How Walking Became a "Lost Mode"

To launch his new 4-part series on walking in Slate, Tom Vanderbilt describes the "public health nightmare" of a country that has forgotten how to walk.

Vanderbilt argues that Americans' lack of familiarity with the most basic mode of locomotion is based largely on their devotion to driving - as well as the fact that walking is taken for granted:

"Even in one of America's most 'pedestrian-friendly' cities-a seemingly innocent phrase that itself suddenly seemed strange to me-one was always in danger of being relegated to a footnote. Which is what walking in America has become: An act dwelling in the margins, an almost hidden narrative running beneath the main vehicular text. Indeed, the semantics of the term pedestrian would be a mere curiosity, but for one fact: America is a country that has forgotten how to walk. [T]he idea that that we, this species that first hoisted itself into the world of bipedalism nearly 4 million years ago-for reasons that are still debated-should now need 'walking tips,' have to make 'walking plans' or use a 'mobile app' to 'discover' walking trails near us or build our 'walking histories,' strikes me as a world-historical tragedy.

...[W]alking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one's car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars-those pitiable 'vulnerable road users,' as they are called with charitable condescension-do."

In the next installments, Vanderbilt will examine the science of walking, calculating your walking score, and learning to walk again.

Full Story: The Crisis in American Walking


Brand new! Urban Grid City Collection

Each city has its own unique story. Commemorate where you came from or where you want to go.
Grids and Guide Red book cover

Grids & Guides

A notebook for visual thinkers. Available in red and black.
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $16.95 a month
T-shirt with map of Chicago

Show your city pride

Men's Ultrasoft CityFabric© tees. Six cities available.