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The invisible walking woman on why she walks

November 23, 2013

Here is a riddle for you: If someone never rides a bicycle to work, and only sometimes takes public transport or travels in a car, how does that person usually get to work?

There are other possibilities, (motorcycle, scooter, goat-drawn carriage, unicycle…) but I think the most likely option is by walking.

Despite this, the survey that I’ve just filled out online, a survey about public transport, and created by a pro public transport organisation, had a question about getting to work for which the only answers possible were by public transport, by car or by bicycle. As a walker, this makes me feel invisible.

Maybe in fact us walkers really are invisible. There seems to be fair evidence for this. Like the driver yesterday who failed to indicate that she was about to turn into the road I was about to cross. Or the many drivers I’ve witnessed running red lights across pedestrian crossings where pedestrians were waiting or already walking. More than once I’ve had to leap for my life when I’ve had right of way.

But still I walk about an hour each way most work days, and then purely for pleasure on my days off. I may be an oddity in the modern world, and I’m aware that many people think that my dedication to walking is just another indicator that I’m a self-righteous, self-flagellating greenie, but I truly believe that walking is one of the simplest and yet most powerful things that almost anyone can do to improve their life.

Why do I walk? In no particular order, here are some reasons:

  1. Walking improves my mood. In the short term I feel immediately brighter: somehow it calms me down while cheering me up. Over the long term walking acts as a powerful anti-depressant with very few side-effects.
  2. Walking wakes me up. Useful at either end of the working day frankly.
  3. Walking improves my health. It makes me fitter and slimmer than I might otherwise be, and it exposes me to fresh air and sunshine, including that all important vitamin D. And walking keeps my bad back from seizing up too.
  4. Walking connects me to the world I live and work in. It allows me to explore and to enjoy the sights of the area. And to build familiarity with places, people and pets that I regularly see and meet on my travels.
  5. Walking is a very cost effective form of transport. Public transport is quite expensive in Melbourne, and cars are extremely expensive to run. I probably spend more on shoes than most people do… but I quite enjoy spending on shoes…
  6. Walking gives me time to think, to plan, to day-dream.
  7. Walking connects me to the natural world. It makes me much more aware of the weather and of the changing seasons, and it makes me much more accepting of the weather. If you’re prepared with a decent rain-coat, walking through rain is usually quite pleasant.
  8. Walking gives me independence. I’m not dependent on a bus that may or may not arrive on time, or a tram that may be overcrowded, or a car that might break down and will certainly require a car space that may be hard to find. My legs are proving wonderfully reliable. And I’m discovering how many places are very easily walked to.
  9. And finally, walking is probably the most environmentally friendly form of transport around.

So, really, does walking to work still seem like an odd thing to do? Is walking not a means of transport that should be encouraged and promoted? Or at that very least noted?

I’m a walker. I exist. I have needs and requirements just like other transport users do. And I don’t want to be invisible any more.

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