Walking Helps You Read a City Like a Book

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Walking helps you read a city like a book, says Paul Constant, books editor for The Stranger. Paul, a regular walker, doesn’t walk for fitness or sport. For him walking gives a true feel for a place. It’s also a meditative experience which gets him to slow down, take time to think, and inspires his writing. Paul isn’t a fair weather walker either; he walks year round in all kinds of weather. I get resentful on the Burke Gilman Trail in the late spring, he ruefully admits, wondering where were all these people in February?


Paul likes to see how cities connect. In one of his recent big walks his interest was to see the breadth of Seattle, to get a physical feel for the size of it. Therefore he planned a walking route from the southwest corner of Seattle (Roxbury in West Seattle) to the northeast corner in Shoreline.


Ever the book lover, Paul describes the West Seattle Bridge as a bit like Narnia. You can’t get there the same way twice due to the construction and traffic. Routes are not marked for pedestrians, so after crossing six lanes it’s not clear what the path is. He did note there was more signage for bicyclists. On the north end of the city he observed that sidewalks stop north of Lake City and pedestrians must dance around cars. He described that stretch of the walk as not welcoming to pedestrians; he had to walk on people’s lawns. He started the 23 mile walk on a Saturday morning with coffee, lunch and a couple of Goodwill stops to check out clothes along the way, it took him approximately 8.5 hours to reach his goal, the sign welcoming people to Shoreline.


Paul’s employer, The Stranger, advocates for neighborhood density and until he started his walks around the city, Paul assumed from posts in neighborhood blogs and other websites that space in the city was at a premium. He was pleasantly surprised on this walk to see how much available space there still is in a large city like Seattle. That’s a good thing, he says, as there are different types of living for different people.

Paul has some tips for would-be-walkers. Walkers who want to listen to music or podcasts should only use one earbud for safety reasons.  If you wouldn’t normally schedule a walk during your free time he recommends, The next time you are going to a movie, check Google Maps and try walking there rather than driving or even taking public transportation. Those who do so might find that walking becomes, as Paul says, like an addiction.


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