Tuesday, October 17, 2006

winter walking

A quick google search on winter walking gave some depressing results. Results focusing on safety issues are mingled with wonkish planning and engineering studies. On one hand, we are warned of the increased dangers facing the pedestrian who dares venture into this arctic obstacle course of icy sidewalks and cars that can't stop. On the other, solutions are presented in terms of public policy adjustments that take forever to implement and are of no help in preparing for your morning walk to work.

It appears that no one has come up with a list of helpful tips for winter urban walking that addresses anything other than safety. Perhaps it is appropriate to assume that people don't need advice on an activity that they've been doing since they were one or two years old. Still, we believe in the opportunity to improve ones carfree experience, and this includes being a pedestrian. Winter can be one of the nicest times to walk around town and tips from others might make it all the more enjoyable.

So here is (as best we can tell) the internets' first ever practical guide to winter walking. We'll probably expand on some of these ideas and add to the list as more tips come to mind. Feel free to contribute your own ideas and experiences via comments.

1. Dress appropriately
Winter weather requires a shift in wardrobe, but doesn't have to be drastic. Your not climbing K2. You're just walking to the co-op. Good footwear is key. Expect that your shoes will get wet and choose a pair that will keep your feet dry. Dress in layers (I know, you've heard that a million times) and use an outside layer that blocks the wind. Wind is way worse than cold. And wear a hat. Hoods are even better.

2. Watch where you walk
Keep an eye out for icy patches. Packed snow is actually a really good walking surface if it is flat and hasn't melted and refrozen. If you have decent footwear, walking off the sidewalk might be more comfortable.

3. Choose a good route
Consider which way the wind is blowing, where the sun is shining, and which neighbors are best about shoveling their sidewalk. The University is really good about clearing their sidewalks so use them if possible. Switching sides of the street can sometimes cut the wind, warm you with sunshine, and pretty much improve your whole day. Also be aware of big puddles in the road. Buses and big trucks can toss water well across the sidewalk.

4. Pick good street crossings
In our experience, about 90% of street puddles are found at crosswalks and bus stops. If you are waiting to cross, make sure you are well away from potential splashes. And don't feel obligated to trudge through or leap over swampy corners. Look to see if a mid-block crossing is easier.

5. Keep accessories accessable
If you are going to use a bus pass, mobile phone, coins, or utility knife during your trip, keep it somewhere that is easy to get at. Cold and/or covered fingers are not the most agile and pants pockets can be hard to get at if you are in a big winter coat. Stick that stuff in a coat pocket or, better yet, keep it in your mitten. You have mittens, right?

6. Wear mittens
Mittens are warmer than gloves and easier to take off and put on. When it gets REALLY cold, you can wear liner gloves, which make for more nimble fingers than regular gloves, underneath. You can keep stuff you don't want to lose in your hand in the mitten. You can drop stuff while wearing gloves and never notice it. Mittens are cool. Over-sized mittens with a seperate shell and liner are even cooler.
Besides, mittens are statriotic. Drink Michigan Beer & Wear Mittens.

to be continued...

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