Spring is here and I’ve been excited to get outside and experience my city through walking, running, or biking as many places as possible. Here’s a couple small reasons why I love being a pedestrian rather than a motorist.
The first and possibly the biggest benefit is how great it is for the earth. If more of us relied on human-powered transportation, the air would be much cleaner as a result and we could rely less on fossil fuels. Aside from that, there’s the joy that comes from simply getting out there and being a part of nature. Even if you live in an urban area like we do, there’s a lot of nature and wildlife to be enjoyed in the city. We could probably all use to get outside a bit more than we already do!
The next-largest benefit is not needing to fuel the car or worry about wear and tear to your vehicle. While Josh and I still have a car, we’re happy to be a one car family rather than the two car family we used to be. We reap significant savings by only having to license one car, inspect one car, fuel one car, repair one car, insure one car, etc. (Bikes require maintenance and repairs occasionally, but these repairs are very affordable compared to car repairs – usually in the $20 range!)
Being active is great for both your physical and mental health. Why pay money to drive to a gym and walk on a treadmill? Why set aside a special time to workout, when you can actually incorporate it into your day by running a few errands on foot? Save time, money, and stress by getting fit going places that you already need to go. It’s amazing how quickly the miles add up. You may not run marathons, but over time those micro-commutes equal many marathons. Vitamin D from being outside and the endorphins from physical exertion are both excellent for your mental health too. When I’m having a bad day, a run to the library with both my boys in the stroller can often do the trick. The boys love being outside too! My hope is that by the time they outgrow the stroller, they’ll be ready to jog or bike alongside me.
Traffic can make or break your day if you have a long commute. Josh loves not having a motorist commute anymore. Highways can be unpredictable and stressful. Most walking / bike routes have lighter traffic. When the street we live off does get backed up at rush hour, Josh is able to move faster than the cars because he’s on a bike. My bike ride home after work isn’t the least bit agitating. Instead, I’m able to mentally clear my mind and arrive home refreshed and exhilarated.
I never really know a street until I’ve walked or at least biked on it. It’s like experiencing my neighborhood in real life vs television. I’ve driven down our street countless times, but there was a really interesting building that I never knew existed until I walked to the hardware store recently! What things are you missing in your neighborhood? Take a walk down the street – go further than you usually go – and see what new things pop out at you.
You can actually meet people when you walk and bike. Almost every human-powered trip out is a chance to connect with other humans. This small act creates community. Other pedestrians nod and say hello and make funny comments that you could never get within the bubble of your car. We share a special bond. I feel like I’m actually connected with my neighborhood when I walk through it. We go down the same streets often enough that the neighbors know who we are and often say hi. It’s a special feeling that driving can’t replicate. Suburbanites who get in their cars, go to work, come home, and park in the garage have nary a chance to speak to one another, especially in the wintertime. Just a regular walk around your block will have you meeting people before too long.
Being a pedestrian regularly will increase demand for bike lanes and better trails. Most cities want to be more pedestrian-friendly, but if no one is out there doing it, the projects will keep getting pushed back further and further. St. Louis is one of those cities that’s started doing some big projects, like the Great Rivers Greenway. There are plans in the works for much more in the future, so the more we use the existing trails and give feedback, the sooner those updates will happen.
Most people I talk to want to be more active and want to save money and do good things for the planet. However, almost everyone has an excuse as to why they aren’t a pedestrian. “I live too far.” “I’m worried about bad weather.” “I’m in awful shape.” “It’s too dangerous.” “I don’t want to bike at night.” These are all valid things, but most excuses also have a remedy if you’re willing to search for it. My biggest excuses for not biking to work were “I just had a baby, and I don’t have a bike.” Those excuses are now no longer valid. Under most excuses is someone who is interested, but unwilling to take the leap.
I’m here to encourage you – it’s possible.
Ease into it. Allow yourself lots of time. Go out on nice days first and then work up to bad weather. You can get most places on foot or bike year-round if you have the right gear, but don’t worry about that at first. Just get out there a few times and maybe you’ll become addicted like I did. It’s empowering and practical to not have to rely on a car. It’s not an all-or-nothing deal. We still drive to the grocery store sometimes! I still drive to work most of the time. But every little bit helps. Get out there and enjoy being an active, informed pedestrian!