Some of the healthiest and most enjoyable pastimes are practically free. Walking, for example. Walking in the sense of going for a walk - a gentle stroll from A to B. It's lovely when you can set your own pace, taking in your surroundings with all your senses. How does it sound, the place we’re walking through? Can we hear birdsong or church bells? The murmuring of a brook? We walk along forest paths or cobbles, adjusting our gait to suit the ground underfoot.
And healthy because - well, do we really have to explain why walking is good for you? It stimulates the metabolism and gets the whole body moving. And when we move our bodies, often something gets moving in our heads, too. There’s a reason why many poets and thinkers say they get their best ideas while out for a walk! As the pulse increases, our mood improves, and it's often not just our bodies, but also our minds that find peace.
Yet in the bustle of daily life we tend to forget these benefits. Cars enable us to get from place to place faster, and we often focus on trying to save time, rather than on the journey itself.
In addition, cars are used increasingly for short journeys, even when going on foot would actually be doable and would make more sense. The result is overcrowded city centres, multi-lane roads through otherwise attractive cities, and also, increasingly, a lack of exercise in individuals.
There are many initiatives that encourage people to go on foot more frequently.
Of course it’s not enough to simply list the advantages of walking – many people are already familiar with them. So some projects are trying an approach that combines playful elements with entertaining experiences.
The Walk Your City project
The Walk Your City project, funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology, is run by a project team drawn from yverkehrsplanung, Karl Franzens University Graz, Danube University Krems, ovos media and MANAGERIE e.U.
This project, supported by Wildling shoes, is about motivating more citizens to get walking again and reclaiming spaces where they can do it.
At the beginning of October, Yannic and Luca went to the Austrian city of Graz to experience the city using a core feature of the project - the Time2Walk app. Graz is home to many little crooked lanes and wonderful places that are a pleasure to stroll through. The Schloßberg – or Castle Hill –, for example, with Graz’s famous clock tower and a wonderful view over the city and the surrounding hills, is just waiting to be discovered on nimble paws.
This pedestrian-friendly environment is the perfect starting point for encouraging the citizens of Graz to return to walking. And the Walk Your City project begins right there.
Together with Constantin, a member of the project team, Yannic and Luca hiked around Graz, explored the Schloßberg and the banks of the Mur river, using Time2Walk as a time machine. The app takes a playful approach, starting with a journey into the future:
The “Time2Walk” app
In 2084 Graz is in the grip of a massive environmental crisis and is barely habitable. The air is polluted, smog as far as the eye can see... For years, transport policy in Graz ensured that the city was much more attractive for cars than for pedestrians. As roads were widened, footpaths and green spaces became ever scarcer. Unlike most of the population, scientist Dr. Johanna Josie Johntal (Jojo for short) became aware of the problem early on. But no one wanted to hear her warnings – until one day it was too late... Jojo decided to solve the problem a different way. Based on the discovery of the digital space-time distortion, she built a machine and sent it back to the past in the form of the Time2Walk app. She wants to use it to influence the mobility of Graz residents in the year 2019, in particular motivating them to undertake more journeys on foot and make walking a long-term trend. And that's how the future of Graz is to be saved, in line with Jojo’s motto:
“How can an individual start to save the world? Step by step!”
The app is supported by various offline locations and happenings in the city, such as street games, dance events, foot yoga, silly walks, informal chats, information points with an analogue map and foot-traffic data. So walking together through the city becomes an event.
In September and October this encouraged many Graz residents to rediscover their city, meet other citizens and clock up 10,385 km by the end of October! That’s the length of the Trans-Siberian railway! The next goal is to walk the circumference of the Earth!
What's your take on playful approaches like this? Have you found that apps (geocaching, PokemonGo...) motivate you to walk more?
Which highlights in your town or city can you recommend for exploring on foot?
Walk and run wild!
Anna, Ran & Team Wildling