Walking is good for you—and for the rest of us, in different ways than you might expect.
A travel writer who now lives in her native Montana after decades of more urban life, Malchik hasn’t simply written a self-help book on the physical and psychological benefits of walking, though there is plenty of that here. The author also delivers a manifesto that involves urban planning, technology, political protest, the environment, and the future of the planet. Humans were not only designed to walk, she writes; they are all but defined by their bipedal nature (Malchik does address those who have been immobilized and devotes a chapter to how society can serve them better). A century or so ago, with the emergence of the automobile, communities designed for pedestrian activity were still the norm, and it was the responsibility of the driver to steer clear of walkers. Now the walker is the anomaly, the exception. “Jaywalking is a recently invented term, a recently invented idea,” writes the author, devoting seven pages to the etymology of the term and its social history and reporting that more than 5,000 pedestrians are killed each year by drivers. “The idea of jaywalking is nonsensical,” she argues. “With or without roads, pedestrians have always had the first right to public space. Walking is how humans get places; denying us this access makes no sense.” She also explores the ramifications of refugees walking hundreds of miles for asylum, protestors mobilizing in the thousands for political action, and pilgrims undertaking long journeys by foot for spiritual reasons. (She finds walking meditation more beneficial than sitting meditation.) If we walked more often, we’d feel better, think more creatively, suffer less depression, have more connections as a community, breathe cleaner air, and have a more profound understanding of our place on the planet.
Though it may be too late to turn back the clock on cars (Malchik owns one), she makes a convincing plea for better balance.