Living in the suburbs, where honestly – people pretty much drive down the driveway to get their mail, I have had some of the strangest and funniest reactions when people have found out I’ve walked places. When Ben and I were first married, we lived 3 blocks from North Central College where I worked, and co-workers would always ask incredulously “You WALKED to work?” as if I’d just run a marathon despite the fact that they knew where I lived.
And when I lived 2 blocks away from the middle school I taught at, I constantly had teacher-friends insisting on driving me to or from school because they felt bad that I had to walk even though I never complained about walking (I liked it!). I know they were just being thoughtful and kind, but it sometimes seemed like they were actually uncomfortable thinking of someone walking a few short blocks.
One of the few persons I know who is able to drive but prefers to walk a lot is my sister-in-law, who grew up in Europe where walking was a part of daily life. She’s the only person who used to brave the 1.5 mile walk to the Plainfield library with our kids and me back when we were at our old house.
I’m hoping that with the rise in emerging urban design movements like “new urbanism” and sites such as walkscore.com, community planners will build more suburban neighborhoods within walking distance to more places (some friends were recently laughing sadly when they saw that their house has a “walkscore” of 3!)
But even if there’s only one place (i.e. a park, friend’s house, drugstore, etc.) to walk to where you currently live, here are ten reasons to walk instead of drive there:
1. Better for the environment (What’s that you say? You drive a Prius? Believe it or not, your legs leave an even tinier footprint on this earth than even your Prius! Preaching to my husband here…)
2. Save money (gas, wear and tear….. it all adds up in this economy!)
3. Good Exercise (and, unlike the treadmill in your basement, the scenery actually changes!)
4. Fresh Air for Your Kids (Being a busy mom, it’s sometimes tough to fit in outside playtime, so if you’re walking somewhere AND they’re getting fresh air, win-win!)
5. More face-to-face interaction for the kids (mine face each other in the wagon and play games– yeah I know this can backfire occasionally, but that just teaches them conflict management!)
6. Nature vs. Screen-time inside a car (Okay, so I know not all people who cart their kids around all day in the car have built-in dvd players, but I tend to resort to handing my kids my iPhone way less when we’re outside than when we’re in the car.)
7. Time with Friends (Most families these days aren’t able to all fit in a car together on the way to outings, but if you make plans to walk somewhere w/ a friend– whether to the park, farmer’s market, or another neighbor’s house, you have time to chat in person while you walk!)
8. Opportunities to meet new people (you can’t tell me that a wagon decked out like a princess float is not a conversation-starter!)
9. Give your town/neighborhood a friendly look (there’s nothing that says “hey, this is a safe and fun place to be” more than people out walking, especially with kids.)
10. No chance of getting a speeding ticket (I love to brag that I’ve never gotten pulled over!)
BONUS REASON: Less Stress (Okay, this one may be the most debatable because it’s situational and could be stressful if you’re late walking somewhere important and it takes 3 times as long, HOWEVER, everyone I know who commutes to work comments on how stressful it can be…..just think of road rage and not having to deal with other annoying drivers!)
NOTE: Yes, I live in the United States and realize that very few people live in areas where they can walk to all the places they need to go in the course of a day. But I have also lived in the ‘burbs long enough to see a lot of missed walking opportunities. How many people live in the exact same neighborhood as friends but end up driving to play dates at their neighbors’ houses I know, I know — they may have somewhere to be right after the play date. If you’re one of those people, maybe try adjusting your schedule to leave a little earlier or later once in awhile. Your body, pocketbook, earth, kids, mind, etc. will thank you!