Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Growing Up and Walking

I was out walking around the city a few days ago with my family and noticed that my sister and her husband loved the fact that we could walk everywhere (Grocery store, restaurants etc). In fact when we they didn't have to drive the minivan for two days they seemed quite refreshed by the idea. However the kids thought differently. Every time we said we were walking somewhere it was a groan here and "do we have to?" there. They live in Bakersfield and are accustomed to driving everywhere. But as we know it gets to be a crutch.

So when I read this quote, it made me understand how meaningful it is to walk. The recently assassinated former prime minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto, had this to say about being sheltered and walking to school.

So sheltered was Benazir's life that, at 16, she was completely unprepared for life at Radcliffe College, Harvard University.

"I cried and cried and cried because I had never walked to classes in my life before," she once told an interviewer. "I'd always been driven to school in a car and picked up in a car, and here I had to walk and walk and walk. It was cold, bitterly cold, and I hated it ... but it forced me to grow up. "

Perhaps some walking would make some folks grow up when it comes to the discussion on walkability versus autocentricity. My family is all about walking. When I lived in Bakersfield, and even in Texas, I walked and biked to school. It made me a little more aware of direction, and perhaps a little more of an explorer. It also builds a bit of independence. Anyone want to share any stories of walking to school as a kid?

H/T Leroy Demery of PublicTransit.us for the quote


Lawrence said...

I was always driven to my middle school in Queens, NY. When I started attending high school in Manhattan, it became somewhat impractical to continue this. Thus, I was compelled to begin taking the subway to school.

This opened up the entire glorious City of New York to me. I had been completely oblivious to its size, diversity, and energy until I was exposed to its ubiquitous rail system. Soon I was riding the subway for fun after school, instead of going home. I rode out to Coney Island, the Bronx, Jamaica, Harlem, Flushing... the list of places I visited just kept growing and growing.

Now I despise automobiles. Luckily I'm currently at college in Boston, a place where mass transit is quite prevalent.

kenf said...

Growing up in New York (Brooklyn and Queens) I walked to school until Jr. High. Then I started carpooling in the morning, and used Bus and Subway to get home. I was no stranger to the Subway, as I started riding it for fun around age 9. Any time I had a day off, my friends and I went exploring.

When I moved to Maryland while in high school my parents had the good sense to live a few blocks from my school. Because I was quite a bit younger than the other kids, I would walk, bike and bus or streetcar everywhere I had to go.

DSK said...

I walked to school as a kid (later biked). A lot of that walk was cutting through woods and a (usually corn) field. It's all infill now, which is good I suppose.
I also walked to school in college, located just down Mass Ave from the late Ms. Bhutto's school (those Harvard people have it easy! not nearly as much wind up there!). Boston is definitely a city where you can really learn to appeciate walking and mass transit (you also learn to appreciate cities [NOT Boston] that have ample clean public restrooms).
In college, I can think of a few people I knew who sometimes would actually hail a cab to get across the Mass Ave bridge while going to or from the Back Bay. I was mainly appalled from the point of view of being broke, but I suppose it also showed a different attitude towards when it makes sense to use a car. I guess to be fair the taxi would be driving around whether or not they hailed it.

M1EK said...

I walked in Pennsylvania when little (my dad even walked to work sometimes); and in South Florida I biked every day. The ghastly conditions explained why I wasn't enthusiastic about walking/biking for a while - then I got back into it in college (Pennsylvania, again).

My 13-year-old stepson takes a long walk to the Cap Metro bus every day to go to school (he transferred to the next middle school west of ours to stay with his elementary school friends, and the deal was he had to take the bus to do it - we weren't going to drive him). Now we're the envy of his friends' parents for how independent he seems.

Eric said...

Nice post. I think that my own two feet are still my favorite form of transportation. In a bus or train or car, you're observing your surroundings behind glass, but when walking, you merge into and become a part of the environment--a participant, instead of just an observer. I don't think I ever get tired of that.