Slow down. Experience life directly. Feel the world. These are things I tell myself a lot when technology — phone and laptop in particular — begins to take the life out of living. And these are things I need to hear when I’ve sat too long in one place doing too little with my body, when I haven’t challenged my senses by experiencing what’s out there.
I fear that humans (including me) are on track to becoming brains in jars hooked up to the Internet. Technology, of course, offers us many advantages. But cars, television, computers, the Internet and smartphones have proven to be self-invited assaults on our physical beings, on the strength of our imaginations, on the richness our real-world social lives. These innovations designed to improve life have also helped make us unhealthy, isolated and dull. But there’s hope!
So what to do? My plan isn’t just to sit here writing about this while sipping coffee and eating sugar cream pie at Locally Grown Gardens (though that seems like a pretty good idea). Instead, I want to join others in being further dedicated to walking and biking more myself while encouraging others to do so, too. Going for a walk or ride should be more than a fitness option. It should be a way for people of all ages and backgrounds to get from place to place. It should be an integrated part of our lives.
Walking and biking should be useful experiences on multiple levels. Our city and our neighborhoods should be designed (and redesigned) to make this possible. And people with the ability and capacity to do so — like me and the art and livability organization I run, Big Car — should team up to campaign for more walking and biking (and socializing while doing so) in our communities.
In the next two weeks, Big Car is working on two events that address this issue. Saturday, we celebrate Neighborday at Service Center for Culture and Community. This includes lots of things; but you really should join us for Mayor Ballard’s Spring Fever Bike Ride that starts and ends there. And then, on May 4, we lead a group walk called the Near Southside Stroll as part of an international celebration of urban innovator Jane Jacobs. It starts and ends at the Garfield Park conservatory. Both events are free.
You never see a commercial on TV telling you to go for a walk. That’s because there’s no money in it. Walking requires no accessories, other than another person or a dog to keep you company. Even those are optional. You have yourself and your imagination. Bring a notebook or a camera. Put away your cell phone and get out and explore. Pop into a café (my son says I always smell like coffee shops). Learn a new neighborhood. Find a new friend. Burn some energy (goodbye sugar cream pie). Sleep better at night.
along the route of the Near Southside Stroll