
Why walk? There are numerous reasons. If we walk rather than use gas-powered transportation, it’s good not only for the environment, but also for our health. We all know the ill effects of driving as far as boosting our carbon footprint and increasing the risks of climate change, but also think how all that driving affects your body.
Not only is daily walking a healthy habit in terms of your cardiovascular health, but constant driving also takes a toll on your back and joints. Just sitting for hours at a time is thought to be a health risk, experts say. Getting out and walking loosens you up and keeps you from accumulating a lot of the aches and pains that driving can lead to.
Walking also helps you get to know your neighborhood better. There are things you’ll see while walking that you don’t notice from the vantage point of the driver’s seat. There’s also a sense of community that comes from walking and having the chance to see friends, greet other people along the way, and really being in the scene as opposed to zooming past it.
Let’s face it, walking isn’t feasible in all places and all situations, but I think most of us, if we made the effort, could walk a little bit more than we do now.
That’s why we should applaud Tomasulo’s efforts as well as those of our local communities to make walking easier and more enjoyable. The city of Santa Cruz is celebrating the opening of its Branciforte Creek bicycle/pedestrian bridge and multi-use trail project at noon on Sept. 28 with a ribbon-cutting, one more step toward walkability, and all the benefits that come from it.
Do you have questions or tips about sustainable living around the Central Coast? Send them to Kathryn McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Kathryn McKenzie at www.facebook.com/kathrynmckenziewriter.