Friday, July 2, 2010
Everyone walks in New York City. I mean even if you drive, you walk at least some of the time, because the distance between your parking space and your destination tends to be fairly far. But in general New Yorkers are by necessity big walkers. Most of them can't just go out back to let their dogs relieve themselves. They have to find a park or a relatively deserted area for this, and in some cases you have to go quite a ways to get there. Subways are convenient, but they are often many blocks from your eventual destination, thus necessitating more walking. Of course, it is also true that because it is so difficult and expensive to own a car in the city, far fewer people rely on automobiles. This requires them to walk to work or to walk to the subway or even to walk to a corner when they can catch a taxi. There is always some walking involved. And I think for most New Yorkers, especially those in Manhattan, great pleasure is derived from walking, from seeing the city from a pedestrian's vantage point, from the slow but observant pace of those who meander and stroll. As a result, walking becomes part of the way of life in the city. People get used to it, enjoy it, and even seek out opportunities to do it. Which, in part, accounts for how congested Central Park is on weekends. People enjoy getting out and the easiest and most pleasant way to do so is on foot. This habit also results in a much lower rate of obesity and I daresay a higher quality of life. It took us a long time as a society to figure it out, but we now know that one of the best, most desirable ways to live is in a dense, compact environment where many things are within walking distance. For the elderly, for the young, and for pretty much everybody in between, when you can access most of the services you need on foot, each day brings a special sort of satisfaction that is missing for people who are shut up in cars most of the time.