If our society were to start walking as one of their primary choices for transportation, many things would have to change from their current state to allow the transformation to take place. The following questions attempt to unveil what the challenges would be for those changes to take place.

How would the places we lived need to be set up to allow walking to flourish? Schools, markets, towns, cities, etc.
Why would people choose to walk?
How would work change to fit our walking lives?
What are incentives that would encourage people to walk?
What are disincentives that discourage people to walk?
What would be valued in a society were walking was a primary method of transportation?
What safety concerns does a walking society need to address and solve?
What would be done for those physically unable to walk?
Would other modes of transportation be encouraged as well as walking?

As Nathaniel and I walked home from school one afternoon, we discussed how housing would change if our society were centered around the walker rather than the driver. If more people began to walk, we saw a rise in both formal and informal networks of sleeping arrangements. The formal network, made up of hostels and shelters, would allow a walker to rest somewhere safe after a day of traveling by foot. These places could be located on walking routes and would provide a space to meet travelers passing through the area. The informal network is the more storied one, in which community members offer their house and a meal for a traveler passing through. There are examples of this today with websites like couchsurfing.com. Even for short trips, say a 5 mile walk to a friends house, knowing there is a place to sleep at the end of the night is comforting to the walker. Both the formal and informal networks would allow walkers to travel greater distances while knowing that they had a place to stay at the end of the journey. This network would also create social connections among people from across a geographical area.

One specific difficulty that I found with walking was bringing goods with me. Simply wearing my school backpack with a few things in it started to weigh down my shoulders and make them sore. Imagine carrying a load of groceries home with you even for a few miles and most would be turned off enough to find another way of getting their food home. This difficulty can be solved in a few ways. Self-sufficiency and reliance should be strived for, as it would create the need for less trips to a market, no matter how close it was to your home. If these behavioral changes were made, people would still need to get to a place were goods were sold, so it would be a necessary incentive for people walking that they be able to get their goods home with them. A technical solution would be some form of cart or carrying device. Using a cart would allow goods to be moved to and from a place without the need for a mechanized device.


Going to work usually requires some object, a lunch pail or briefcase, to be carrried to and from the office. This again would discourage some from walking and instead seek to find another way to get to work. What if the places people lived were close to the places that they work? Or if they could work from home? What if, because of not owning a car, a person only needed to work half as many hours to be taken care of? What if the things the worker needed could be kept at work? What if a weeks worth of lunches could be stored at the workplace? These questions hint at a sliver of the new ways we could change how our lives and institutions are structured to encourage walking as a primary mode of transportation.

Advertisements