Tuesday, December 21, 2010

These feet are made just for walking

I had a piece in yesterday's Canberra Times, 'These feet are made just for walking'.  I'm explaining why we often choose to walk, when we've a car.  A sample:
this isn’t an anti-car rant. The old Volvo’s served us well in emergencies, and for moving house. Cars are private, comfortable, useful and familiar.
Nonetheless, we’ve made a conscious effort to resist the automobile, in favour of feet. Why?
Because Australians simply do not stroll enough. In 2006, only twelve percent of census respondents got to work by walking, bicycle, or some other form – or they just worked from home. The car is king. We’re behind the wheel to the office, for the shopping or school run. We drive to and from friends’ houses, restaurants, to pick up DVDs. Sometimes walking happens in the gym – usually on the spot, with the television or iPod on. We use our legs for pushing pedals, not for their natural purpose: walking.
My point isn’t some hippy fantasy of agrarian splendour. We live in the suburbs, near main roads, a freeway and building sites. Rather, it’s a simple matter of health and wellbeing: walking is straightforwardly good for us. It has physical, psychological and social virtues.
(Photo: Bundesarchiv)


Rachel Power said...

Walking is such a great pleasure. I used to lie closer in to the city, not have a car and walk everywhere. I was so much fitter -- and calmer. I'm not much of a stroller, though. I love a fast-paced trot -- not possible with two short-legged offspring by your side.

One of my greatest regrets nowadays is that I seem to never have the time to walk anywhere. Instead I seem to be constantly tearing around like a mad thing between one obligation and the next with a boot full of shopping. Not a great way to live.

Damon Young said...

Having just moved house, we did a bit of that 'tearing around' recently. Horrible.

No doubt many have to do it for work, or because their suburbs don't have amenities nearby. But when it's avoidable...

(Having said this, some folks really enjoy driving.)

Daniel Fielding said...

LIving in the car capital of the USA ( 45 minutes away from Detriot), I live in an environment where the landscape has been modified given this important assumption in mind- that every adult owns and operates a vehicle of some sort. Our small university town of Ann Arbor is quite pedestrian and bicycle friendly, until the snow and the cold hits.
Then as Americans say, "life becomes a bitch", becasue things become rather inconvenient if one doesnt own a car.

Damon Young said...

Thanks, Daniel. Old habits die hard. I've heard stories of folks in your recent blizzards driving two blocks to get the newspaper - instead of a freezing five minute walk. The problem? It then takes a freezing hour to get their car out of the snow...

Daniel Fielding said...

I walk a lot, since I dont own a car these days, but, with the cold and snow this time of year, it gets crazy. It was -15 deg Celsius with the wind chill today, when it was sunny!!!!
Plus, the way cities are designed here, all the shops are located in shopping centers with huge parking lots,and public transportation doesnt service most places. So, not driving puts a serious crimp in one lifestyle.
Heck, even homeless people here own cars!!!!!
And when I tell people that I dont own a car, they think that I am a lunatic or a freak of sorts. Unlike inother countries, except in big cities like new York City or Chicago, there are no neighborhood shops, or grocery stores, or cafes, or cinema theatres or cultural venues. Everything is located in these big shopping centers with huge parking lots, so, i t is very difficult to lead a so-called "normal" life if one is car-less, and I hate it.
I also hate being thought of as a failure or a freak or a lunatic for not owning a car.
maybe I should move to Melbourne or Sydney, eh? :)

danielsmith said...

Good point from Daniel there: It's not that the foot-power infrastructure is missing due to lack of foresight or governmental incompetence, but that it possibly never occurs to do things differently to begin with, if you're a car-loving culture.