How Walking Became a "Lost Mode"

To launch his new 4-part series on walking in <em>Slate</em>, Tom Vanderbilt describes the "public health nightmare" of a country that has forgotten how to walk.
April 10, 2012, 1pm PDT | Michael Dudley
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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.

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Published on Tuesday, April 10, 2012 in
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