Is It OK to Take a Walk?

March 20, 2020

The New York Times – In a bygone era — last week, in other words — the best way to cut through New York City stress was, for many, a stroll to the nearest restaurant, bar or maybe (for the virtuous or vain) the gym.

Not anymore. With Mayor de Blasio’s closure of the city’s restaurants (except for takeout), bars and gyms, which took effect this morning at 9 a.m., along with schools, movie theaters and any other place where people congregate, the stroll, it seems, is all that’s left.

But that is hardly nothing. Both transportation and meditation, the leisurely New York walk, long celebrated in literature, has come to symbolize not only a crucial thread in the city’s social fabric, as we migrate our social and, in many cases, work lives online, but a thread to sanity itself.

“When you walk, you’re utterly in touch with the drama of the city,” said the writer Vivian Gornick, whose 1987 memoir, “Fierce Attachments,” reissued last year, focused on long, illuminating strolls through the city with her mother.

“You’re constantly overhearing conversations, and catching all kinds of snatches of people in odd expressions and conditions. No small city in the world can duplicate that experience.”

“When you’re out on the street,” she added, “it’s a continuous stream of momentary connection, and that has its own life, its own particular vividness, and it’s irreplaceable.”

The same can be said of cycling or jogging, although those activities tend to be more focused and goal-oriented. But whatever your preferred means of locomotion, local governments are attuned to the social and psychological benefits of head-clearing, heart-stimulating jaunts, even in the age of self-quarantines and social distancing.

On Monday, seven counties around Silicon Valley announced a shelter-at-home order that would take effect on Tuesday. San Francisco’s mayor, London N. Breed, issued an order for city residents to stay at home except for “essential needs” … Read more.