Day 32: Today I walked to my fake job downtown

The things I do for you people. OK, maybe it was for me.

Still feeling the Super Bowl afterglow. 

I work from home. My daily commute is a flight of stairs. But this morning I walked 4.8 miles to my pretend office downtown. And, after putting in a full day of whatever it is I do, I walked home.

Obviously, someone besides me needs to be blamed for this idea. I’m going with Amy Arndt. She’s a writer in Austin who wrote this article in praise of walking as transportation. She described the benefits of her 3-mile walk to work, and she has some good tips.

Walking slows you down and changes your perspective. I’d driven by this display for years and never stopped to look.

Or, if you’d rather blame a Yankee (my default scapegoat), try Sam Schwartz. He’s a transportation consultant whose book I just read. “Walking is incredibly efficient,” he says. “Nearly a third of all car trips taken in this country are a mile or less in length—the equivalent of a 20-minute walk. Moving those trips out of cars and onto sidewalks would solve many of our transportation conundrums.”

Health professionals add more reasons for us to walk. Just 30 minutes of walking a day reduces the risk of:

  • Heart disease by up to 40 percent
  • Type 2 diabetes by as much as 60 percent
  • Stroke by 33 percent

It’s not just physical health, either. A Duke University study concluded that a brisk 30-minute walk three times a week worked at least as well as taking the antidepressant Zoloft.

‘Why would I walk? I have a car.’

In 2012, just 2.8 percent of Americans walked to work. That’s down from 5.6 percent in 1980. With all the evidence that walking is good for us and can ease traffic congestion, why don’t we do it more?

A beautiful day for a walk

There are dozens of valid reasons for not walking, biking or taking the bus to work. Sometimes, though, I think the overriding reason is simple: Cars are that addictive.

It hit home a few years ago when talking with a neighbor. He and his partner, both healthy and in their 40s, had built the most energy- and water-efficient house I’d ever seen. They’re smart, socially aware and health-conscious people. Yet, five days a week, he got in his car to drive to his workplace—two blocks away.

I don’t believe it ever occurred to him to walk to work. When I teased him about driving .2 miles, he grinned sheepishly and said, “Sometimes I pick up breakfast tacos.” Which I’m pretty sure was code for: “Why would I walk? I have a car.”

 

7 comments

  1. You guys are great! If I were a few years younger, I’d . . . . I thoroughly enjoy your writing! Please share more of your experiences. I try to be a daily rider, but need a utility bike and trailer for what I’m doing these days. Maybe a birthday present? Best wishes – stay safe!

  2. We live in a neighborhood that is transforming into a “live, work and play” area, where walking is encouraged, burning fat not fuel is promoted, etc., etc. The developers however are making the cost of commercial space so high that most of the new spaces are empty and those that do exist are way overpriced. You wouldn’t believe the cost of condos in our neighborhood. More than $1,000 per square foot. Well, in the summer I couldn’t walk a block without sweating out about a gallon of fluids, so good luck with that. Spring or fall maybe, winter, probably. Luckily we live 14 minutes from downtown, 30 minutes walking to Hawaii’s biggest shopping mall (probably the biggest in the US) and plenty of places to stop along the way. We have lots of Japanese tourists in Honolulu. It is somewhat humorous but sad that those who are inclined to walk often use maps to find the shortest distance between where they are and where they want to go. This ends up taking them down what I call “pig trails” that so not have sidewalks, sometimes have “girly bars” or other distasteful venues. I’m often inclined to pull over in my CAR and offer them a lift, but fear they might think I’m a serial murderer, so just pass them by. The dream of a walkable city is still a dream. I’m a car person and I’m sticking to it. My new car that I bought at the end of November only has 693 miles on it. Now that’s living. New car smell for at least a few years!

    1. Dang, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Someone in NYC, I believe, created a map app that advises on the most scenic walking routes, not the most direct ones.

  3. meant to say in the Houston summer I couldn’t walk a block without sweating a gallon…

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