The City Moves You – Podcast Episode #103

We talk a lot about walkability on this podcast, but what does it really mean? And how does urban design and the built environment shape the way we move, or don’t? Katy Bowman talks walkability with urban planner Samantha Thomas. Plus, we explore the idea of mobility justice with Multicultural Communities for Mobility’s Maria Sipin. And Katy answers listener questions on stretching and preparing for twenty mile walks.

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00:02:19 –  Mailbag Question #1 – Stretching or not?– Jump to section

00:14:58 –  Meet Samantha Thomas – Jump to section

00:27:40 –  A Walkability Homework Assignment for you – Jump to section

00:32:30 – What makes for a walkable community? – Jump to section

00:43:37 –  Meet Maria Sipin – Jump to section

01:01:18 –  Examples of cities that made changes – Jump to section

01:10:51 –  What can we do? – Jump to section

01:19:55 –  5 more reader questions  – Jump to section

01:28:19 –  Where’s Katy? – Jump to section



Find more Katy Bowman

Samantha Thomas on Twitter

Connect with Maria Sipin

Maria Sipin on Twitter

Maria Sipin on Instagram

Multicultural Communities for Mobility

Multicultural Communities for Mobility on Twitter

Multicultural Communities for Mobility on Instagram

Calf stretch podcast post

Katy’s birthday walk in Experience Life

Twenty mile walk with Nicole Tsong

Blog post on long walk and shoes

What Is A Walkable Place Harvard article

The Dynamic Collective

Venn Design


My Mayu

Soft Star Shoes



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Access all previous Move Your DNA podcasts via your podcast provider of choice (Stitcher, iTunes, Libsyn, or Soundcloud).


It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I’m Katy Bowman, biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about movement.  This show is about how movement works on the cellular level, how to change your position as you move and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world; also known as Movement Ecology. All bodies are welcome.  Are you ready to get moving?




KATY:  Hey friends. I am almost on my way to Europe where I will be spending times in cities like Cambridge, Hamburg, Barcelona, and more!  Do not be the person who sends me a social media comment full of emojis mostly crying saying I can’t believe that you came to my town and I didn’t know. Go check out my website, click on the calendar and my live events and you will find where I am going to be in Europe. There are a few spots open in various places. Speaking of traveling when I was in Amsterdam last year I was blown away by this section where instead of having a bunch of flat and level seating – you know the drill when you go into an airport: it’s miles and miles of chairs back to back – it had this stadium seating which had these stairs that you could walk up and down, a big flat stretching area at the top, and a slide that went down through the middle of it all. Not just for kids, but for everyone. So it was just a very textured experience while I was waiting there for the three hours that I had to be there. So I’m always interested in the way that cities are designed to move the people that live there and of course vice versa. So, in this episode of Move Your DNA we’re gonna be talking about City Moves. We’re going to talk about walkability and how cities an built environments shape us. We’re also gonna hear about mobility justice. What’s that you ask? Stay tuned to find out. But first, here’s a question from our mailbag: 

KB.” Hi. We must be friends because you’re calling me KB like all my friends do. “Can you explain a bit more about how stretching works? If I’m doing a calf stretch, how often do I need to do it to see more calf flexibility and is that actually what I’m aiming for when I do a calf stretch? How long should I hold the stretch per time. How many times should I do it per day, week, etc.? And should I be stretching until I feel a small amount of discomfort? Or only just a bit of stretch? I’m just overall curious how stretching works because it seems like the “right way to stretch” has changed over my lifetime and I’m curious how it works in a movement rather than exercise framework.”

So Ruth, first thing I will do is point you to the episode, The Calf Stretch. If you haven’t listened to that, that is, I would say, a nice long toe-dip into a shorter answer that I’ll give here. I’ll also link to that in the show notes if you are a new listener and haven’t heard it yet. But the parse the question, the idea of stretching has changed over time. And I think a lot of it has to do with the terms that we use. We call it a stretch often because of the way something feels, not necessarily what’s happening on a smaller perspective. Like not considering a whole muscle but a sarcomere which is a part of a muscle. So I think a lot of times a lot of times a muscle lengthens, we automatically think of that as stretching. As I answered in The Calf Stretch episode, someone can be doing the exercise called the calf stretch and not even be stretching their calfs because of the mobility that they have. The biggest answer to your question – what’s the context of my stretching or how should I be doing my stretching?  I would say, with a lot of other movement of all of the other parts all day long. So the calf stretch is really just a movement. It’s just trying to move some of you. So if you did the calf stretch, out calf stretch exercise which is you putting the ball of your foot on something, I don’t know, 2-3 inches high while your heel is still on the ground and taking a step forward to put that ankle in a little bit of dorsiflexion so instead of pointing your toes you’re now doing the opposite there. Your foot has moved closer to your shin. It’s a smaller angle at the ankle. That’s the same thing that happens when you walk uphill. And you wouldn’t call it a calf stretch then maybe because the duration that you’re experiencing it is much shorter. But simply all we’re doing, if we could get rid of the term stretch and strengthen and just talk about movement and loads that might make things a little bit more clear. These are very early delineations at the beginning of movement science which we’re still in but I think that over time we’ll see a lot of these terms like endurance and strength, when we get down to the nuts and bolts of them, they don’t really have strong, measurable definitions. We’re trying to find or maybe even create language to better parse this natural phenomenon of moving. When people ask for a movement prescription, I’d say that it really depends on what you are doing particular movements for. For many people they do the calf stretch simply to eek a little bit of movement in the lower part of their leg. That can be someone who is very immobile, not necessarily in the ankle sense but maybe in the whole body sense. So therapeutically maybe they’re given this exercise prescription to move a, what is now currently a sedentary area, the goal isn’t to have longer calves, the goal is to not have immobility. So in that case, simply moving that area, the cells in that area, is movement. Whether it’s a stretch or a strengthening it doesn’t matter. It’s just taking an area of the body that isn’t moving at all and moving it around. And so for most corrective exercises, ultimately that’s more my perspective is identifying – in Move Your DNA I call them sticky as the terminology has expanded we can also call them sedentary areas within an otherwise active body. We’re just trying to find those areas and move them. And so we have strong parameters I would say around the form of our various stretches or correctives specifically to move those areas. So we call it the calf stretch but if you wanted to cross out stretch and just put move, the calf move is stepping the ball of your foot up on a dome, dropping your heel down, and stepping forward to the other side. So that’s just this general idea of let’s take and either immobile body or a body that’s mobile in some areas and immobile in others and start moving certain areas. It doesn’t matter what it’s called. We don’t have any other goal but to move it. Now, there is, then, the second layer which is, I’m actually pretty active and maybe I use a range of motion of my ankle to how I have been doing it to a certain extent but I’d like it to be able to cover a greater distance within my own body. Like to be able to use more of my joints when I’m moving around. So now our goal shifts not only to move that area but to have that area allow a greater range of motion without so much resistance in it. Because you can go beyond your active ranges of motion into the passive ranges of motion. That’s often what we call a stretch.  But not always. Sometimes it’s just a lack of strength. So in that case then it’s not only just step up on your calf stretch a couple days to move this immobile area it’s ok let’s look at the shoes that you’re wearing and let’s look at how much you’re sitting. And let’s look at how much you are or are not walking uphill or downhill. And then the prescription for a greater range of motion starts to exceed only stepping up on the dome. Although I guess if you were unable to add those more non-exercise movements, then it would be ok, then maybe step up on your dome 60 minutes a day, right? Because in the end all we’re trying to do is increase the frequency and the distribution of that motion so that you can adapt. So your body keeps the ranges of motions that it uses most frequently. So if you only move your calf in the calf stretch 3 minutes, maybe 3 minutes 3 times a day, that’s only 9 minutes. And even if you do that 7 days a week, that’s less than 100 minutes out of 10,000 minutes. So you can see that the signal to adapt isn’t very strong. It’s almost undetectable. Will you still receive benefits on a cellular level that you’re moving? Absolutely. So it’s not that it’s not valuable it’s just that when we’re talking about things like increasing joint mobility, the – I think one of the reasons you’re seeing a lot of stretching doesn’t work, etc., it’s very hard, again, this goes back to good delineation in research is, often times the goal of stretching is to increase joint range of motion. So the exercise prescriptions are stretches x, y, and z. And the measure is how many degrees can a certain joint move before and after. And then they’ll find, hey stretching isn’t working to increase the joint range of motion. And so now we have a whole “stretching doesn’t work. Get rid of that move.”  Because, again, in a sedentary culture we’re often excited of getting rid of movement. But it could also be that stretching 9 minutes or 100 minutes if you did it daily out of 10,000 minutes is not sufficient to increase joint range of motion. And so we have to keep your owl eyes and your deer ears on to use language from nature school, when you’re reading clinical work so that even though, you know, it might be “Stretching Doesn’t Work” is the headline, kind of the click bait, if you will, but after you parse it a little bit you can say “ok well what this paper is saying is that this volume of this type of movement doesn’t elicit this type of response.” So, again, I used stretching to get into areas or we’ll call them stretches, to get into areas that are otherwise that are not really mobile within my own body and then I look for where that stretch or that movement that I’m creating in the exercise can be at greater volume either by adding something to my lifestyle or removing something to my lifestyle, like furniture. So furniture – getting rid of furniture – for me was one way that I added a much greater volume of “hip stretches”. Although now they’re not hip stretches anymore. It’s just me just using the range of motion of my hip. Because when the volume of whatever hip stretch I was doing before which was at the 3 minutes at the end of my cardio aerobics class I used to teach 5 times a week. That used to be my volume and I never made that much progress. I got rid of furniture and hey I’m doing that exercise 2 hours a day every single day of my life. Turns out that my body shifts it’s shape to match that volume. So I don’t think I’ve addressed all of your specific questions but hopefully that gives you a sense of how to explain maybe some of the things that you’re reading and how to see how stretching – that what you are after is what answers your questions for you here. So I’d like to thank both Ruth for the question and also the Dynamic Collective which is this amazing group of companies supporting this podcast. We’ve got SoftStar Shoes, MyMayu, Unshoes, Earthrunners: all minimal footwear companies. And Venn Design, making awesome minimal furniture. They sponsor the question and the answer part of each episode of Move Your DNA.  You can find more about them in your show notes. And if you have a question, send it to me via I want to answer it.


I’ve been thinking a lot about my conversation with Dr. Ihi Heke lately from a few episodes back. We talked a lot about how your environment shapes you. Maybe you’re a river person or a mountain person. So many of us live in cities now. More than 80% of Americans live in urban areas so we are being shaped by the cities in which we live. We’ve talked a lot on this podcast about some of the elements of cities that shape us. The abundance of flat and level surfaces on which to walk and the feeling that nature is harder to find in cities, the way that traveling by car or bus can be the default. If you live in an urban or suburban area you may have noticed that your town or city is built primarily for car traffic with pedestrian traffic an afterthought. However there are a number of organizations and individuals working to move that focus to human scale development. For example, if you haven’t checked out Blue Zones, the book or the website, this is one of their goals from their website:  We help communities reinvent streets, neighborhoods, towns and cities for people, not for cars. So how structures move is I’m excited to say is definitely on the radar of many. This is not my podcast or even a Katy Bowman centralized idea. This is something that many different organizations work on daily. So today we’re gonna start off with some basics when it comes to this topic.

And I’m excited to welcome Samantha Thomas. Samantha is a built environmentalist, civic thinker, adviser, and strategist, helping communities create solutions that advance walkability, well being, and healthier places for all. Over the last 7 years Samantha has worked with 200 cities and towns across America leading multidimensional and multi-disciplinary teams in creating solution-focused action oriented blueprints for more walkable, bikeable, equitable, and livable streets. A shared future. Samantha, welcome to Move Your DNA.


SAMANTHA:  Thank you for having me. It’s a delight.


KATY: So I want to just lay a foundation of basics for those who have never really thought of cities having designs or shapes to them. I mean certainly if 80% of at least Americans are in some sort of city shape, it’s nice to start I guess recognizing some of the terminology that people are using when they’re building or considering or reconsidering shapes. Walkability will be what we talk about today. So what is walkability as you define it?


SAMANTHA: Yeah.  Well walkability is more than sidewalks. It’s more than just that physical infrastructure that allows someone to safely walk. It’s really a design ethos stemming from our most traditional city and town making days as a civilization. So ultimately looking at how are places designed around the human and specifically the human foot. And so when we start to think of walkability then, that starts to bridge more into how are the buildings behaving in watching over the street to add to sense of security and place?  Where can people gather and linger to add to our social tendency of humans and to create ultimately an environment for exchange of knowledge, goods, culture, services and so forth. And so, when we start to use the framework of walkable communities, it allows us as community members to have a discussion on are the streets performing that allow for people to easily walk. The first and last thing that we all do in using our communities is walk. Whether that’s parking our car and then walking to our store or our home, walking down a main street, locking up our bicycle at the end of our trip. And so we have to start to bring back the human scale. So walkable communities are really putting the human back in the center of our city design.


KATY: In my mind I’m hearing you say all that and I’m such an analytics and assessment tool user, I can’t imagine how you would go about measuring walkability. I would not dream of asking you to say how you assess it but what would be one or two quick ways so that people can get a quick sense of the analytics that would go into a walkability assessment. What would some of them be?


SAMANTHA: When we start to look at a place – so using a specific example of you’re on your main street, let’s say for smaller towns – you can start to ask yourself what kind of edge is being created between the buildings and then the sidewalk and then the street. So when we think of high-quality edges in a highly walkable environment, you start to see things like, great shade trees or street trees, benches or other places to sit, an organization of the street furniture: Where is the signage? Where are the bicycle racks? How do you have a clear sidewalk/walk/talk zone, as we call it so that you can stroll side-by-side with a loved one. Your kids have that buffer from the sidewalk or the walking space or the street, so there’s that sense of safety and security from the kind of human personal piece of it. And so where you start to see where the way an environment affects our behavior or our decision to walk is ultimately, if you have a road that may have a sidewalk but there’s no buffer edge between the sidewalk or road – so there’s no street trees. It’s just an attached sidewalk. You’ll often see less people walking because it’s hotter, it’s louder, it’s less attractive, it’s less inviting.  And so a lot of the work that I’ve been doing is around how do we understand how the physical environment shapes the behavior and lifestyle choices that we are making. And sadly in too many places throughout America we’ve engineered natural movement out of our daily lives.


KATY: I do kind of ceremonial long walk 20-30-40 mile walk somewhat regularly with the 40 miles being for 40th birthdays and things and so I walked. We live in the same area as I understand it. At least on the same peninsula and I walked from my town in Sequim Washington up to Chimacum which has this beautiful trail system for most of it.  But for a portion of it, a couple miles, I was on the freeway where at some places because the freeway doesn’t have anything on the other side of the railing. It was just a drop off. My, I’m gonna put air quotes around my “walk” was really me on the other side hanging on the side of the railing because there was only maybe 20 inches between the end of the car lane and the beginning of the railing. So it was absolutely not safe to walk on. So would I give that like a 1 out of a 10. Because I would say that the edge there is basically 18 inches between cars going 60 miles an hour and me. So I had to actually remove my body. There was actually no place to put my feet. I had my arms hanging and just kind of monkey’d it down for a couple of miles. I had my feet kind of on berry vine growth. And there’s a great picture because I had posted in the magazine article that came out, I’m not sure that I would call this walkable. Yet it was the only way for me to get to my destination without a car.


SAMANTHA: Yeah, well exactly. That would have a zero to one.


KATY: I was just wondering. So we would give that edge a zero to one. Ok great.  I’m down with the scale now.


SAMANTHA: And you bring up another important point that streets and the speed of streets add to that quality of the environment too so the more that you have higher speeds on a road, the more separation you should have in creating the right level walking or bicycling environment. So obviously where we live on the peninsula there’s a great trail system but there’s also a huge gap in the trail system that creates that type of ease and access to destinations that people are trying to go along that network.


KATY: And it’s interesting to me, so I have two young children who are now 5 and 7, who have been on this trail system. I imagine where many people live there are trails that might not be as extensive as ours, but even if you’re in a park with a loop… we’re familiar with walking on trails, sharing non-car areas with both walkers and cyclists. And one of the things I’m interested in would be the difference between walkability and cycle-ability or bike-ability. Because I’m finding that as more people are conscientious of getting out of cars and they want to go still on things that are fast and make sense for if they’re using it for transport for to and from work or if they just enjoy going fast and their recreation is going 30-40 miles an hour, that I’m finding that my children are still required to behave as cars in their quote “walking space” where they are limited to – they have to walk in a straight line, they have to know that you walk this direction on this side, versus that side. And it’s kind of interesting where even though we’re removing the cars, everyone still has to behave like they are a car or have this major driving knowledge.  So I’m finding that trails – in these certain areas – definitely if we go out in wilderness and if it’s not mountain biking wilderness which we’re also often sharing it with, that walkability is still being kind of pushed to behave for people on wheels who want to go fast. So I was just wondering, does bikeability have a completely separate rating as walkability or because you’re limited to smaller allocations of space, you have to make both work?


SAMANTHA: Mm-hmm.  Well I think that’s where the art of context of a specific place and the balancing of needs and shared needs of users comes into place.  And so, that’s always difficult and not always perfect. So obviously when we think of trails, the different users, primarily being people on bikes and people walking, are going different speeds. And so what that often means is we need to think about making sure that we’re building trails when and where we can wide enough so that then there’s that opportunity for two people cycling to easily bike side by side and pass two people walking side by side, or two other people biking side by side. And so how do we kind of think about where we can put that added investment in and the beauty is that often when you’re building a trail – let’s say the kind of design standard is often 10 feet wide for a trail – but really the cost doesn’t go up that much just to add another 2 feet which can make a really big difference when we think about wanting to have that mixing of users and types. And then also when we think about walkability and bike-ability answering your other question – is there a difference – we can start to rank the quality of the environments slightly different based on the user. But I think the fun thing for me when we think about walkability/bikeability is it’s trying to achieve the same greater outcome which is obviously providing  a transportation choice and valuing people who choose to walk and bike as highly or if not higher than people who choose to use their car to get places. But there’s also a lot of added co-benefits when we think about environmental health, our social health, of course our physical health. But then also economic health. It’s more sustainable and more affordable to build quality walking and biking human-scaled cities and towns. Versus what we have been doing for the last 60 years allowing our cities to be designed around the car. So it’s kind of that cultural shift of thinking. And with that, while it sounds like you have a high tolerance to walk long distances, which is really awesome. I want to hear more about that because I, too, love walking. I would say for the average person we’re trying to think about how do we create more compact life radiuses or circumferences of where we live and what we do know is that, on average – and this is true for small towns as well – 25% of the daily trips that we make are within a mile of our home or a 20 minute walk. And then 60% of our trips are within 3 miles of our home or about a 20 minute bike ride. So when we start to think about the tools together, the bike becomes a great extension to our ability to walk and still allows for an affordable choice in a transportation mode for people.


KATY: I’m thinking of a homework assignment for our listeners If everyone could imagine 3 places that they are normally driving to that are under a mile it would be fun to see if one of the reasons they don’t opt not to drive is not because they’re lazy but because it’s not safe or facilitated well. If everyone could create their own 0-5 ranking system to actually pay attention to maybe some of the subconscious reasons we don’t move out more. I certainly know that I choose to walk in almost every situation except this one extreme in places that I feel comfortable and can be relaxed and enjoying the experience. I’m not that excited to have cars whizzing past me or to not be able to hold a conversation.


SAMANTHA: Exactly. Exactly.  And I know you’re getting ready to go to your European tour. It’s so interesting when we think about where we as Americans like to travel and vacation to and Europe cities and towns are one of our key places that we like to go to. When you’re there too. Obviously you’ll be observing towns are built around the human foot. And we have this kind of nostalgia of we want to visit these places. We want to absorb that quality and  yet we’re still working on our own progression and transition to get there.. Where we are open to getting on trains the whole time while we’re traveling and walking everywhere and things like that. So it’s just kind of that cultural mentality too that its part of the science of how do you shift and create change within your own communities.


KATY: That’s such a great point. You know everyone will say “I barely walk ago but I go to Europe and I just walk all day long.” And a big reason for that is because it is safe and practical to do so. These cities are actually – they’re built up for biking and cycling as a lifestyle.


SAMANTHA: Exactly.


KATY:  Ok, so this is kind of a more fun question.  What is one of, or a handful, of the least walkable areas you’ve assessed? What stands out in your mind about maybe one or two of these places? 


SAMANTHA: Yeah. Well the least walkable places … I’ll pick on a form of our towns … is really ultimately  the suburbs. And what that means from a design perspective is that we’ve overbuilt our roads. So it’s more common in these locations to have three to four to five-lane roads. Sometimes even larger.  And then I think what the suburbs do illustrate from missing the human scale, transportation, land use, connection is that buildings are often set far back from the road itself and often between the building and the road is off street parking so swaths of parking and asphalt. And so what we see in these environments is ultimately a very car driven design, which is not inviting for any human. There’s no reason why you would want to walk in that environment. It’s hostile. You know, if you are an elder or have other mobility issues good luck finding a place to rest and if you do find a place it’s probably in the hot sun or in the elements of the weather based on your climate. And so what we have to start to think about as we want to transform cities and our suburban communities that are having a high demand of growth still because our cities across the country are continuing to grow. People are becoming more focused in more like urban-like environments, is how do you start to create the village-scale place. How do we kind of flip the transportation paradigm on its head? To understand the more that we create walking/bicycling/efficient transit options within communities the easier it will become for the motoring public. And so there’s many different ways that you can start to create new policy, create new design standards and the toolkit’s pretty large. So it’s just a matter of developing that community will and that ground cover for political leaders to start to make some bigger changes. So I think that’s the type of environment that, to me, is really, truly unwalkable and so hostile. And sadly you see people who have to walk in that environment. So when we start to think of that equity or justice piece, I think we really need to ask ourselves who are we leaving behind when we create places like that.



KATY: And that’s my next question.  What makes for a truly walkable community? And when we say something is walkable, walkable for who?


SAMANTHA:Yeah exactly. Well, I think the beauty of what we think about the walkable community is that one, part of it, especially when we’re thinking about retrofitting or infilling our rural towns or more urban neighborhoods, is that a new process needs to be created so that truly community members can come together and share in the work of transforming their streets or alleyways or parks, plazas, whatever it might be.  And to develop that ownership which then allows for the right mix of people within a community to be at the table. And so we are not forgetting or overlooking the needs of our different cultures, our different physical mobility needs and things like that. And when we think about walkability from an economic standpoint, it is the most affordable mode of transportation. I mean we all are given our two feet, or if we aren’t able to walk we’ll be able to find the assistance we need from wheelchairs or electric scooters and things like that. But if we’re not creating those shared spaces to be able to depend on ourselves and our own mobility by design, then we’re driving up the cost of living. It’s always apparent in urban areas and rural communities – and in the urban areas specifically, traditional neighborhoods of communities of color and things like that that have been left out of the design, we see that these two kind of types of communities need to often own a car to get to work or to get to their grocery store, so we’re not creating the right level of mixed uses and transportation choices to make a place affordable for people. So that’s becoming a very big issue. And I think in the more urban settings we’re definitely hearing this through the terms of gentrification or displacement and it’s a big thing that we have to try to tackle as community numbers and get outside of the individual mindset and more of that community/tribal mindset and how we want our communities to thrive.


KATY: I’ve got this little peace that I’m going to read which is from a letter to the editor of the New Times which is a newspaper in Rwanda. And the original piece was about – I’m paraphrasing – but essentially this idea that so many cars have taken over the town and that they needed an attitude adjustment about the importance of cars and this letter was saying: “It is only the bourgeoisie, both high and low that lead totally sedentary lives and need a lifestyle change that requires an attitude change.  Too many people believe you must be financially hard up when they encounter you on the road walking. I can’t count how many times some would be good Samaritans have offered me lifts often insisting in my declining of those offers obviously in the belief I must have a serious problem if I am reduced to walking. For those with this kind of attitude, not walking has nothing to do with a lack of space, as in reality, Kigali has a lot for those who love to walk for pleasure especially early in the mornings before the sidewalks become clogged with foot traffic and car exhaust fumes. And the heat becomes increasingly unbearable.”  So, Samantha, is walking a sign of poverty or of privilege? And do we need more walkable, bikeable, mobility-friendly infrastructures or do we need a cultural shift? Or both?


SAMANTHA: Great question.  I would say we definitely need both.  IT’s a cultural shift to be able to get the infrastructure that we need and it’s kind of that chicken or egg thing because the infrastructure will help create the cultural shift. So it’s working in tandem in that regard. And I would say that  unfortunately in the US, I think in a lot of places walking has been a sign of poverty. And people who have to walk either by choice or because they can’t afford to own a car or something like that are, to me we’re sending a sign that we are treating those individuals as third class citizens.  I was recently on a project in Florida where that quote really resonates to the environment that was created or that is created in many communities in Florida where when you see someone walking the perception is that they don’t have the means to walk. But that’s not always true. So we can’t assume that and create those social stigmas. So immediately after I was in Florida I went to Copenhagen which is one of the world’s biggest bicycling cities, and walking cities for that matter too, and you would never be able to guess who has “privilege” or more money than the person next to them. Because truly the environment and the infrastructure is prioritizing human efficiency, human travel. And it’s a cultural norm there. And so we have to think about how we want to get there and ultimately by creating more choices in transportation we’re allowing people more freedoms and more opportunity to be able to engage in their community in a more equal footing.


KATY: Beautiful. Yeah it’s just being someone who almost exclusively walks for yes the health purposes of it and also because I do it as a way to constantly observe the walkability of what’s around me.  I think that it’s really easy when you don’t actually physically experiment with walking in your own spaces to think to perceive it to be more or less walkable than it really is. So I get out there and do it regularly and go “yep, I’d have to use a car to get here.”  You know, like to really do that. But to recognize the fact that I’m able to do it is because of a tremendous amount of privilege and time. Whereas someone can be taking that exact same talk and not have the choice to do so. So in the end it just really seems to come down to choice.  Having to do it versus having multiple options. So I appreciate your feedback and your answer on that. And I guess finally… municipalities face all kinds of pressures: climate change, health of citizens, that might make them consider better ways to accommodate active modes of transportation. What will it take for active transportation, for natural human movement to move up the priority list for planners do you think?


SAMANTHA: Yeah. Well I would say the good news is that in a lot of places municipalities are understanding the transportation paradigm needs to be flipped on its head. We just can’t afford to continue to build bigger, wider roads. We’ve proven that. So to further put the investments where we need to be heading really requires better synergy from citizens, so kind of that grassroots level and then the top down kind of decision making level within communities. I think the important thing that is easy to forget when you’re frustrated with your city or the place where you’re living and not putting the investments where you want is that ultimately decision makers hear a lot of needs. It’s like you were say, climate change, health of citizens, we need to attract more buildings, we have a different economy whatever it might be, is how do you start to bring a common voice together as a place so that we can make better decisions together?  And if we keep having kind of just separate ideas and lots of noise it’s really hard for a decision maker to really put that financial backing into something that really is a change in paradigm as far as how we really planned our cities. I think the good news is that as communities come together and make the case for more walkable environments is what we do see is that it helps address the climate change issues. It helps to address public safety issues. And human health issues. And we know that by design walkable communities actually, in the long run, are more affordable and are the most sustainable way of building. An author who wrote a book called “Walkable City” ,Jeff Speck is the author, he put in there that a walkable community is actually more sustainable than everyone changing their light bulbs to the environmentally friendly ones because what we’re doing is we’re better using our land. And we’re giving people the choices not to use their cars. Become car light.  And then also by getting the green parks, the open spaces, the lungs of a built environment, we’re able to better address how our water filters back into the waterways and things like that. So it’s a very holistic approach. But you’re right, we have to change where we’re willing to put our investments. Definitely in America we are not financially at burden. We have more money than we know what to do with. It’s really do our cities and towns have the political will to be making change in the way we invest in our design of our communities.


KATY: Wow. Amazing. Well I guess if someone is taking the responsibility of helping cities become more walkable then I will continue the assuming some of the responsibility of helping others become more comfortable in their own bodies so they can walk and thus participate outside in their communities in these open, walkable spaces and movable spaces. So thank you Samantha for coming on to speak with me about walkability.  Samantha Thomas is a Built Environmentalist, civic thinker and strategist. Helping communities create solutions that enhance walkability, well being and healthier places for all. You can connect with her at CitizenSamantha on twitter.  Samantha, thanks so much.


SAMANTHA: Thank you. I enjoyed this.



KATY: When I was looking for this episode, a friend of mine, Machico, thank you Machico, pointed me to the work of Maria Sipin. She’s working on her master’s degree in Urban Planning in Portland Oregon and is on the board of Multicultural Communities for Mobility, an organization that is dedicated to advancing urban resilience and health within communities of color. Maria specialized in mobility justice. I’d heard of social justice, and climate justice but I hadn’t encountered mobility justice and as a movement teacher I think it’s really important that I did. And it turns out that it resonates a lot with what I write about in Movement Matters. It’s hard to stack your life when you can’t move with ease and safety and through your environment and it’s hard to get vitamin community if you can’t get out and about to meet your neighbors. And it’s hard to get vitamin nature if you’re stuck in a car or on a bus so here is some of our conversation.  Maria Sipin, hello and welcome to Move Your DNA.


MARIA: Hi thank you so much for having this conversation with me. I’m really excited to talk to you about my work with my organization Multicultural Communities for Mobility and what I’m doing as a scholar in both Portland and Los Angeles to do this work with our communities.


KATY: Yeah. I am always grateful that people will come on the show because I feel like people are doing very important work in the world so I appreciate you stepping away from serving much bigger needs than being on this podcast. All listeners appreciate being informed so hopefully it will motivate others to take action or at least expand their worldview. So before we get too far along a path, I want to set up some basic definitions. So first, how would you explain mobility justice? And how did you get interested in that?


MARIA:   Sure. I’m glad you asked. I always want to make this work relatable and it’s so important that we translate these heavy and complex issues in a way that people can understand so that they can see themselves in this work and maybe be inspired to make a change somehow or to have a little bit more empathy for people who are experiencing it. And mobility justice is still, I think, a term that we are trying to define and people define it in their own way. I would say that my peers at Multicultural Communities for Mobility are taking the lead in that and we are defining mobility justice as both an outcome and an approach that we are taking to address inequities in our community specifically around transportation issues. But it’s beyond that. It really is about getting to zero deaths in our community in terms of traffic injuries and traffic fatalities and making sure that people are not getting harmed out there whether they’re biking, walking, jogging, strolling, rolling, or driving a car. And mobility justice is also about making sure we are validating people’s identities and embracing them and allowing them to have the kind of healthy and productive life that they deserve without the negative impacts of racism and all these systemic issues that people experience when they are simply moving about their communities. So mobility justice is incredibly loaded and heavy and our work really is about trying to make this more real for people as an outcome where we live, but for the doers and action makers out there, how can we help them take part in this so that they can make their communities better in terms of making mobility justice a reality.


KATY: How did you get interested in it?


MARIA: Well I think my journey goes back to life in Los Angeles. I was raised in Los Angeles and I know that over time as I was growing up walking and biking in my community was not something that my parents or grandparents wanted for me anymore. It’s something that we depended on in our community just to get to school or places that were important to us and I think over time we started to realize there are all these safety issues that we are concerned with. I know particularly for my parents who were concerned about a young woman navigating her neighborhood on foot and as you got older that’s something that parents don’t necessarily want their kids to do. And I know not many people have the luxury to take other modes besides walking. Walking is essential to people’s lives. And we know now as we are exploring this as scholars, that communities have tremendous issues – especially communities of color – when it comes to navigating their neighborhoods. And I think for me it was just a personal passion to be able to make communities more bikeable and walkable. And it’s not that simple.  And I discovered that it’s not just about promoting people to walk and bike and to enjoy these communities but to understand what different people experience when they do that every day. And so I volunteer for Multicultural Communities for Mobility. I’ve been doing that for 5 years now and they really have helped me understand more deeply what many communities and cultures and racial and ethnic groups are experiencing in their respective neighborhoods in terms of mobility justice. And I began as a bike safety instructor to really get into this work. And I realized quickly that it’s not just about improving people’s skill sets to ride a bike, but it’s trying to improve the environment that they’re biking in. That makes that experience better for them.


KATY: I’ve seen walkability as a social science measure come up in various public health and other social science investigations that are now starting to look at city design, urban planning, health in blue zones, this idea that the walkability of a city would relate to the health of the people that lived there.  And there are a lot of definitions. This is so new. There is going to be a lot of malleability in definitions. I’m going to link to a piece put out by Harvard University called “What is a walkable place” that compares many different definitions, but Maria, how do you define walkability or understand walkability?


MARIA:  I’m glad we’re getting to this. I think walkability is another loaded word. I think we’ll have to provide to our listeners here an entire reading list or definition list because we’re talking about things like mobility justice and walkability and these really just started to emerge. But in this context MCM is really working to expand how we understand walkability.  For real estate professionals they talk about walkability in terms of scores in a neighborhood. And how easy it is to get to a grocery store, a library, the laundromat, a bar, and all these things are essential to people’s lives. But when you’re doing mobility justice work and you’re really trying to put on all these lenses so that you don’t miss someone and their experience we are defining walkability in a lot of other ways and we are thinking about enjoyment and safety and acceptance and affirmation and all types of other things that are really hard to articulate. For example, we often bring in the experiences of young people of color and this is something that we should talk even more about and it’s something in the news all the time but are we really listening?  If you imagine a young black person. A young black man or let’s say a black child. Let’s just get it down to that. A black child walking in a neighborhood. What does walkability mean for this child. You know? Walkability for many of us means that this child is able to go back home to his mother and for his mother walkability means that he can go around his neighborhood without getting stopped by police being asked why he’s out late or not being stopped by a neighbor being asked why he is walking past his house. And that this child is also able to get to school on time and without the fear and the trauma of everything that he might come across as he’s trying to get to school. So I think walkability really means are we able to ensure that someone’s quality of life, especially a person of color, can be the same as someone else’s when we’re navigating the street. And so an urban planner, like me, that’s extremely important to think about. Because for decades or for the entire history of our field, for example, we might have been a lot more focused on constructing a built environment that had the right balance of concrete and greenery and parking spaces and housing. And all of these really important features of the neighborhood. However there are so many other layers that we have to be more conscious of as we have this elite privilege to construct our streets and our neighborhoods. Through codes, through policies, through architecture, design and engineering. So walkability really takes into consideration the built environment, the cultural environment, and social environments that all impact how we walk. And it’s sometimes the invisible things. Is it like a woman who was walking at night and how often does she have to check behind her shoulder out of fear that she might be crossing the wrong path or place. And walkability is being able to choose any street to get to where you want to go without fear that something is going to affect your safety or your well being. So all of these things are walkability and the things that we should consider.


KATY: Thank you for expanding that idea. So I’m thinking right now of the next 50 questions that could branch out off of that.  But I think that my next reflexive question is, I feel like human nature and maybe it’s not all humans but certainly the nature of engineers and designers and planners is that I can relate most to the woman looking over her shoulder as she’s moving forward in a dark city as I’m trying to get from point a to point b. So yes, it’s walkable. There’s a place for my feet to go. There’s a place for my feet to go that is not also where cars are going and there’s a path between where I’m staying and where I want to go. But is that something through urban design, meaning that there’s features of lights and cameras and other technologies that give us a sense of security or is this design in that trying to refashion the behavior of everyone who is occupying all of the spaces that we’re going to move through. So you are occupying two roles. You’ve got a foot in city planning and design which I imagine is the greenery that you’re planting and where it goes and how much light’s coming through and what you’re going to put beneath the feet that are going to be walking or moving through that space. But for your program, I’m thinking of your scholastic work, are there concrete things you fashion or is this about fashioning ideas and bringing about change through influencing the behavior of the people basically that you’re going to be sharing the space with.


MARIA: It’s all of those things and I’ll break it down for you here. Urban design is one aspect of it. I think it’s an aspect of it that people have been able to grasp a lot better because it’s something that people can see and construct. But there are a lot of things when it comes to designing cities that are beyond what we measure with a ruler or what we calculate so, for example, it’s beyond behavior, but you know I think behavior is a big part of it. It’s behavior and perceptions. We are working as urban designers, urban planners, to influence our colleagues. Especially people who have been in this field for generations or decades. They’ve just been doing this a long time and they haven’t made the shift in their mind that it’s beyond the street. So it really is about talking about this stuff in a way that can help people shift their perceptions so that they can pass policies and change how they do this work and really continue to make that shift that we need so desperately so that our end goal of fewer traffic injuries and deaths but also fewer harassments on the street and fewer assaults and racially charged crimes. All of these things fall in the responsibility of urban planners, elected officials, police officers, and everybody who participates in cities. And even neighbors. Everybody has a role in this. But I think we’re really looking for those in power who can influence this change. And I also want to include public health. Because I am a public health professional. I am really trying to bring in to the spaces that we work in a lot more awareness around disabilities and abilities, cognitive and physical. You know I talked about the black boy walking to school and the woman walking in the dark but what about someone with a mobility device and how are we really catering to people who have to use a wheelchair or a walker or has poor depth perception or blindness. I think we are failing many people here on that note. But it’s interesting to see that in cities we can better implement 88 guidelines and we know how to design for that but people don’t know how to design to make cities better for different cultures, races, and ethnicities. So mobility justice, as I’m trying to articulate it and trying to do this work with my colleagues at Multicultural Communities for Mobility is that we are trying to bring about this understanding to include a abilities, disabilities but also ways that people of different races and ethnicities are disadvantaged. And so, that’s something that I am extremely passionate about in terms of the civil rights act of 1964 and how I, as a planner, can continue to make it real for people through my professional work. And that is continuing to take into account the experiences of people with limited English proficiency, people in racial and ethnic minorities, and people with low income and also to add to that of course, people with cognitive and physical disabilities. Which isn’t included often in a lot of other areas but combining all of those things will help us reach mobility justice and have the walkability and bikeability that we desire but overall liveability. You know? That we’re creating communities where people can be themselves fully. Where people can be successful and happy and healthy. And I think we have a tremendous role as urban planners to facilitate that. We might not be the ones engineering the streets but we are the facilitators, those mediators, and those thought provokers. So I have a tremendous privilege to keep making that happen.



KATY: Are there any examples of cities or spaces even within cities that have made some suggested changes or a few suggested changes that you make regularly so that people can get a sense of maybe some of the tangible differences.

And I’ll just give an example, I’ve been in California. And in California in the spaces that I’ve moved through in California – and California is a huge place – I was in a state park and this sign for the trail system wasn’t just the list of trails and the list of miles, it was broken down to show how much of the trail was wheelchair accessible before it got to the point where a wheelchair with maybe standard tires wouldn’t perform. Maybe it was on sand at that point. So it gave you a sense of, you didn’t have to inquire or know or have someone walk it to see whether or not you yourself or someone in your family could go out and be in this space but it really delineated well exactly how accessible it was. And so I took a picture of it and I can actually put that in the show notes so people can see the difference.  They can see, “Oh yes, I get that this is what’s happening here.” And then on our trail system, there’s many picnic benches along this 100 miles of trail system like there are picnic benches everywhere but a lot of times, and our trail system for the bulk of it is paved. So that makes the entire thing wheelchair accessible. But the picnic tables themselves which are the rest stops for the people on the walk were not. Meaning you couldn’t get your wheelchair comfortably up to sit at the table, so they replaced the picnic table with tables that simply are a little bit longer on one side so that you could bring your wheelchair underneath it and eat at the table with equal comfort as everyone else. So these are small changes in design that make outdoor spaces more enjoyable, I guess, equally for everyone who is there. But do you have any other examples like that so it can become more real in people’s minds?


MARIA: Sure. Let’s talk about all kinds of things that could improve people’s experiences in the whole mobility justice umbrella. One of the things I would love to mention and talk about is addressing defensive design. And getting rid of benches and surfaces that discourage people who are houseless from sleeping or resting there.  We’ve all seen this in some way shape or form. We’ve seen benches that have unusual armrests to keep people from laying down on it. Uncomfortably angled benches in subway stations or in other spaces where you think it’s about efficient space but it’s more about deterring people from spending time there. So that’s mobility justice. It’s getting rid of that kind of design and making spaces just more equitable for people who may not have a place to sleep or rest and just need to spend time somewhere. Another design feature that was extremely important are curb ramps and ADA accessibility and trying to create safer surfaces for people to move about. Widening sidewalks whenever possible. Although expensive it’s such a good investment, not just in urban areas but in rural areas to encourage walking. There are also protected bike lanes and going beyond just putting paint on the ground but creating a separate surface so that somebody can walk or bike or use their wheelchair in that protected lane. We are also talking about high-level mobility justice and transportation equity improvements such as establishing an equity and justice office in the transportation department and ensuring that there are enough staff people present to continue to ensure that we are meeting these guidelines or creating new guidelines to adhere to to make places more equitable and welcoming. So there’s all kinds of things in between from high level policies to design but overall it really is about how are we redirecting our resources so that we are investing in the movement of people when they’re walking, biking, and using transit. And this is a highly politically charged conversation too that people will get into. Whether they support walking or biking or not but highway space and highway investments are something that we should be talking about more. And how we invest in our infrastructure tells a lot about our priorities as a government and as communities. If we are putting all of our billions of dollars in widening highways and removing homes and removing space and green space for highways, that really shows us where our priorities are and unfortunately that is not a climate sustainable future and it is taking away from resources that ensure that people can walk and bike and be more active and have that healthier life.


KATY: Ok, I’m gonna switch gears a little bit. It’s a long that topic but I feel I want to bring in this other piece.


MARIA: Sure.


KATY: I would say that I grew up walking around from place to place but was walking around with all of the migrant farm worker who were also walking from place to place because not everyone had cars. So it’s quite normal for me to have many people walking around on foot for different reasons. So now I’m kind of living in this fitness, health, natural movement space, where there is the idea that we have extra time to exercise and walk and we don’t have to be at work for 12 hours a day or we didn’t spend all day using our bodies doing back breaking work so now we want to go for a long walk and we have a choice to walk because I also have a car, so it’s always a choice for me so it seems like a privilege to walk, but at the same time, it is also seen as a sign of poverty. So I’d like to know your thoughts. Is walking a sign of poverty or privilege? from either your perspective or the perspective of mobility justice and just considering mobility and urban design as the whole.


MARIA: I’m glad we’re talking about that. And I think it really depends on the context and the neighborhood that you live in in places along the coast in more affluent neighborhoods, for example, walking for leisure could be a sign of privilege because in some neighborhoods people can have a joyful, uninterrupted, 2 mile walk just by stepping foot out of their house only a few, maybe a few blocks. And they can really enjoy the environment and the nature and have those mental health benefits from walking. But in places walking is their only mode of travel because they can’t afford a car. They cannot qualify to get a driver’s license because they may be undocumented or not have the physical ability to drive. So walking is the only way. And in many ways that could be seen as a huge disadvantage. And there are a lot of inequities there. But it really depends on the context and where you live. But ultimately mobility justice isn’t about faulting people for the choice that they make and what modes they take or what modes they have to take. It really is about creating  the environment both built and cultural so that people can make all those choices and have the choices and have healthy outcomes. It becomes a privilege to walk if someone else who has a different identity does that same walk for example where you are walking but they are interrupted by police violence, they are interrupted by sexual harassment, or other types of assaults on their being. And so that’s where we really have to think deeply about how we can start to shift the way we design our cities and the way we make policies and how we are creating unity in the places that we live in so that people can have these shared experiences rather than the ones that polarize or divide them.



KATY: I’m just trying to think, what can I do as someone moving through my community space to improve mobility justice? Or is it all entirely at the policy or building level?


MARIA: No everyone has a role in this and people ask that all the time so I’m glad you’re asking that. I think we can make some very conscious choices and actions to continue putting our support in communities and in our neighborhoods so that people who are not like us, for example, or people who don’t have the privilege we have to enjoy those spaces. And I think there are a lot of things that we think about on a personal level like welcoming people and sharing public spaces, interacting and talking to people. For example if a woman is at a bus stop and I’m a woman and I’m standing there with her, I’ll greet her and say hello and make her feel less isolated in that space, if I feel like it’s something that I can do to help make that late night bus wait less awful. And I know I appreciate it too when people strike up conversations with me that are friendly and harmless. And it does make a difference. There’s also things that we can do in our homes. We can vote a certain way to continue to vote for policies and resources that can make lives better for marginalized and underrepresented groups. That we continue to make immigrant friendly spaces and policies that we continue to invest in the success of black children. That we support schools that are struggling. All of these things can be done by regular people who are not urban planners or elected officials so there are a lot of conscious choices we can make to make spaces more welcoming. But it really comes down to our day to day decisions. How we spend our resources. Where we spend our resources. I also like to tell people to support small businesses owned by people of color. So if there’s a Latino market, go ahead and build relationships there and greet people and keep coming back and find out what’s important to them and what is affecting their business and their well being and their livelihood. And just strike up those conversations and be a genuine ally. Someone who is authentic interested in what they’re going through.


KATY: Are you seeing cities and towns considering mobility justice in their development decisions more and more often.


MARIA: In little ways they are.  I think most bureaucracies and large agencies are doing this work in terms of transportation equity. That’s a lot more accessible for them. That’s language they can understand. But we are working as an organization to continue to partner with these agencies in large cities and small towns to help them create action plans and to consult with them on how to make this real. So we can go from brainstorms to things happening in the community that will actually make a change. So mobility justice is a little bit more of an uphill battle in some places but we are doing this work now and we encourage people to continue to follow us. Multicultural Communities for Mobility is undergoing a rebrand right now. We’re trying to reconceptualize our identity as an organization and how we continue to do mobility justice moving forward. So we are changing our name to People for Mobility Justice. And this is the first media outlet where I’m sharing that so I’m excited that.


KATY: Thank you for sharing it here first.


MARIA: This is very new and we’ve been doing this work for almost a decade but it really is finally now coming to fruition that we are getting a lot better about speaking about mobility justice and mobilizing our communities and hiring staff people and making sure that we can help cities and community members and all types of people who are interested in this find their stake in it and help them become more effective in this work. So we’re really excited to be People for Mobility Justice and find ways to partner with all types of people who just want to improve their communities and build solidarity and unity in ways that they haven’t before. And doing that through transportation and streets is an excellent way to do that. I think there’s a lot we can do with how people experience riding the bus or train. How people bike and how people walk. Even how people secure housing and all these other things. So we’re excited to expand on our work and to bring more people in.


KATY: For people who don’t really delve into any local politics within the communities that they live in, if they go to their city or township website, is it listed on everyone’s city website – their transportation meetings, policies they’re considering changing? Where can people go, I mean understanding that every single city is going to be different and has a different website but in general is this pretty accessible information for people who make up the city?


MARIA: No.  I think cities are terrible at finding ways to make this a lot more accessible to people. There are efforts, obviously, to translate materials and to create public meetings in central areas but overall these meetings are really hard to participate in. This language is heavy. This is a lot to talk about. And the agendas don’t always look welcoming. And if people are invited to go they might only get to talk for a minute or two and most people need more than that. So, it’s something that is listed in most municipalities. There is a standing meeting for either land use and planning or transportation and there are topics around biking, walking and transit and these spaces. But I do ask that if people do want to participate they should continue to start listening more and to listen to marginalized and underrepresented groups. People of color. Black communities. Women of color. People with disabilities. Immigrant communities. To listen and really understand what’s happening and you’ll find that mobility justice work is not just about biking, walking, and transit. It’s ensuring affordable housing. It’s ensuring that people can age in place – that they don’t have to get displaced once they stop earning a large income and that they can continue to live there as they grow old. It’s about making sure we’re building enough housing and not stopping developments that create affordable housing. It’s making sure that people have access to education from Kindergarten all the way to when they’re 100 years old. It’s all of these things. And as we talk about it more, all of it is mobility justice, really, and creating that kind of unified community that really is the real livable and walkable place that we want.


KATY: Well thank you again for taking your precious time away from much more important things and being on my show. I appreciate you coming on and hopefully turning on some light bulbs in people’s minds.


MARIA:  Thank you so much and stay tuned for People for Mobility Justice and feel free to reach out to me if you need to have these conversations or you want to tackle this where you live.


KATY: All right. I’ll make sure that we have all the information to contact Maria in our show notes. Maria thank you for being my guest.


MARIA: Thank you. It was my pleasure.


KATY:  Maria Sipin is a Mobility Justice Planner and Board member for Multicultural Communities for Mobility which is dedicated to advancing urban resilience and health with communities of color. She is fortunate to call Los Angeles California and Portland Oregon, where she’s working on her master’s degree in Urban Planning, her home. She’s working with colleagues at Portland State University to develop a framework to provide transportation investments, the only academic health center in Oregon and the largest employer in Portland to make walking biking and transit use the best way to get to this health care campus. We’ll put some links to some of her work in our show notes in case you want to learn more.



So speaking of walking, I just did a 20 mile walk with fitness columnist Nicole Song of the Seattle Times and she did a piece on the walk. I posted the article to social media and I’ll also post it in the show notes but there was a great comment on that post, a sort of rapid-fire questions about doing a 20 miler so instead of one question today’s question’s sponsor Earthrunner sandals is bringing you five, check it out, five questions and answers.  So are you ready?

1. How much water to take in mid-summer? Good question.  It’s going to be very relative to where you are. Big difference between Phoenix and summer in the pacific northwest. So maybe talk to people who are out doing long events in that area. There’s usually someone who’s in charge of marathon training in the area. There’s maybe someone at your local fitness center who can answer that for you. So you definitely want to have enough water to be safe. On the other hand I had posted a picture of the 20 miler I had done a couple weeks before and I noted that I will often try to do a 20 miler where I focus on not being so comfortable while I’m doing it so I’ll take minimal food, if any at all, and then again one bottle of water. And I’m not backpacking where there’s no chance of me getting water. I’m always really close to, within a quarter mile, or a half mile of a house so in an emergency would always have access to water, but just to kind of keep myself challenged. So again, you’re gonna figure out what that value is for you based on your summer temperatures. Question 2. Backpack or messenger bag?  Messenger bag is my preferred although my messenger bag is really this long strapped over the shoulder completely cloth bag that has no edges or lumpy straps or anything that pokes into me and I can easily swap it from one side to the other. It has a great volume. The whole thing wads up and I can hold it in my hand but I can fill it with maybe 4 towels and a lunch. So the volume of it is pretty significant. But I lost it in New Zealand. But that was my favorite walking bag. But when I do go and want to take some stuff with me I use actually a kid’s backpack. One of my kids’ backpacks. There just a little bit smaller and again I don’t’ like to take a lot of bulk with me. It’s not necessary. I don’t feel like I’m running a marathon or anything like that.  So tiny backpack is what I’ve been using as of late. And if anyone in New Zealand found my bag please send it asap. 3) One pair of shoes or several options? So I have found through trial and error one pair of shoe that works really well for me. You can see my rationale in this in a blog post that I wrote a few years back when I did my first I think it was a 36 mile walk. And I struggled with the shoe thing. So I’ve got this, I’m in the pacific northwest, and so walking in wet shoes doesn’t really work well for long distance as far as skin goes and skin friction. So I have a Vivo Barefoot tennis shoe that’s really thin and light and flexible but it is their waterproof version so that works well.  And then obviously for shorter distances and it’s about a speed thing for me. When I’m going long distance like this I’m usually without my family which I usually am with them so I am moving pretty quickly. If I’m just going on a long slower paced backpacking, if I’m doing 11 miles or 12 miles but I’m giving myself an hour a mile, then I’ll just wear my minimal sandals actually. So it’s again a personal thing. It depends on the state of training which you’re used to but I try not to figure out what shoe I’m gonna wear on a 20 mile walk on an actual 20 mile walk. That’s established through doing lots of 5s and 7s and 10 mile walks. Maybe even a 12-er. 4) What foot/body prep do you do?  I do a lot of the correctives from Whole Body Barefoot and Simple Steps. My ankle and my first big big walk that I did, it was my left ankle that – it’s amazing you’ll have this tiny area in your body that will make it so that your whole body cannot take another step. And I knew about that ankle. I had just never ever asked it to walk all of the steps for 36 miles before.  So it’s interesting the thing that bothers you a little bit when you only move a little bit can turn into the thing that bothers you a lot when you move a lot. So after that walk, after that walk whereby the time I got to mile 12 or maybe it was mile 18, that ankle or that foot would have happily just put it up on a couch, but it was dragged along with all the other parts. So it was really kind of burnt in my mind  – if you want to be someone who’s got this really large volume that you’re doing you need to address it with more regularity and more gusto. So my favorite exercise for my ankle, the one that was a game changer for me … and this was when I had a foundation of all the kind of baseline correctives was sitting on the floor, with my legs tucked behind me, so sitting on your shins with your knees folded all the way back but then tuck your toes under. So instead of being on the top of your foot you’ve got your toes tucked under. And then sitting your weight back on your heels. And it was a yowsa at first and has been for a long time but I just do it with consistency and I really watch the position of my knees and my ankles and my shins and  haven’t had an issue with my ankle ever since. And I’ve logged quite a few – many many miles but I’ve got six or seven long distance like 20+ milers on it and it’s never been an issue as it was the first time. So take care of your feet. Question #5, Will I be able to get back to my routine the next day or should I plan a full day of rest. The end. Good question, like I said, my ankle, when I had had it made it so walking the rest of the day when I had stopped and even the next day I was hobbling around a little bit.But I’ve done 20 milers before where as soon as I’m done I can feel it in my hips and my knees and I won’t be doing any more mileage that day. I sleep really well. The next day when my feet first kind of bear their weight on their first few steps, I can definitely feel that I’ve done something but usually after 20 minutes of walking and doing all my regular stuff, I don’t feel it anymore. But again that’s me at this stage.  I’ve led a lot of people through these longer distance walks. If you’ve ever come out for a retreat where the second day is a 20 mile walk, again it’s the ankle or that hip for many people where they’re tending to it the next day. And I spent a good hunk of time tending to that ankle. It was never what I would consider injured. I never had to do any injury prevention. I just really ramped up the corrective exercise for it and got it moving. Because my daily life wouldn’t move it the way that I needed to after I had just banged how many steps makes up 30+ miles. So anyway, that was super fun, Noga. Thank you for asking. Thank you for Earthrunners which I’m going to take with me on another 20 miler I’m doing tomorrow. That’s two in one month. Boom. First time I’ve ever done that, so that was a milestone for me. My next milestone (don’t tell anyone) is three 20 milers either in a week or three 20 milers in three consecutive days. Not sure when it’s going to happen. Maybe I’ll save it for my 60th birthday. In addition to thanking Earthrunner, thank you to the rest of the Dynamic Collective who have been sponsoring this series. They are in addition to Earthrunners: Softstar, MyMayu, UnShoes and Venn Design. They sponsor the question and answer part of each episode of Move Your DNA and  you can find more about them in our show notes. And if you have a question send it to me via I want to answer it.



European friends! Let’s hang out. I mentioned that there’s a couple events open. That’s going to be in Spain and Germany. Barcelona and Hamburg respectively. You can find a link to all those open events in the show notes and you can also find more on my live events on the calendar at  Thanks everyone for listening. If you have a question email If you enjoy listening to Move Your DNA please consider leaving us a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. Your review helps other listeners decide whether they should take a chance on this podcast. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening. We appreciate your support.




VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the general information in this podcast informative and helpful, but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.


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