Thursday, 7 June 2012

In praise of feet

Transport is a source of green guilt for me. My other half is a petrolhead and has loved cars and engines and horsepower and other dark arts that I don't fully care to understand since he first uttered the word 'car'. I do not drive as of yet and I am no fan of being a passenger. Still, I find myself being chauffeured about quite a lot. I also don't cycle. Cycling in cities is stressful; cycling in this city is also dangerous judging from some of the many bike/car mash-ups I have witnessed and I am not particularly confident on two wheels. Buses and trains are my preferred choice for longer journeys and the journey to work, until this week - I have started to walk to and from work.

I leave the house at 5.45am, it is light and cool at this time of year. The birds are awake and actually noticeable without the torrent of cars that will fill the roads just a few hours later. I walk hard for an hour until I reach the bridge that takes me off island; and then take a slow mosey up the hill that leads to my workplace. By 7am I have completed the 4.5 mile journey, with half an hour to spare before my shift begins. The journey to work is more pleasant than the journey back home. The afternoons are becoming hot and sticky, the roads are busy and I am tired. But the journey is still invigorating after a day of constantly reacting to telephones and emails.The journey is a time to slow my brain down and be mindful of my surroundings.

I admit to having every advantage. Firstly, my workplace has showering and changing facilities for its several thousand employees. There are bicycle lock ups and onsite security if cycling is your thing. You can buy a hot cooked breakfast should you need a reward for your strenuous journey. Everything is geared up to be cyclist and walker friendly, which cannot be said for the majority of workplaces. I can afford to take the journey slowly, I live in a fairly safe city and I am healthy, if not physically fit.

Feet should be our primary mode of transport, as the transport of the masses for thousands of years. If you wanted to go somewhere, you walked, however far and however inclement the weather. There are ancient footpaths crisscrossing the whole of Britain, some remain as leisure routes, some are now sadly obscured by dual carriageways or housing estates. Feet are now something to be encased in ridiculously impractical shoes as you pay for them to be carried with the rest of you to you destination. I have been looked at with bemusement by colleagues who pay to drive to work and then pay for gym memberships that they resent using. The cyclists don't understand why I would want to take my time getting to work when I can get there in half an hour on two wheels.

Being a whole 5'10" from my brain, where I seem to do most of my living, I have ignored my feet for the most part. I appreciate them once again and have begun to take better care of them. They are frugal (I save almost an hours wages each day by not paying for public transport) and they are a means to better physical and mental health. They are now itching to go other places, different routes, longer distances; to wear comfy boots and to be soaked and rubbed at the end of the day, and treated with the care they deserve - and to be lived in a little more.


Samantha said...

I love walking. I will happily walk 5 miles a day simply to do everyday tasks (although some places are dangerous to walk to as there is nowhere to walk safely). I can drive I choose not to, and I am adapting to barefoot walking (either completely barefoot or very thin barefoot shoes)

Oya's Daughter said...

Once upon a time I also loved walking. I walked everywhere, and even managed to transverse a fair bit of countryside.

Now, however, I'm disabled, and walking is next to impossible. Unfortunately the world isn't built for people like me so getting anywhere when you can't walk is very difficult. I'm stuck at home because for me and people like me buying some form of transport just to get out the house often costs more than a car (scooters are mad expensive). I wish there was an alternative for people like myself who no longer than do the walking - but sadly the eco-movement misses our existence a bit.

In a perfect world I'd have a solar-powered scooter thing (they're being developed in Japan and less than half the price of an electric wheelchair here in the UK, how does that work?!). But until then, I'll live vicariously through the posts of people who can do what I no longer can.

Enjoy it, and be grateful for's scary how life can change, and quickly.

africanaussie said...

I love walking, although it is too far for me to walk to work, and we don't have the lovely showers you talk of! Every day my hubby and I go for along barefoot walk on the beach. that is my favorite time of the day!

ceridwen said...


...and good for you for this. I have, perforce, to do a lot of walking anyway - as I have NO transport at all. It does help keep me fit - and aware of the necessity to look after my feet properly (keep them comfortably shod and any ailments dealt with promptly). I get where you are coming from re being worried about cycling on busy roads - but at least it's obvious to me that you don't cycle on pavements. Pavement cyclists are the bane of a pedestrians' life (I've nearly been hit several times myself - eek!). But - good on you that you obviously don't do this. Keep on trucking with that walking - I'm planning on a lot more of that myself... to travel on Shanks' pony again soon myself...