Thursday, March 16, 2017

Walking


I miss walking so much. Now I know what you're thinking. Yes, it is possible to walk here. There are streets and sidewalks and I still have feet. But it is not the same at all. This photo is of us leaving our house in Kieselgasse to go somewhere when Coco was a baby. Every time we left the house, every single day, we left like this. No car, just on foot. And it always felt totally comfortable. I know there are places like New York or San Francisco in the US where people walk, but unfortunately Spokane is not one of those places.

Last winter, Theo and I went to the library one morning and happened to get there before it opened. So I figured we would take a walk. We headed down a residential side street and Theo was having a great time looking at fences or footprints in the snow or stopping to admire shrubs. Then, a truck came along and as it got nearer, it slowed down, and then it pulled over. The driver rolled down the window and shouted over the engine, "Are you okay?!"

There was no one around. No one. But I was so stunned, I actually did one of those looks over my shoulder like, who is he talking to? Oh yeah, he was talking to me. "Um, yeah, we're fine," I said, and his response was, "Did your car break down?" to which I replied, "No, just taking a walk waiting for the library to open." And then he gave me the thumbs up and drove away.

Now don't get me wrong. I appreciate this stranger's concern and I appreciate his goodwill. But damn, am I really living in a place where is it so inconceivable that people would go out for a walk?!

Today was sunny - very windy, but sunny - so I walked to work. When I failed to get a ride home from a colleague, I was pressured to either take the bus or get a Lyft home because after dark it would be unsafe to walk. Wow. Unsafe to walk after dark. That makes me so sad. And kind of angry. I only live 12 blocks away, but I'd have to pay to get home safely. I wanted to walk. So I just left work ten minutes early and got home before dark. On the way, I had three drivers actually glare at me or throw their hands up because I was in the crosswalk and they wanted to turn. And I spent a good deal of the time waiting for walk signs. Overall, it's just not comfortable or relaxing in any way to have three lanes of cars whizzing by noisily (and fast) as you walk. Sigh.

It was a beautiful evening though. I popped into the store for half n half, bread and eggs on the way and it was seamless and easy to do on foot. It almost felt like old times in Zurich. And when I walked through the front door, I felt happy and all pumped up on endorphins from walking up the quite steep South Hill. So there is that. But I hate that walking is this extraordinary, potentially dangerous act here. If I want to walk, I have to be deliberate and plan and make extra effort to make it happen. I just hate that. I miss walking being an innate part of every day. I miss it so much.

So now, I guess we have to either move somewhere that isn't car based, or just get used to it. Tell me honestly, how much do you walk on a daily basis? Do you use your car every day? Every week? When you walk, why do you do it? To get somewhere? For exercise? To get outside? To walk your dog? Please tell me all about it! xo

PS - More On Walking

21 comments:

  1. That was very hard for me to when we came back home. No one walks and its not entitely their fault. Urban planning failure. I softened my views on it because we were so progressive building life around the automobile, no one knew the damage it would do in later generations.

    Now we live in Asheville in a pocket neighborhood which is incredibly walkable. I can walk my daughter to school, Restaurants, bakery, library and grocery if I choose. When we moved here I felt like I got a big piece of my life back. Americans seem very keen on micro communities and bringing back the old ways instead of the urban sprawl. Most big towns at the turn of the century had trams
    Or cable cars, something that is such a shame to have lost to the almighty car. Urban planning is one reason Euros struggle less with weight for sure. You get so much passive exercise or movement in a day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the way you reframed the car culture in the US. It is so true that they thought they were being modern and on the cutting edge of progress. Such a better way to view it all. Still leaves us in a lurch, but thank you so much for sharing that perspective!! xx

      Delete
  2. Oh my goodness! This resonates so much with me--I love walking! We've thought about moving several times, but I love the walkability of our town/location in town so much that I couldn't imagine moving. The hardest part is winter, when snow covers and temps drop into the teens and twenties (we live in Grand Rapids, Michigan)--people don't shovel their sidewalks very well here and I'm a bit of a wimp when it comes to below freezing temps. However, I still try really hard to get out during the cold. I'm looking forward to this summer to see if we will walk even more! I think we usually walk 5-6 times a week and often we do destination walks; within walking distance are: parks, playgrounds, library, coffee shops, grocery store, drug store, restaurants, and many other things. Some of these walks are farther than others, and I think some people would never consider walking as far as I walk to get to some of these things, but I love it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this! I'm so glad you live somewhere walkable and you're making the most of it year round. Bravo!

      Delete
  3. oh yes! How I wish we had a walking/biking culture! I live within a 3 mile radius of just about every place I go regularly, and my husband and I would LOVE to bike (and even have a Madsen to take our kids with us), but it is SO unsafe that we always drive. It makes me crazy! I wish we had more that was walkable as well, because we would love to be able to do that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sob! A Madsen and a fear of riding it is just too tragic. :(

      Delete
  4. We walk a lot. We live inner-city and are constantly walking to dinner, or lunch, or just all about. I also ride my bike or run to work everyday. That is not true for a lot of people in the city where I live, because overall it is not very walkable city. And that is why so many people find my commuting choices inconceivable and will constantly be offering me rides home from work because they can't imagine I ride or run commute for the joy it brings me, but think it's because I can't afford a car. I think the isolation of being inside of a car constantly and negotiating with other cars fills people with fear and makes them overestimate the dangers outside and that in turn makes them even less likely to get out and want to walk. I know that when I'm stuck inside my head worrying about things, or fearful of the world, the exact thing I NEED to do is get outside and walk and experience the world around me without any (car wall) barriers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so true that walking clears our heads. And I love that you shared how coworkers think you can't afford a car! Ack.

      Delete
  5. I've never lived outside the US, but I was born in and spent my life either in NYC or in the small Hudson River towns that make up its inner metro region - walkable villages with relatively mixed zoning.

    This year we moved to a "traditional" suburb, for reasons. Proximity to work, cost of living (why pay inner-metro-area prices when we were working in and commuting to the outer metro area). And because we were in the market to rent for a few more years, were limited to suburbs with lots of rental options, which mostly meant subdivisions, built and managed by corporations. We are still in the NY Metro area but are out of the walking culture.

    And I feel almost like an expat. It’s been about nine months, but I still feel a genuine culture shock. I never imagined spending so much time in a car (nor did I envision this for my kid). Sure, there are sidewalks. But walking along them is like walking on a treadmill. All the houses and yards look exactly the same (per the rules) and there is nowhere to walk TO. So you just walk, essentially in place. There is sidewalk, and there is heavily manicured grass that you are tacitly discouraged from spending too much time on (last fall after some neighborhood boys wore a rough patch in the grass playing makeshift games, signs went up prohibiting "baseball or other organized sports" in the grassy areas), and little else. I try to find things to go out and see - a patch of dense, impenetrable brush we dubbed "the wilderness,” a slight slope in a certain patch of grass that is angled well for cloud-gazing - but it's hard to find the motivation to get dressed and out the door in the morning to just stroll along the suburban treadmill.

    I remember when my toddler was a newborn, and how for the first months he would only sleep in a stroller. Lots of parents acted like I was spoiling him by not making him sleep in a crib so I could "do something with that time," but it was bliss. I would bundle him into the pram (not the cradled car seat) and walk for two hours at a stretch, listening to an audiobook and drinking a tea I'd pick up along the walk, running any minor errands I could think of. It was hours of calm time out in the fresh air, listening to a story. I remember when he began toddling, how he would walk for part of those trips. How active he was. In my current suburb, "active" relates strongly to "activity," as in something you plan and deliberately do. Activities happen in dedicated places like the indoor trampoline park or the play gyms. Active is a time of day, not a lifestyle. One day I walked to the nearest retail business (a coffee shop, hallelujah) just to prove I could, since there are technically sidewalks, but it entailed walking through a trucking distribution center and crossing a seven-lane road, and took 45 minutes one-way before I came upon the shop - the first thing besides passing cars that I'd seen in at least twenty minutes. My son did not ask to get out of the stroller once - there was no reason to. There was nothing worth stopping to see.

    I am pregnant with my second child and I feel a deep nostalgia for the little village my first son was born in, let alone the city neighborhoods I was born in and lived in throughout various stages of my life. I try to imagine what my second child's early life will be like, without those blissful walks. And I wonder what motherhood will be like for me this time around. I so heavily relied on the civilization and routine of those walks in those early weeks. The baristas or cashiers who would sometimes be my only adult conversation for the day. The geese we would see. The footbridge over the tiny creek into which we would, a year later, throw twigs to pass the time. The train passing through town like clockwork. In some ways those memories are as visceral a part of my early parenthood as the nursing pillow and the burp cloths and the fatigue. And it frightens me to re-enter early parenthood without them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Alexandra, you and I are experiencing many of the same things! I love the way you composed your thoughts and I have to say, it really is comforting to feel less alone in this. The way you illustrate the dull, uninspiring suburbs is spot on. I loved reading your thoughts so much! Thank you, truly for taking the time to do so. I think that New England might be a better fit for us as far as the US goes. It was mostly platted and developed before car mania set in!

      Your feelings about the second child and the walks you had with the first all made me cry a bit because I experienced that same sharp contrast when Theo was born in Duluth, which was sooooooo different from Zurich. I wish I had some advice to give you. Just hang in there and focus on the positives is all I can say. You will miss those other pieces, but don't focus on what's missing. xx

      Delete
  6. Walking is the best. I loved being able to walk everywhere in Zurich. Now that we are back in the US, I have been lucky to live in walkable places, with the current one (Somerville, MA) feeling more walkable than the last (San Francisco). We have a car but we sometimes go drives without using it. My daughter goes to our neighborhood school, which happens to be located within minutes of a T (Boston speak for subway) stop. Such walkability feels like such a luxury. I grew up in a place where the nearest movie theater was a good thirty minute drive away, so I truly appreciate our current location.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true that SF is not the most walkable city. And go New England for the walkability!!

      Delete
  7. Walking is amazing and I am always surprised that more people don't enjoy it/won't try it. We walk everyday, the dog forces us to in all types of weather. Even before we got a dog I was out there walking by myself, I suppose trained by my parents who were dog walkers. When I met my husband he would often complain about walking, but now he is a convert. :) How else can you slow down and explore the area you are in? You notice so many things when you are walking and just like how the car is a great place to have a conversation, so is while walking. It really is the best exercise and amazing for your mind.

    We live in an older subdivision, built when developers still allowed space for plazas so it is walkable. One of the big things on my list when we were looking for a new place was being able to walk to the library, a definite must have!

    Now that my 15 month old is a solid walker she will only put up with the stroller for so long. Shorter walks, and more patience on my part but we will get there together. Although I miss those long strolls with her napping in the stroller!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Having a dog is such a great way to develop new habits. I love that you've converted others, too!! xx

      Delete
  8. Thanks for this post! I live in Spokane too and walk quite a bit, often with my two young daughters. I haven't really noticed people finding this odd. But I'm also currently in a walking-friendly neighborhood (Perry). I commute on foot as much as I can, between school pick-ups, some errands, evening strolls (when there's enough daylight) and dog walks. Now that I think about it I do remember though years ago asking my husband to drop me off several blocks from the house where my book club was going to be (he was heading the other direction so it made sense) and having others at book club apologize later for not realizing it was me when they drove past and offering to pick me up, as if they had really let me down (when I was actually feeling glad to get a little walk in). As someone who has lived in a better walking culture, what made it so and what do you think we could do here to make walking safer and more appealing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We love South Perry! Coco's Montessori school is there and it definitely is a sweet spot and has a lot of walkable options. I think to answer your question is too long for a comment - thank you for the idea! I'll write another post later this week!!! xoxo

      Delete
  9. I love walking! I went to 4 yrs of undergrad in Manhattan, so I walked everywhere and loved it. Sometimes I didn't have extra money to ride the subway, so I would walk over 40 blocks to go to work or whatever and at first it was a chore, but then it's how I discovered new places or got in lots of people-watching (sometimes celebrity sightings, too!). Then it all stopped when I moved back in with my folks in San Diego. It was definitely a culture shock for many reasons.

    When we moved to Switzerland, we didn't move to a big city, but it was still very walkable. Isaiah needed a car to get to work (it was quite far from where we lived), so that's why we had one. I had a bike. To visit friends in neighboring villages I rode my bike, and to go exploring, I'd ride my bike to the train station. I walked to my doctor's office, coffee shops, and the local Denner if I needed something quick. We went out for a walk after dinner every single night. I do miss all the walking, but mostly I miss the bike paths!

    When we moved back to San Diego, we lived in urban areas so we did a lot more biking and walking, so that was good, but I definitely feel safe biking the way I did in CH. Now here outside of Seattle, I cannot fathom riding my bike in the rain (even though I used to do it all the time in CH, and even though Isaiah commutes to work by bike) -- with 2 little ones, it just seems like a chore. And it is totally not very walkable where we live. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So jealous you did your undergrad in Manhattan, Amanda! So rad. And I love that you would walk so far to save money. I did the same the summer I lived in Dublin. I saw so much more of the city and it was all around fab. Though wouldn't want to do that in the rainy winter in Ireland. ;) I hope you can find more ways to walk where you are now. xx

      Delete
  10. Living somewhere walkable is really high priority to me. I have spent my adult years living in Montreal and Amsterdam and never owned a car and I think it has contributed a lot of happiness (and health) to my life. My children also love to walk because it is what they know. I especially enjoy that my daughter often wants to get off the tram a stop early so we can have a longer walk home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes to all of this! Your daughter is figuring out the benefits of walking early. That is too good. I've always said it would be so easy in just one generation to change to a much more sustainable system - kids are obsessed with trains, buses, boats and trams. They are SO much happy going around on foot. For the first two years back in the US, Coco would cry and ask to walk when we went out to the car. :(

      Delete
  11. Thank you for reminding me to appreciate that more about our life here in Munich! When I do anything I just walk out the door. (ok with three kids we never ever just walk out the door but you know what I mean ;)) we don't own a car and we love the freedom that gives us. Many people think we're crazy but I really see it that way. We take whatever mode of transport suits the day and the destination, and of course walk to get to it. Sometimes we just walk. Sometimes we take a subway and a bus and walk somewhere and take a train from there. It really is so freeing. And whenever we do have access to a car it feels like a huge adventure.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blogger template designed By The Sunday Studio.