A Walk by the Vallée De Joux

Every so often I get in a car to walk somewhere different. For two or three days we have been in the fog. Yesterday the fog was so thick that when I was driving I decided to slow down. I wanted to be able to stop in half the visible distance.

When the wind is still, and fog forms, there is another advantage, if you get above it. The water on lakes is flat. It’s so flat that the lake becomes a mirror. This is great for photography.

Looking at the rock face near the Lac de Joux -- Looking at the rock face near the Lac de Joux

Le Pont when the Lac de Joux is calm -- Le Pont when the Lac de Joux is calm

Frost that has built upwards -- Frost that has built upwards

A Walking Decline in the US Since 2019
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A Walking Decline in the US Since 2019

According to streetlight data walking in the US has declined over the past three or four years. The decline was by up to thirty six percent from 2019-2022. The clearest reason for this is that 2019 and 2020 were walking honeymoon periods. By this I mean that for the duration of lock down and “work from home” people had more time to walk since they spent less time commuting, but also because the natural habit of getting into a car to do something had declined., thanks to the pandemic.


The Return of Driving Post lock down


As pandemic lock downs came to an end so the nightmare of people using cars revived. When people are free to range further, out of lock down, they drive to do things, like shop, go to cinemas and go to indoor gyms, rather than enjoy the outdoor world. Imagine if, during the pandemic, you went for a one hour walk because the indoor gym was closed. Imagine if you walked locally, because it made sense not to drive far from personal toilets, and other conveniences.


The Pandemic Walking Options


I am not in the US, so my experience is irrelevant to the US situation. In my experience I walked up to three hours per day, and enjoyed my walks, until the habit of driving became a problem once again. Plenty of walks that were probably pleasant due to lock downs and fewer people driving, were destroyed by the return of cars and their drivers.


For two or three years I would walk down towards the lake and along farm roads that were narrow. During the honeymoon these roads were quiet. They were a pleasure to walk along. With the return of normal life people started to drive along these narrow lanes again, without being considerate of pedestrians.


The Loss of Safe Walking Paths


I went from having three hour walking loops that were empty of cars, and a pleasure to walk along, to paths that became a nightmare. When you have a car going at 50 to 80 kilometres per hour half a meter from you, every few minutes, every day, for years, you get fatigued.


That fatigue results in people, including me, choosing to walk less, and even to consider not walking at all, and getting into the accursed cars.


Attention On Cars Rather than Walking


No one addresses the elephant in the room. We have made a landscape where walking between villages on foot, or cycling, have become dangerous. If it’s dangerous to walk along pandemic walking paths, due to the return of people in their cars, then it makes sense that there would be a 39 percent decline in walking habits in the US. Why would you walk, when to walk is to expose yourself to dangerous drivers?


The Need for Rural Walking Paths Between Villages and Towns


That’s why I argue so often that instead of making towns and cities pedestrian friendly we must make it safe to walk between villages, and from villages to towns, and from villages to cities. Why would people walk along dangerous roads, rather than take a bus, or car?


Awful for Walking


I see that efforts are being made to make towns and cities more walker friendly but in my opinion it makes more sense to connect villages with walking loops. I want to be able to walk from Crans to Céligny to Crassier to La Rippe to Borex to La Rippe and plenty of other villages without having to walk along busy car roads. I want to be able to walk on walking paths where cars are banned. There are plenty of agricultural roads but villages like Eysins are scary. There is a bridge from Crans to Eysins where cars drive fast, playing chicken with each other despite pedestrians crossing. On another road people speed along at 80 or more kilometres per hour, without showing consideration for pedestrians. On a road between Arnex sur Nyon and Crans there are agricultural roads where drivers speed, without being considerate of pedestrians.


It’s fine and dandy for Nyon, Geneva, Lausanne and other towns to say that they want to increase walking, cycling and other forms of movement, but they won’t increase those means of transport if you can’t walk from villages around Nyon, into Nyon, or cycle from Nyon to Geneva without being thrown into parkings or onto busy roads where car drivers park in cycling lanes in summer.


I often walked to Crans and Céligny, until I grew tired of walking along agricultural roads with cars that were driven too fast and too close to me. I don’t want to stop every time a car is close to me. I want cars to slow down and overtake at slightly more than walking speed. That’s what I do when I am driving a car. I want cars to respect pedestrians.


Discouraging Cars Without Providing Alternatives


When Geneva changed traffic systems to discourage drivers, I stopped going to Geneva, and when Nyon made the same mistake I stopped going to Nyon. When I lived in London I once drove from Switzerland to London, saw the price of petrol and left it parked. If public transport is good, from villages to towns, and from towns to cities, then people will not use cars. The problem with Switzerland is that the policy makers live in towns and only see the journeys between towns, rather than villages. It used to take 45 minutes to drive from work home, and one and a half hours by public transport. You encourage people to walk, cycle, and take public transport when trains or buses are every five minutes, as with the London underground.


Walking Rather than Driving


If it was pleasant to walk from Arnex sur Nyon to Nyon, or from Borex to Nyon, or from Signy to Nyon people would have the opportunity to leave the car, and enjoy a pleasant walk instead. The problem that I see, every single time I go for a walk, is that whilst towns and villages try to discourage driving within them, they do nothing to encourage walking and cycling from outside.


I have a really healthy walking habit, but when I am made to fear for my safety on every single walk I seriously consider getting into the car, to walk somewhere, where I feel safer to walk. The paradox is that I would drive far, to walk a smaller distance. I would be part of the problem, by getting into a car, to go for a walk.


Think of that paradox. I have to get into a car to go for a walk, because the local walks are too dangerous because cars do not slow down enough, on roads that are meant for agriculture, not cars.


And Finally


During the pandemic honeymoon, especially during lock downs, I got to experience the great potential of walking locally. During the honeymoon of lock downs I could walk from Nyon to Founey, and from Founex to Crassier, and from Crassier to Tranche-Pied, and from Tranche Pied to Gingins, without fearing cars. I could even walk along the motorway because it was quiet and pleasant.


So many efforts are being made to discourage the use from within towns and cities, but they forget that the place from which people are most likely to drive, is villages. If people can walk between villages safely, then the need for cars is diminished. It is futile to make towns and cities pedestrian friendly, and more village like, if villages require people to use cars.


For me there is no mystery. People walk less because it’s more dangerous to do so, now that roads are filled with cars again. Global society should bring back the habit of people walking between villages, safely. Cycling suffers from the same issue. If it is dangerous for children to cycle, things need to improve.

A Walk at the Snow Line

A Walk at the Snow Line

The most striking thing about a winter with little to no snow is that there is no noise. Normally ski lifts clank, people talk and there is a lot of noise



When there has been very little snow the ski lifts are turned off and the mountains are quiet. This is when you realise the impact of winter sports.


In summer you hear cowbells.

A Walk In The Shade

A Walk In The Shade

A walk from one forest to another from Founex to Arnex.


Sometimes we walk in the rain and the snow and we get soaked by the weather. Today I drank a litre in an hour and a half of walking. The air temperature is around 31c.


I decided to walk from clump of trees to clump of trees. It’s possible. If I had walked in the direct sun I would have needed to drink more than I did.


31 might seem warm but we had 37 for days in a row during previous years. This year has been gentle.


Day Twenty-Six of ORCA in Switzerland – Playing With 360 Video
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Day Twenty-Six of ORCA in Switzerland – Playing With 360 Video

It’s Day 26 and today I was playing with 360 video. Specifically I went for a walk in the woods and placed the camera ahead of me to provide people with the opportunity to look around. Doing this is a risky strategy during the pandemic because if you cross paths with anyone there is nowhere to avoid them. I quickly went back to open space and retreated for home. One runner passed too close.


It’s a cruel paradox of pandemics that the people you would most like to spend with, and the activities you would most like to do are forbidden, and those that are chores are allowed. Shopping is allowed. Meeting people to climb is not, meeting people to cycle is not. Nothing is allowed except putting up with the noise of people not in solitude.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usG77hrI_DU&feature=youtu.be


Today I could stand neither Facebook nor Twitter so I spent time on Flickr insstead. I practiced writing captions by going through some of my images and adding titles and captions. I have over 30,000 images to work through so if I spend enough time I will perfect this skill.


What I want out of social media is to have a pleasant conversation about normal topics. For now social media is about three things. The Disease, thanking people, and blaming others. If you’re not in the mood for this trio of topics then it’s worth closing two tabs.


I continued Reading Pandemic by Sonia Shah. It’s interesting to note that denialism is nothing new when it comes to epidemics and the spread of disease. In the time of Cholera people would censor and hide that the disease was spreading. In another case people chose to take water from a contaminated source, rather than a clean river. Some unethical behaviours have not changed in centuries. Neither has the denialism. We have seen the health impacts of such behaviour. The US will soon reach half a million cases.


Blossom is still coming out from trees so I put the 360 camera right next to some blossom. Explore the image below to get a sense of spring.


Untitled

Day Twenty of ORCA in Switzerland – An Island of Tranquility
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Day Twenty of ORCA in Switzerland – An Island of Tranquility

Today I went on my daily walk and found an island of tranquility. Instead of walking in one direction I reversed it. In doing so I saw the river from another point of view. I was on a trail and saw that I could get down to the riverbed and did. I saw a tree lying from one bank to the other and I thought, “Look, a bridge” but of course I didn’t cross it because I’d have fallen in.


Today’s walk was shorter than usual and there are two reasons for it. The first is that I’ve walked the routes so many times over the last three summers that I’m in need of a change. The second reason is that today it was warm, it’s a Saturday, and it’s warm.


All of these factors meant that people were motivated to go out for a walk. When too many people go out during a pandemic the challenge of not walking within three meters is more pronounced.


As I got close to home, and saw how many people were walking I thought that the last four hundred meters would be really challenging. I thought I would have to find a quiet spot and watch for a gap in pedestrian traffic before I could walk home. Luckily that fear stayed theoretical.


I had planned to ride the bike indoors when I got home but then I got distracted with the need to work on a motivation letter but this was interrupted by a phone call and now it’s time for dinner and I have to write the blog post first.



I want to keep my daily routine up. I want to keep discipline. I also want to be ready for when life gets back to normal. I want to know that I set daily goals and I reach them consistently for weeks or months at a time. I am on day 208 of my German practice streak for example.


“COVID-19”, as people have been saying, “is not a holiday. It’s a pandemic. Stay home, and self-isolate.” Did you notice the shift from “social isolation” to “self-isolation”. I prefer the second term. I am self-isolating. I am keeping myself company, and at the end of the day, after having conversations via whatsapp or other apps I have a conversation with myself, in the form of writing. By the end of my “write a blog post task” I feel rested and relaxed, and I often feel my mood lift. It’s serving me well.


Now I can prepare dinner.

On Breaking an arm and replacing climbing with swimming and cycling with walking
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On Breaking an arm and replacing climbing with swimming and cycling with walking

A few weeks ago I broke my arm while cycling. I was indicating that I was turning right while breaking with my left hand and the brake blocked and the next thing I knew the bike was on top of me.

I extricated myself from beneath the bike and dragged it to the side of the road and reached into my bag to get a bottle of coke to help with the shock. I drank it and tried to recover before walking home. This accident happened just meters from my home.

A driver helped and asked if I wanted a ride to hospital and I said “no” because I was so close to home. Within a few minutes I stood up and limped to put the bike in the garage and walk up to my apartment. I sat there for twenty or more minutes; thought about resting and seeing if the pain would decrease.

I could feel that my left arm was limited in motion and my right wrist was in pain. It felt as if the injury was serious enough for a walk to the hospital three kilometres away. When I felt relatively certain that I wouldn’t faint along the way i started to walk. A friend who lives in the same apartment was driving a post van and asked if I needed a ride and I answered yes. Rather than being delivered to hospital by ambulance I was delivered in a postal van. First joke opportunity.

I checked in to the hospital and was checked. I told them that my left arm hurt and that my right wrist hurt. I was asked if I had a helmet. I said “yes”. The medical person took my blood pressure, heart rate, checked my stomach for injuries and then told me to go to reception, take care of the bureaucracy and wait for the doctor to see me. The wait was a long one.

When I finally did see the doctor she checked the mobility in my arm and thought I had probably not broken anything in my left arm but wanted it x-rayed anyway, along with my right hand. The X-ray was painful.

When the doctor saw me after looking at the X-ray she said that I did have a small linear fracture in my humerus and that it had to be immobilised. My hand was not even mentioned.

For the next two days I struggled with everything from opening the doors and windows to getting dressed and showering. For a short period of time I thought I would need to ask for help with daily tasks.

I was sad about this injury because it meant that cycling and climbing were no longer possible for at least two weeks. I had just changed my yearly cycling goal to 3000km.

For over a month I could not drive or put any weight on my left arm. I couldn’t cook much. I couldn’t drive and I struggled to shower.

Due to this injury I had to walk everywhere. I walked to the shops and just to get out of the house. I was walking 15-20kms a day, during a heatwave. I enjoyed walking. As I walked everywhere I took plenty of pictures and completed my via alpine route one goal. I walked over a hundred kilometres a week.

Aside from walking I also needed to rest and recover. I would turn on the television and watch the Tour de France on France 3 and France 2 every single stage. This was my best way of resting and recovering.

When I could use my arm again and started physio I started to spend more and more time with the arm brace. This was a good time to get it to dry out. With the summer heat it got soaked.

Eventually I did feel well enough to travel and left for Spain where I swam every morning in the sea and every afternoon in a pool. The sea was between 26-27 degrees and the pool was at a pleasant 30c.

I swam half an hour in the morning and half an hour in the afternoon. Swimming was a good sport because it’s a soft sport. You can easily modulate the effort according to whether you feel pain or not. It also requires no lifting or extra strain as the bone recovers.

I love swimming but the main issue with this sport is that water is cold and that air is also cold. I love to be warm so I enjoy swimming most when I know that I will stop shivering sooner rather than later.

I almost always swam with a mask but often with a mask and snorkel. In so doing I could see how few fish were around in the sea but also to reduce the strain put on my arms. With a mask and snorkel you don’t need to pop your head above the surface for every breath. You can also make a gentler effort and avoid straining the bones that are mending.

I tracked these swims with both the Suunto spartan wrist hr Baro and the Apple Watch series four. Neither had any issues. I used the Suunto in the sea and the Apple Watch in the pool. The problem with Suunto is that they do not accommodate pools shorter than 25 metres so the stats it gave were wrong.

A forest walk by Chavannes Centre
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A forest walk by Chavannes Centre

When I cycle towards Geneva i often pass by a forest near Chavannes centre. Usually I only skirt the exterior of the forest but I have twice passed through it on a bike on my way back from Geneva. Yesterday I drove the scooter to Chavannes centre and parked it where scooters and bikes can be parked.


I walked from there towards the roads that are closed to traffic and at first i tried going downwards towards the motorway and found a path through the woods but it was blocked by a sign saying, forbidden entry, danger etc. I don’t know whether it was put there by children or whether it was serious so i turned around and went back up the road, towards the jura. I passed by a road but skipped that path. I then found a path cut through the forest overgrown with vegetation so I pushed through.


The path i walked down Tall grass, trees on either side
The path I walked down


I am curious about the origins of this path. It is wide enough for vehicles to go through but it is so overgrown that you need to go from one side of the path to the other. There are plenty of fallen branches, twigs and other things to watch out for. The other thing to pay attention to are the sounds.


I could hear cuckoos in at least two parts of this forest and I could also hear another exotic bird. I caught a glimpse of it but no more. Another sound that I heard was the sound of rustling before something large ran away from me. As I was barely into the forest i questioned whether to continue. I think it was a deer or doe.


So far this spring I have seen three deers or does, a hare and plenty of birds of prey. I’m obviously walking where people are not having conversations and scaring away the animals. It’s funny to hear rustling and see an animal run away.





As you can see from the GPS trace I could have walked twice as far. It would be interesting to see whether there are smaller trails that we can walk along. What I’m looking for are small trail paths that we can walk along, without driving too far. If you do the walk I mention then make sure to have jeans, as there are thorns and tall grasses at moments. Also be aware that some sections are waterlogged so you need to walk on the side of the path.


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Listen for the cuckoo.

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