In the essay, “Walking and the Suburbanized Psyche,” Rebecca Solnit writes that due to urbanization, walking, which manages the reunion of the mind, soul, and imagination, has deteriorated within society. Solnit writes that the golden age of walking lasted from the eighteenth century until a few decades ago; the ending of that golden age due to the lessening of recreational and leisure walking. She argues that in today’s society, walking is a sign of weakness and poor financial status. Within the essay, she contends that the American mind has changed as the suburbs have developed.
And Solnit argues that Americans now perceive their bodies in different ways than before and that their new mindset has contributed to the devaluing of walking within society. I disagree with the idea that suburbanization is the reason for the decline of walking in modern society. Times have transformed from the eighteenth century, so the concept of using walking as a main source of transportation and as a significant leisure activity is obscure.
There has been a notable decrease in walking due to the upbringing of new, more prevalent dangers and the busy everyday schedules of people. As important as walking was to society during the eighteenth century, it has become an increasingly dangerous activity during the twenty-first century. Walking contributes to many potentially fatal incidents, especially for women and children, who are vulnerable to the solitude of walking. Solnit brings up an argument writing that people today would rather wait twenty minutes for a parking spot at a shopping center than walk two blocks.
Personally, as a young female, I do not feel safe walking long distances, especially on the outskirts of a shopping center. So many more dangers have become prevalent in the twenty-first century making it a risk to walk to your destination in place of driving or Ubering. I have had many situations walking to my car in parking garages and to my parking spot where I have been followed, harassed and felt uncomfortable to where I have had to be escorted to my car.
On one occasion, I was walking back to my car, which was a substantial distance away from the store I was shopping at and had been followed to my car, where a man had gotten over to the passenger door of my car and tried to get into my car. Luckily, I had locked my car door before he tried to get into the car, but I had the safety of my car to protect me. If I had been walking home or walking two blocks to my car with someone following me with intent to harm, the situation could have been more fatal. The same dangers apply to children. Children are at severe risk of dangers such as an abduction while walking. Whether they are walking to school or walking to the park, it is risky to let a child walk alone or even a group of children to walk from a destination to a destination with no supervision because of the world today. Parents and guardians do not feel as comfortable letting their children roam freely on foot as they did a few centuries ago. This is not due to suburbanization, but due to the increased crime rates and clear dangers of walking.
It is easy for someone, regardless of gender or age, to be abducted, assaulted, or robbed while walking. For this reason, many drive to their destinations in place of walking. In today’s day and age, it is just too dangerous to walk the same amount as others did within the era of walking during the eighteenth century. Walking has decreased as a leisure activity in today’s society for a simple reason; it is difficult to find time to put aside in one’s schedule to go for a walk. As a student-athlete with a busy schedule day after day, I do not have time to go for a stroll around the dorms or to get a group of friends together to go for a walk. Many people work 9:00-5:00 jobs and need every minute they have off to rest or eat. Those working towards jobs that are enrolled in college have class after class, with barely enough time to grab food. Walking for leisure for those with such busy schedules is not a priority over getting to class, eating, or resting.
When I would visit my grandparents in their retirement community in Victorville, California, I would see individuals, couples, and groups of friends walking around on the trails that led throughout the community and in the dirt paths just behind the community. Seeing that this is a retirement community, those living in these homes do not have jobs they need to tend to and have limited responsibilities throughout the day, leaving them with a large amount of leisure time. Those who have the time to go walking for pure enjoyment are usually those who partake in walking as a leisure activity. Obviously, those of us that may not have as much free time as those living in retirement communities or with more open schedules do not have the same opportunity to walk for leisure.
A large section of the population does not share this mass free-time, therefore, there is not the time to walk for leisure. Walking in the eighteenth century and walking in the twenty-first century have transformed, just as many things have. However, the reasoning for the lessening of walking as a leisure activity and main mean of transportation has occurred for the obvious dangers that come with walking, especially for females and today’s youth. The prevalent decrease in walking that has occurred is also a result of the busy schedules of people today, especially for those employed and enrolled in schooling.