Feb 13, 2009

Walking in the big, bus-less city

I love to walk. I wouldn't mind walking pretty much everywhere. But I like it most when it's a choice. And so, when I found myself in the midst of Ottawa's recent transit strike, I had mixed emotions.

Though I ultimately chose Nova Scotia to call home, I did live in Ottawa for almost a decade. My first visit back showed me how much the city has changed without the busses.

On the one hand, this time friends were much more amenible to my suggestions that we walk to wherever we were going - because the alternative was not a quick and cheap bus ride, but an interminable wait for one of the overworked, overpriced cabs. For once, walking was the quick way 'round.

But on the other hand... busses help pedestrians. They get us (close to) where we wanna go so we can walk the rest of the way. They extend our range, letting us access farflung places in the region that we'd otherwise have to drive to. And they help keep the neighbourhoods relatively free of the stinking, honking, crosswalk-blocking mass of road-rage that results when so many bus riders are forced back into their single-occupancy vehicles.

And there were heartbreaking stories about people who were forced to walk hours to work. To these folks, for these 53 days, walking was the only way to save their jobs, and it was cold and icy and not a choice, and not exactly what Walkabout calls "the joyful side of walking".

Still, I have to tip my toque to those who were in a position to rediscover why they like walking. As student/journalist Marlee Wasser wrote,

"I forgot how much I love walking!... And you know what? It actually doesn't take much longer to get places on foot...And I get to work feeling great because I got all those happy-feeling-making endorphins going. So I’m hoping maybe the strike also helped other people realize how great walking is and how socially acceptable it should be to take the sidewalk over the road."

You go, girl. Way to take power in a disempowered, crippled city.

For me, I'm relieved to be back in Halifax - and like you, eager to help build this province's culture of walking. Unlike Ottawa, this city's core is small enough to walk comfortably, and while we get our share of storms, we don't get nearly as much frigid cold - or even as much snow. (Check out the snow that obscures my pics of Ottawa's empty bus stop and newspaper boxes announcing the eventual end of the strike, above). We've got a good thing going here.


  1. http://www.tangle.com/view_video.php?viewkey=d4e42443b47ef5a529a0

  2. Sweet! Happy to see there's a blog all about how awesome walking is. Good luck with your province-wide campaign!

  3. hmmm, that's annoying. when you click on my name in that last comment I posted it takes you to my very first blog I made for a class assignment and not my current, active blog (the one you linked to above). I've played around with my blog account settings, hopefully it's fixed now. don't mind this message, it's just a test!

  4. that didn't seem to work either. one last try!

  5. Marlee, looks like the link finally works right. (Though I didn't mind the brief excursion into the Alta Vista neighbourhood - I used to go through there all the time and wonder about some of those places!)

    And Heart Mother, do you want to expand on your feelings about walking with Jesus? :)