Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Life at 3¼ mph

This blog is about life as a non car-owner, so it’s partly about walking: you do a lot more walking when you don’t own a car. Which is A Good Thing. It’s also about other things you do when you don’t own a car. So some of it is about life at 3¼ mph.

Why 3¼ mph? Scottish mountaineer William Naismith devised a rule of thumb in 1892: to time the length of a walk, allow 1 hour for every 3 miles forward, plus ½ hour for every 1000 feet of ascent. Or if you’re metric, that’s 5km and 300 metres respectively. Naismith’s rule is an average; weather and fitness make a difference; bigger cities have faster walkers; lone pedestrians go quicker than groups. I’ve ignored all this and averaged out male walking speeds of 3½ mph and female at 3 mph to get to 3¼ mph.

Walking can be an end in itself, as in “Going For A Walk.” Or it can be a means to an end, a way to get from A to B. If you’re going further afield, walking can be the first step on a longer journey. As Lao Tzu put it, “A journey of a thousand miles began with a single step.” 

Walking is about more than the speed of the journey. Walking is a way of seeing the world. And a way of being in the world.  Pretentious? Recall that most people on the planet still walk - it’s just that many of us in the “developed” world don’t, turning our backs on the thousands of years we spent on the savannahs: we evolved to walk, but now we’re “learning” not to.

Devo, the band from Akron, Ohio say that the human race is in a state of De-evolution.  It’s time to start walking, stop De-Evolving. It’s time to take that first step…

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