Monday, April 14, 2014

Complete Streets: All of Northfield on Foot

In 2009, Stephan Bossert embarked on his quest to walk every street in Minneapolis. He took along his camera and the walking stick he needed since shattering his femur in a motorcycle rickshaw accident on vacation in Cambodia. As of October 2013, he had walked 80 of Minneapolis’s 87 neighborhoods. His walks are recorded in photographs posted on his (public) Facebook page.

Walking the West Highland Way.  July 2011.
I started to get serious about walking in August 2010. Early each morning, before the sun was up and the temperatures had started to climb, my wife and I walked out to the James Gang coffeehouse for a generous house cup of medium roast (currently $1.95 with a free refill), a round trip of just under 4 miles from our front door. At the time, I was about 25 pounds overweight, and at my most recent check-up my doctor had been concerned about my cholesterol levels. By April 2011, after months of almost daily walking and cross-country skiing, combined with improved eating habits, I had lost 40 pounds. My cholesterol level was no longer a problem. My blood pressure and resting heart rate had also improved significantly.

In early July, my wife and I travelled to Scotland, where over seven days we walked the hundred-mile West Highland Way and climbed Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. But most of my walking has been done on the streets of Northfield, Northfield. So I was interested when City Council Member Erica Zweifel suggested that I follow in Bossert’s footsteps, so to speak, and set out to walk every street in Northfield. It seemed like a perfectly realistic goal.

I experienced a setback in my walking last March, when a serious skiing accident in the Arboretum sent me to Northfield Hospital in the back of an ambulance. But now I’m back at full-strength, and since the second week of March 2014 I’ve walked 235 miles—almost entirely on Northfield city streets (except for weekly walks out to Dundas to enjoy a pastry at Martha’s Eats and Treats).

I suppose there are various ways of going about the project of walking every street in Northfield. For example, I could be obsessively systematic, as I tried to be when I took this 11.56 mile walk on March 18, starting on the east end of First Street.

When I described this route to my friend Christopher (who in January completed a 135-mile bike race through the woods of northern Minnesota in record cold temperatures), he told me I was crazy. Coming from him, I took that as a compliment.

Northfield is a relatively small city, and at my current pace (40-50 miles a week), I could walk every street in a fairly short time. Most likely, I’ll proceed at a leisurely pace, choosing a section of the city to walk and incorporating it into one of my longer daily walks. Many of my walks will retrace ground I’ve already covered (like the walk out to Martha’s), but gradually I’ll fold in previously untrodden parts of Northfield. And from time to time, I’ll blog about my walks here.

Coming soon: A Walk on the West Side

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