Cycling and taking the bus are the most emphasized methods of transit during Strive Not to Drive week. But on Friday I relied solely on my preferred and ancient technique: walking.
So any time I had a place to go, my own two feet took me there. This isn’t that unusual. If I can get to a place in a reasonable amount of time and it’s remotely walkable, I’ll do that instead of using my car. I’ve decided to do this for the physical and personal economic benefits as much as any grander ideal: Filling up the car only once a month saves a lot of money. Unlike the bus or cycling, walking requires no cash or maintenance (except replacing the occasional pair of shoes).
While many parts of the city aren’t easily walkable, it’s a more viable option than many may think, provided one’s willing to endure a longer trip. But if you don’t mind taking 10 to 15 minutes instead of five to get to the bank or grab some groceries, it’s doable for a number of trips. While I live in the core part of the city now, I also frequently walked places when I lived in Montford, Haw Creek and West Asheville (though it was more difficult in those last two).
An added bonus is that one gets to see the city up close. Walking around, one notices the odd event poster, the new bit of graffiti, a friend passing by, the overlooked historical marker, the googly eyes impishly pasted to a lamppost and the Gordian knot of tennis shoes dangling from the power lines near the skate park. Asheville becomes more than something out the window, an important reminder of the living, breathing city right outside our windows.
So what did I observe on Friday?
* It’s very convenient Amazing Savings opened up downtown, making it easier to make the pre-weekend grocery run without hopping in a car (yes, Greenlife’s nearby downtown as well, but it’s too expensive to get a full load of groceries there, at least for me). Downtown has an abundance of restaurants, but more basic stores would be welcome.
* Most Asheville drivers are fairly polite to pedestrians, and some are even quite kind, but there’s an unfortunate tendency to not use turn signals. This has lead to more close scrapes than I like to think about. One essential part of walking around the city is staying aware of your surroundings. In a collision with a car or bike, you lose, because you are not made of metal.
* Most people still don’t get how to use roundabouts. I’ve come closer to getting run over near One Oak Plaza more often than anywhere else around.
* It’s apparently a long-standing custom to honk the horn furiously when seeing a pedestrian crossing through the Beaucatcher Tunnel. It’s also stunningly rude and incredibly annoying. This is one tradition Asheville would be better off without.
At the same time, it was an absolutely lovely day and I got where I needed to go with minimal trouble. The breeze felt wonderful and the trip cost me nothing. All pleasures in life should be so easily attainable.