Day 8

hooker barbie 2C’mon now, be serious!  I’m talking about professional people — a lucky and surprising number of them — who make their living studying walking, quantifying walking, advocating for it, and working to make walking safer for all pedestrians and especially for children and the elderly.  The buzzword is “livable streets.”

I met some of these fabulously cheerful people at the tenth international Walk21 NYC conference in Washington Square yesterday. Organized by the NYC Dept of Transportation, the conference has attracted hundreds of attendees from 30 countries around the world.

Felipe Leal, Minister of Urban Development and Housing for Mexico City, was quite excited to share his city’s plans for a “Tequila and Mezcal Museum” designed to attract daytime visitors to a public square popular with evening revelers.

Maureen Smith, a public health nurse from Guelph, Canada, undertook her first trip to  New York to learn more about promoting safe walking to and from school, an international campaign she’s been spearheading back home for eight years. 

Robert Laurie, the Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator for the state of Alaska — what he called “the walkingest state in the nation” — came to learn how other urban areas are managing the congestion that also plagues some cities in Gov. Sarah Palin’s our 49th state.

But the star of this year’s conference surely must be New York City herself,  undergoing a streets renaissance highlighted in a series of daily 1.5 hour Walkshops along new pedestrian/cycling pathways like the Broadway Project, the High Line in Chelsea, and the Hudson River Park and Greenway walk , which I joined on the very windy shores of the Hudson.  My walk was led by Connie Fishman, President of the Hudson River Park Trust, and a proud enthusiast for this fabulous 5-mile path and greenway along the river.  

The walkers I met are a truly friendly, dedicated bunch of professionals.   If I wasn’t already convinced that daily walking makes for a calmer, more optimistic outlook on life, the conference convinced me.

I suppose I could have it backwards — it could be that happy people are attracted to walking and walking advocacy. But it still means that when we’re walking, we’re in good company. And that’s enough proof for me.

Come back next week to read about my 3 mile walk on the new Broadway Project pedestrian/bike paths installed along one of the only remaining Native American trail roads on Manhattan Island.