A horse walking towards Arnex Sur Nyon on an overcast day
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Five Point Two Millions Steps In A Single Year

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Last year I walked five point two million steps, which is both a lot, and yet normal, for me. What makes last year so curious is that I didn’t feel to walk that much. I walked for one and a half hours, rather than two to three hours. My loops became shorter, but I also cycled some weeks so my step count was low.

The fact that I did walk five point two million steps goes some way in explaining why certain driver behaviour has become toxic to me. I don’t think that it’s only about driver behaviour. It’s also about having to keep my shoes clean. When I didn’t worry about dirtying my shoes, if I saw a car coming towards me, I could walk into the mud, to safety, and then continue on my walk.

Ever since I began to be more considerate of people who use their cars, rather than their feet, so have lost touch with the art of wandering around in muddy conditions I have become more tired of apathetic drivers, and dog walkers. I think that being able to get my shoes muddy was critical to having a pleasant walk, because I could avoid cars, and take routes that were more likely to be muddy, but safer from cars.

Recently I considered two things. The first of these is socks that get worn out, through compression, rather than holes. In walking one and a half hours a day I have worn socks flat, so that they’re less comfortable, when they make contact with the tops of shoes. I think that’s why certain shoes became uncomfortable. Just because socks don’t have holes in them, doesn’t mean that they are not worn out, especially with barefoot shoes.

The second thing is that I now wear Xero Xcursion shoes. They’re barefoot shoes that are waterproof. I was tempted by the Merrel GTX trail Glove 7 but they cost more than twice as much and they were not available within a reasonable time. The Xero shoes are comfortable to wear and despite letting a little water in they are better than barefoot shoes. At least with these I can step into small puddles without my feet getting too wet.

That’s not actually what I wanted to highlight. The problem with the trail glove 7 shoes that I use in summer is that they have a tread that is great at trapping mud, but awful at getting it out of the tread once I get home. With the Xero Xcursion Fusion shoes the tread is ideal. With a brush I can easily clear almost all the mud from my shoes within a minute or two per shoe, before walking into the building of people who never get muddy shoes.

This improves my quality of life. If I don’t need to spend half an hour cleaning shoes after every walk I am more inclined to regain the freedom that I had lost during my quest to find a solution to have clean shoes once I re-enter the building.

The paradox is not lost on me, that people have door mats that have no tread or brushing abilities. They are horrified at the site of mud, and yet the paillason is designed for city slickers to dry their shoes after walking on tarmac.

No modern building accounts for muddy shoes, so people are horrified at the site of mud, because they have forgotten that walking in mud used to be normal. I saw an archive photo of New York in the horse and cart days. Imagine if instead of mud you had horse and cow dung on your shoes. Mud is clean.

By walking locally and not using the car I have discovered that there are plenty of pleasant walks where I live. I have found that I can walk 15-20 routes, depending on where I turn right, left, or continue going straight. If these routes were made car free then agricultural roads would be fantastic places to walk. What bothers me about cars on agricultural roads is that they drive at 80 on a road that is for tractors going 30 km/h.

There are plenty of nice walking routes between villages but the only way to get between villages is to walk along the road, and by walking along the road you have to walk in tall grass in summer, tall wet grass when it’s raining in summer, and muddy conditions when the rain has stopped, or dew hasn’t evaporated. With the drawing of a one meter wide path covered in gravel or wood chippings the side of the road would become a nice walking path. Pedestrians would be away from cars, and the need to use cars to get from one village to another would be diminished.

At the end of the day we need this because cars don’t slow down for pedestrians, so we need walking paths half a meter from the road, for people to walk along in safety. Imagine the benefit to children, people with prams, and dog walkers. I don’t especially like dog walkers but the point is that so much attention is given to car free cities, that people forget that people who drive cars into cities do so because walking is not safe. If people who don’t live in cities, don’t need to take their car, then the need for parking, and for driving is nullified.

I drove a car to London but never touched it because of english petrol prices, but even today I use the car to shop, not to go somewhere for a walk. Villages and towns need to focus on making walking and cycling safe.

And Finally

I only discovered that there were so many walks around where I lived because my motor scooter was crashed into. I walked to the scooter place several times and eventually grew into the habit of doing that walk, and then expanding and exploring others. I was one of those people who thought it was absurd or boring to walk between villages but now it has become normal. Not only has it become normal, but I see that there would be value in making walking villages not only possible, but attractive. Walking from Eysins to Gingins, and from Gingins to Tranche-Pied before walking down to Borex, and from Borex to Crans could be nice, with the right walking infrastructure. A gravel or wood chip path, half a meter to a meter from the road would be enough. The aim is just to provide a clean walking surface, not to get soaked, or muddy.

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