I like to think I am a bit of a walker. I literally destroy several pairs of shoes every year. I was even a hiker, once upon a time.
And I call myself a “walker” despite the fact I mostly travel by bike. Walking, while being slow and let’s face it: prehistoric, does let you concentrate on your tunes, it requires very little preparation and it gives you vastly more opportunities to stop and take photos.
But I am not all about taking happy-snaps and tramping about in a state of undress while idiotically humming along to some awesome playlist. Walking is business. I take it frkn seriously.
And so I walk fast. Not like olympic-fast but – well…determined.
So everywhere I have been in the world I have walked the shit out of. Sometimes it’s just ’cause I am scared of understanding the public transport system, but mostly it’s just ’cause I can. I have walked from 110th street all the way to Tribeca and from the middle of Brooklyn too. I got horrible, agonising rashes on my thighs and terrible, terrible blisters on my feet from walking so much in Berlin last year which lasted on and off for weeks as I continued to excessively perambulate through a bunch more of Europe.
I do love a bit of overseas public transport, but nothing beats being on the surface of a city. You look local, you see a whole bunch of bonus things and it only costs the extra awesome food you need to consume after smashing all those calories. (For me that’s usually chips by the way.)
And this seasoning gives me at least some pretense that I actually have “walking skills”.
1) I walk in a straight, predictable line. (But obviously not like I’m Richard Ashcroft)
2) If I am changing that line I do a shoulder check
3) I walk left (or right if I am in a country that drives on the right or in the London underground. Tokyo underground too in some stations)
4) I do not leap out of a store or doorway without giving way. And the same goes for going into a store or mall
5) If I am going to jay-walk I do not expect the people at the other side waiting obediently for the walk signal to let me barge through
6) I do not suddenly stop for no reason without any concern for those behind
7) If, one day I found myself pushing a pram, I would keep to the extreme left, and would not let another pram get pushed directly abreast, thereby blocking the entire thoroughfare
8) And it goes without saying that if I had kids with me I would make sure they knew all these rules too. At least for their own safety.
So why, I hear you ask, are Brisbane pedestrians so bad? Well it’s ultimately because we live in a warm climate. In cold, hostile environments, if you have to walk somewhere you do it quickly and with utter concentration. No chit-chat, no texting-while-you-walk, no looking at the scenery. It’s too cold to wander.
Here, in Brisbane, we walk slow and lethargic, all year round, and that lethargy extends to our mental state as well. We don’t need to concentrate on where, or how we are getting to our next destination. We seem to decide that on the way. It’s almost like Brisbane people are rambling, aimlessly all the time.
But further – the warmer weather means more people are outside – there’s more traffic – and there is actually a good reason to walk slow: you don’t sweat as much. But hello Brisbane – not everyone wants to walk at sub-zombie-speed.
And further still – this glorified country town is not yet that kinda city – like New York – where there’s a communal vibe that means everyone feels ultra-important, rushing to do everything. NYC effectively has a urban-militaristic pedestrian culture.
In NYC if you hold someone up on a subway escalator you are likely to get smacked in the back of your head, or stabbed in the kidney or at least stabbed with the phrase, “hey, I’m walking here!” Or just a quick “Jerk!” cause New Yorkers are getting so time-poor even the “Hey I’m walking here!” takes too long to say.
My mum told me once she got a bit used to the fact when she was asking directions in NYC and people were stopping and willing to help, she would choose too many words to explain where she wanted to go and the people were just walking off while she was in mid-sentence. “You just needed to say your exact destination as succinctly as possible to get any guaranteed help,” she explained.
Brisbane is just backward. We are not quite a big city yet, but we’re certainly getting there. We will soon see those signs on escalators, footpaths and corridors saying “walk left” and then maybe Brisbane won’t be so bad for walking.
I still like it but.