Friday, January 28, 2011

These feet are made for walking!

Part of the appeal to running for me has much to do with freedom.  “Mama said my feet could take me anywhere!”  Funny how so much of life’s simple, pure wisdom can be found in the act of running and the brilliance of Forrest Gump. 

Using your feet as a mode of transportation is about as simple and pure as it gets.  There are very few true limitations on where you can use your feet to take you.  Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and you will get there eventually.  It is just in the last 100 years or so that we have abandoned walking as a primary means of getting from one place to another.  Is it any wonder our obesity rates are skyrocketing?  Within the next 10 years, 60% of Americans will be clinically obese and almost 25% will be morbidly obese!  Don’t people realize what the word morbid means?  It means your current condition of being overweight will be the primary reason why you die an early death.

Most of the places I walk around where I live do NOT look like this.

We have become a car-based society.  Everything we build and design is around the ability of people to drive there in a car first and foremost.  At what expense?  The concrete jungle.  Miles of roads and acres upon acres of pavement in the form of parking lots.  In Texas, we have these huge outdoor shopping centers.  They are shiny and new and the developers make them attractive places.  When the parking lots at these places are full you would expect to see lots of people walking all about.  That is not necessarily the case.  One of these centers might have over 100 shops including the usual big box stores, restaurants, etc.  So do people park in a central spot and wander about to the places they need/want to go?  Nope.  They park in front of one store and when they are done get in their car and drive 400 yards to the next one they are interested in.  “But that is a ¼ of a mile away!  And it is cold (hot)!  And my hair will get messed up!”  Is it any wonder there is a health epidemic in our country?

Typical LA traffic jam.  23 lanes still is not enough.  Where does it end?

I am sitting on a patio at Whole Foods while I write this watching people stream in and out.  I took a break after the above paragraph to do an informal survey.  I watched the next 30 people to go in or out of the store.  6 looked moderately fit or in shape, 9 were overweight, 9 were obese, and 4 were morbidly obese.  The fact that they were shopping at Whole Foods at least tells me they are attempting to have a healthy diet.  After leaving here most will get in their cars and continue to avoid walking somewhere at all costs.

I guess I should not be surprised that I want to live in the blue state...

It seems to me most kids are growing up completely reliant upon cars as a means of going anywhere.  Case in point:  There is a Sonic less than ½ a mile from my brother’s house.  One night my kids and their cousins wanted me to take them up there.  I said cool, but we are walking.  You would have thought I asked them to pick up dog feces with their bare hands.  I gave them some positive enforcement and all but one agreed to go.   Along the way we had a grand time.  When I was a kid (I know I am sounding like an old codger)  I had a range of at least 3-5 miles around my house that I ventured.  I would walk, meet a friend at the park, ride my bike, etc.  If I wanted to go I had to get myself there.  Especially in the summertime.  When I was 13-14 years-old and discovered real cycling my range opened all the way up to the Oklahoma border.  Freeeeeeeeeddddoooommmmmm!!!!!!!

Not a very common scene anymore due to busy roads, cars, video games, etc....

The reality is you miss so much of the world around us when we jump in our cars and jump in traffic to go all the places we do throughout the day.  I really crave to live in a town that is truly pedestrian-friendly and most of the residents walk or ride bikes as a primary mode of transportation.  I do live in a loft in a nice setting where I have great access to everything I need.  There is a grocery store, book store, many restaurants, a great pub, etc.  All are within a few hundred yards of where I live.  It kind of is a village of its own.  Of course most of the people who come there to shop and eat do not live there and drive there in cars and troll around the streets looking for the closet parking place they can possibly find.  Within another 1-2 miles of my house are several other grocery stores, too many restaurants to count, Home Depot, Target, a movie theater, etc.  There are many times my car sits for days!  My kids school is about 10 miles away and their activities are pretty far flung at times, otherwise I would be tempted to work my way out of a car.  If I wanted to go on a road trip I could always rent one for the weekend. 

Pearl Street in Boulder, CO.  People who choose to live here get it!

“So what’s the point Dave?  Do you think no one should have cars?”  Not completely, but we have gone too far.   I contend that living in a car-based society has not made our lives richer or more convenient.  Quite the opposite is true.  We have become morbidly sedentary as a whole and the mobility of a car has caused us to over commit ourselves to many useless tasks and activities.  Because we have the ability to go places very quickly (sometimes) in a car we load up our days with event after event and rush around trying to get it all done.  Really look at the expense you have associated with your vehicle and all the headaches of traffic, etc. associated with it owning and maintaining it. 

My friend Felix from high school uses this bike taxi to go everywhere.  Kids to soccer practice, etc.

Is it practical to not have a vehicle in a city like Dallas?  Not really, especially if you have kids.  Can we lessen our dependence on it and walk more or ride a bike?   Absolutely!

Here is my simple challenge to you: 

1.      If you are going somewhere that is 1-2 miles from your house walk there.
2.      If you are going somewhere 2-5 miles from your house ride a bike.

I think you will be amazed how these 2 shifts will change your entire perspective for the better on many things in your life.  

Chillaxing during a pit stop on a ride.