Editorials · VIEWS April 7th, 2016

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Still the best mode of transit

A colleague of ours recently discovered an app on his smart phone that must have been installed with his latest software upgrade without him being aware of it. It’s a button labelled simply Health. When he tapped it with his forefinger it suddenly opened up a world of data about his fitness he did not realize was being recorded — starting with a count of his daily steps, flights climbed and distance travelled on foot. When he mentioned his surprise to the rest of us, we pulled out our phones and two of us discovered we had also been unknowingly gifted with this app. Since then we’ve been comparing daily notes on how many steps we’ve traced in our daily activities. And we’ve been consciously trying to reach the 10,000 per day that we understand is key to good overall fitness. We’ve become obsessed with walking everywhere to keep our competitive totals up. Which we realize is a good thing. And oddly appropriate. It was exactly two years ago in this space that we published an editorial titled “The best mode of transit,” which extolled the virtues of bipedal movement. We noted that midtown Toronto has grown into a wonderful part of the city where single-family homes, highrise and lowrise apartments, and commercial enterprises co-existing in cohesive communities. We have it all in the centre of the city. The neighbourhoods to live in. The stores to shop in. The offices and other businesses to work in. The cafés, restaurants and nightlife to have fun in. Everything we inhabitants and — increasingly — visitors could want. We also have the traffic, we noted. As with the rest of Toronto, our political discourse has run along two sets of parallel tracks: the subway-vs.-surface transit debate and the cars-vs.-bikes confrontation. But the most common method of getting from one place to another is usually ignored by our pundits and politicians. It’s the cheapest, easiest and healthiest form of transit, and experts list its availability as an indication of how livable a city is. Yet we seldom hear serious debate about it. It’s called walking. And it’s not only convenient, inexpensive and good for our cities — but it’s also great for our health. As even our phones are telling us now.