This summer marks one year of walking to work. That doesn’t mean occasionally walking to work, or even mostly walking to work. I’m talking about walking to work, every single day, rain or shine. I’m like a postal carrier, only I’m not weighed down with junk mail.
I did not plan on this, or make any kind of resolution. I had already been walking most days, driving only when I ran late or when it rained, or when apathy seeped in and worked its black magic. Then, last summer, it became my default. I could leave twenty minutes early to avoid a coming storm, or I could drive in it. I left early. In the winter, it was easier to put on boots than clean off my car.
Many people see these choices as daunting. It’s only after really walking regularly that one can truly experience and enjoy the practicality in it.
If you’re familiar with Mode Shift’s work, then you’re already familiar with all the reasons to leave your car at home: it saves money for you, saves money for the city, and leaves both you and your neighborhood healthier by promoting physical activity and reducing pollution.
This last weekend, several rental and development companies hosted a trolley tour in Midtown. Walking among the tour participants, I saw a lot of people impressed by the easy accessibility of a neighborhood that offers so many opportunities in such a compact space (and for those who went on the tour, wouldn’t it be great if that trolley ran every day? Just saying).
My hope is that any new residents moving into one of the many new apartment buildings or condos will take full advantage of what Midtown offers. You could drive the eight blocks down to your workplace, or to the coffee shop (or both, if they happen to be the same place), but I hope you’ll hop on your bike or hit the pavement, as I do.
For those ready/able to start walking instead of driving, I’ll offer up a few things I’ve learned in the last year that I hope will make the transition easier.
- Check the weather. Most of us do this anyway, but it takes on extra importance when “a 30% chance of rain” means “a 30% chance of me walking a mile in the rain.” Long johns in the winter are also a necessity. I’ve also noticed that the weather is always slightly worse than what is predicted, as if the weather people are trying to protect us from knowing too much. An 89 degree high will be 93, and a high of 32 will be a high of 28.
- Buy shoes with thick soles. Whenever I see people in those fashionable loafer things that look like a thick piece of leather with a canvas top, I think, how many pairs of those do you go through in a year? I wear what are essentially trail shoes. Yes, it makes me look like a Colorado yuppie on his way to Trader Joes, but my shoes last years instead of months.
- Wear a backpack. Undignified, I know, but single strap bags meant to be worn over one shoulder cause me neck problems, which turn into shoulder problems, which turn into back problems, which turn into me angrily whining about everything. I’d rather look like a spry 10 year old on the way to school than a hunchback from a Mad Max movie.
- Slow down. I have a serious problem with this one. My default walking speed is “just get there already,” so I often end up getting to work a little sweatier than I meant to be.
- Even when crossing at a light, look around. Some drivers just don’t notice pedestrians. I know, because I’ve been spooked as a driver when someone suddenly appears in the street as I’m turning. If you’re unsure of what a driver is going to do, wait for eye contact before stepping in the street. This may slow you down, but it will keep your hip bone in one piece.
- Smile and wave. People will do the same, and it feels good.
I’ll see you on the sidewalk.
Chris Schacht is a teacher and writer. You can follow his journeys around the neighborhood (and elsewhere) on Instagram at shkatchat