It’s ironic that cars are considered a power symbol internationally, but especially in the US because owning a car in my mind, enslaves people to the fossil fuels industry and the collective trance (mindlessness). And like lemmings leaping over a cliff, driving cars these days (in situations when it’s not necessary) brings us closer to the cliff of total earth destruction.
The true power doesn’t require a motor or fossil fuels (with the exception of the fossil fuels that make up the soles of our shoes). For those of us able to walk, true freedom comes from placing one step in front of the other and getting around on foot (or bicycle). Add other non-motorized forms of transportation such as scooters and skateboards (though I’m not a fan of either).
First things first, as a pedestrian you must first get your legs in working order by taking short walks and gradually increasing your mileage. I can walk up to 5 miles without suffering from exhaustion, but I began my pedestrian days in 1991 when I sold my car to pay for a trip to England. I’ve walked in pedestrian-friendly cities and dangerous cities.
The second step, buy a good backpack or satchel to carry groceries, books and other goods. And buy a good pair of walking shoes. I have a pair of Clark’s flats that have lasted me several years. Those soles just don’t give out. Also wear shoes by Kleen. Running shoes work too.
Third, plan your routes around errands and other activities. This takes practice and I can’t tell you how many times I have lugged groceries to the library or library books to the grocery store. I usually end up feeling like a pack mule by the end of the day. If you have back and shoulder problems, a bicycle is a better option than walking when completing errands.
Finally, enjoy the freedom of getting around on foot. Bring a camera with you and refrain from chatting on a mobile phone. Use your walk time to absorb what’s going on around you and engage all your senses. Use this time also for walking meditation or clearing your mind. I use walking to clear writing blocks or to release tension from sitting at my computer for too many hours.
But What about cities without sidewalks or safe walking paths?
While some US and European cities have opted for pedestrian and bicycle only streets, many city planners are still living in the fossil fuel age where car drivers rule. Even progressive Bellingham fits into this category, though bike paths have improved over the years. Best to find and join car-free or Complete Streets advocacy groups in your area or online. When enough people demand safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, city governments respond.
Everybody Bikes & Smart Trips (Bellingham, WA)
Car-free Movement (Wikipedia)
Flex Cars or Zip Cars (car sharing as opposed to car ownership)
Shapely legs at any age.
Physically fit (get exercise outside of a gym)
Save money (even an investment of a $100 pair of walking shoes pays off in a month or two)
Encounter cool people and make friends
Give your senses a workout which inspires creativity
See the world on the slow mode
Freedom from the oil and car industries
Walk for peace or social justice like the Peace Pilgrim
Walk a pilgrimage like El Camino in Spain
Walk a labyrinth for spiritual reasons
Walk as meditation or to give blessings to the earth
Finally, if you’re not convinced, watch this Ted Talks video.