Who walks and why? What affects people's desire to walk?

First let me say why I like to walk. The peace of mind that comes from wandering through the woods, or high up on mountain slopes is a very powerful pleasure and I try to make walking a significant part of my daily life. And while walking, I look at where we get to walk — it's spectacular. My hobby of photography, in particular plant photography, keeps me observing (See my Yukonviews plant website).

Hikes along the Yukon River above Canyon City, along the ridge of Grey Mountain are so very nice. The hike along the cliffs opposite downtown are superb. It's almost impossible to say what is one's favourite walk, or Whitehorse's best walk.

We're a wilderness city and we share it with wildlife — you can come around a corner and see a bear. We see foxes, eagles, coyotes, beaver, lynx and moose, all within minutes of downtown. We have lots of wetlands, steep hills, cliffs and a lot of forest. We have great south slopes, and lots of long views of mountains along valleys and peeking between hills. You can get lost.

My goal with whitehorsewalks.com is to better our walking environment. Essentially, more people have to get involved. Talk walking with your friends, your community association, Mayor and Council, the Chamber of Commerce — make walking a bigger topic. First let's look at who walks, some constraints to walking.

Walking in Whitehorse

Walking is a very healthy activity. It's often a solitary event, or involving just a couple of people. Perhaps this is because the fewer people to involve, the less complicated doing the walk. Dogs are often walking companions. We each have different time allowances, physical abilities; we may want a nice 3-hour hike, we may need to pull a kid and carry another, we may need to push a walker or be pushed in a wheelchair, we may just have 45 minutes at lunchtime.

Everybody has differing walking needs. We vary in our confidence in the outdoors, knowledge of the trails, our sense of animal awareness. We have differing tolerances to the weather. Walking most days in Whitehorse means we'll can be walking in -35° stillness, in windy rain, in warm sun, blustery overcast, snowy afternoons, crystal clear, calm, freezing evenings and may be besieged by black flies or mosquitoes. Dog walkers can attest to this.

Walking routes usually involve the shortest, more direct routes between destinations, whether a pond, a viewpoint or a store. Many people like trails through the woods, away from roads and vehicles.

Walkers have different needs than those with vehicles such as bicyclists, and more so than those with motor vehicles: ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles. In 2 or 3 minutes vehicles can speed over what a person might take 20-30 minutes to walk. This is important when looking at trail usage, or the make-up of trail committees and task forces. This is true for others such as trail runners.

For winter walkers, snowmobiles can make for less than nice conditions. They are noisy and smelly; they chew up foot paths and make trails wider. As a result, walking trails become soft and hard to walk on; many become boring. There are places where following a snowmobile trail is fine, but when they follow every trail, even narrow snowshoe trails and leave them wide and torn up, it's sad.

Why do we chose a particular trail to walk? Is it the walker, the weather, the quality of the walk... Look at your favourite trail using the walk appeal checklist.

For snowy/icy trail walking, ice grips are indispensable, especially with spring's icy hilly trail sections. I use these Lee Valley ones all winter/spring.

Universality of walking

Walking is a basic part of day to day living, a way of being active, getting around, staying healthy. But walkers as a group are somewhat invisible. Walkers are as likely to be taking the kids to school or the bustop or walking their dog, as to be hikers. Encouraging neighbourhood-level walking is obviously very important: clearly marked greenbelt/public right-of-ways; loop trails, 15 minute to 2-hour long; attractive, natural, interpreted, well mapped; trails leading downtown. The hopes and aspirations of walkers seem tailor-made for a walking advocacy group's focus.

Whitehorse walkers are often more environmentally conscious than many trail and greenspace users — we go slow and see things at the smaller scale. Vehicle-based travel—bike, ATV, snowmobile — might take a few minute to pass through an area that takes half an hour to walk, so the half-hour folk can see more and often care more.

Our concern for the state of our trails is based on our broad scope of use. Some walkers are interested in more direct routes that can get them to work quickly. .... For many of us, our preferences is walking away from roads, on un paved trails. So we are concerned with the trails and the greenspaces.

Why do we walk, or, types of walking

What motivates us to walk? Most of us walk in some format, be it just in our home, to get to our car, to visit a neighbour, to go to the store. We walk for different reasons at different times. How do you see yourself?

Most of us walk to get some air, walk the dog, enjoy nature, get out of the house; just plain going for a walk. We want variety — easy, hard, short, long, to different places. For our daily walks, we want to walk from our homes. Loop trails, where we don't come back on the same trail, are a plus. Sometimes this is a walk after supper in neighbourhood streets, or a walk on neighbourhood trails or it can be a hike.

Then there are the more special walks, often with friends, where we meet for a walk, a hike. We like to get to different places, different terrain, so often this involves a drive.

Looking at balancing commuting, physical activity and time: In Whitehorse, we're so spread out that walking or biking to work is difficult, especially in other than summer days. By promoting recreational walking, this can become an after-supper family activity — remember, it's likely that many of our kids also are commuters. Our city needs to have a range of good well-marked walking trails in every neighbourhood. Another way of adding physical activity to a work day is going for a noontime walk. This is yet another reason why a pedestrian bridge to the hospital makes so much sense.

A burning question of course is ''to hike'' or '' to walk''?

Active transportation refers to people walking to work, or walking from one meeting to another. They could be those taking a bus to work but walking some stages of the journey — getting off a couple of stops early for instance. They could be walking to the store or to a restaurant. A thought about active transportation is walking is spontaneous, but biking...if one bikes to work, then they need to bike home; and if one didn't bike to work, then they can't bike home.

The city's Environmental Sustainability department plans the active transportation network in the city. Their trails get paved: Active transportation commuter network improvements is the 2014 map; note that they are not generally ploughed in the winter. These trails are mostly inside the Urban Containment Boundary (Pink line on map to right).

These people are the ones who rise to a challenge, like the AIDS Walk, or get out for events like the parade that starts the Burning away the winter blues. When we finally host our first walking festival, we have great role models to guide us. Many who attend walking festivals are locals.

Some like competition in their events — Race Walking is a discipline in athletics that requires on-course judges to evaluate a competitor's technique during a competition.

Nordic walking appeals to those who enjoy walking with others for exercise as well as the companionship and motivation. Here's RPAY's Nordic walking.

Using the walking track at the Canada Games center is good for those needing to walk in a safe environment. It's also warm, dry, no mosquitoes, no bears, no vehicles!

In talking to a fellow aquafitter in the pool today I realized that there are some people who walk when they can do it with others: for companionship, for conversation, for safety.

Sometimes we want to visit a friend a couple of streets over, or get to the playground, or our confidence or physical abilities makes using our neighbourhood's streets important. We also want to know the green spaces in our neighbourhood, our subdivision. We want shortcuts.

The small cross trails used for inner-neighbourhood travel are covered by PG and PR zoning and shown as coloured red in the map to the right. Because of their importance to this group of walkers, I've shown playgrounds, rinks, stores, schools, skateboard parks as circular icons.

Some B&B people tell me that their guests want to know more about walking. A stay-another-day campaign focussed on walking would find much to promote. The beauty of tourist walkers is they are happy to use trails that are in reality, designed for locals. Tourists need the same level of signage that residents like when they explore new areas.

Many visitors arrive without personal transportation. They might be on a bus tour, or they might have flown in. These people will be very interested in downtown trails.

Others come and having walked trails such as at Miles Canyon, experience a sense of peaceful beauty that will bring them back for more.

Are they well served by our tourism information. Safe hiking in our wilderness city requires a fair bit of knowledge: bears, cliffs, getting lost are just a few things for someone visiting to think about.

As time passes we'll likely see more people walking as part of geocaching. It's fun for visitors because these folk are into doing this activity as they move around. They check online and download caches of the next place. They get to be out in nature in a controlled manner.

As a community, we can guide these people by having strategic geocaching routes. It is also an interesting thing to encourage walking where the reward for finding the geocache is the spot, be it a rock outcrop, a view, a pond, a neat tree....

This group are those who would like to walk but don't have time, or don't know where to go, or need the security of a group, or a motivating event. How many people incorporated walking into their lives when Whitehorse built the Millennium Trail and the Rotary Centennial Bridge?

How do we teach them about the delights and emotional benefits of being on a trail instead of a treadmill?

" I made sure we stayed on the side of the road opposite to the next playground and then to Tesco's since she had been asking about buying brie cheese earlier in the day. But I didn't want to buy any food, especially since it was getting warm out and I'd have to carry it all the way. Then, as soon as we passed Tesco's we crossed over so we could miss walking in front of the ice cream place. Strategic walking, for sure." Wynne Krangle

Literature on walking

Ways of walking