Dot Dalziell is a Regional Feild Advisor with the NZ Walking Access Commsion. Here is her comments during this lockdown.
What does #WalkingFromHome mean to me?
In the early days of lockdown, our daily 45min constitutional felt eerily similar to the time “before”: the usual dog-people combos passing by at their normal time; family groups out walking (same as previous school holidays); and the weathered older gentleman with the slow and uneven gait - who was now able to cross the street at leisure. Walking was a calming, purposeful way to be in the wider world in the midst of a strange, uncertain, constrained and unbounded time of pandemic.
As lockdown days accrued I catalogued the changes:
- very few cars on the road - and many more parked up along our narrow street – no room to walk on the footpath beside my bubble mate, instead I walked quite safely on the road side of the parked cars.
- People were giving each other a wide berth – though occasional “new” walkers (those we’d never seen before in all our years of walking the neighbourhood) seemed lamb-like on their legs, as if uncertain of self-locomotion. They were not so adept at moving smoothly away to keep a healthy distance.
- I encountered more parents with prams, cyclists with toddlers in bike seats, bored teenagers sloping around with nowhere to go and a long time to get there, and local gangs of adolescent ducks waddling confidently in the middle of the road.
Walking had gained additional interest for me – public space was reallocated to walking, and roads-as-public-spaces and pedestrianism were rapidly gaining popularity, credibility and recognition.
As time marched on (to the beat of ennui), more and more strangers appeared along the Ōpanuku stream path, in Parrs Park and the surrounding streets. I noticed many more toddlers and elderly walkers. Our walks were getting longer too – drawing onwards into fading autumn light, we noticed the natural world around us rebounding and reverberating without the anthropogenic din of vehicular traffic.
Walking was wilding – with more and more people spilling out into the streets into the safety and spaciousness of our de-motorised zone. Chalk drawings appeared along the footpaths. Families walked along the road, taking up space, enjoying the temporary release from their homes.
These days – nearly a month into level 4 – the park throngs with people. The only other times we’d have seen people using the space in such numbers would have been organised community events and weekend sports tournaments. This is the opposite – it is pure informal use, to suit the person and in their own time. Though we are in lockdown mode, the neighbourhood has moved from everyday, regular containment patterns (lives lived within homes and cars, malls, schools and offices) to fully utilising outdoor spaces. We have turned our community inside-out.