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Home To Work In 18 Minutes Afoot

Tom Fudge observes Walk to Work Day with some remarks about his path to KPBS.

— I live one mile from where I work. I know this because I clocked it once with my car’s odometer. I would love to walk to work every day, but I am a reporter who frequently has to cover stories all around town.

Emerging from this San Diego canyon on 54th Street, by foot, can feel like climbing a very long ladder.
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Above: Emerging from this San Diego canyon on 54th Street, by foot, can feel like climbing a very long ladder.

And – let’s face it – modern society expects mobility. When your bosses want you to meet clients or (in my case) news sources face to face, it’s hard to tell them you can’t do it because you walked to work and they’re too far away.

And yet I do walk when I can. My path is an amalgam of terrains and rights-of-way that will sound familiar to anyone who has walked any distance in San Diego.

I begin in a neighborhood called El Cerrito and end up at KPBS Radio/TV on the campus of San Diego State. Once I turn right, off of the street where I live, I head north on 54th Street and enter a deep canyon. The street I descend as I’m bound for work is so steep that going up it, on my way home, feels like climbing a ladder.

But let’s get back on the way to work.

Once I emerge on the other side of the canyon, I have to take a right on Montezuma Road. It’s a typical San Diego four-lane throughway where cars travel up to 60 mph. During rush hour it’s stuffed with traffic and crossing it is scary. It’s one of those wide roads where you feel yourself in the gun sights of cars that may or may not actually see you.

Back in 2007, I was riding my bike at the corner of Montezuma and Collwood when I was hit by car and ended up in the trauma ward of Scripps Mercy Hospital. Let’s just say I have a history with this street.

Yet something happens on my walk to work after I cross 55th Street, headed east, and enter the part of Montezuma Road that nears SDSU. New apartment buildings rise on both sides of the street. Their front yards are landscaped with palm trees and birds of paradise.

A grass berm separates the road from me. The center of the road has a landscaped median. Suddenly, I notice the blue sky and the pretty college girls headed to their classes.

Soon, I’m at work at KPBS, feeling energized and psychologically prepared for the day.

My walk isn’t easy and it’s not uniformly pleasant. Aside from crossing Balboa Park on your way downtown, it’s hard for me to imagine a walk in San Diego that would be entirely agreeable. But my walk to work shows how small things can make a big difference when it comes to encouraging people to walk, and making them feel safe on the streets.

There was a time when I was hosting KPBS Morning Edition and had to be at work at 5 a.m. I once tried to walk to work at that hour, but it meant I had to get going very early when the streets were empty and pitch dark. Walking at that hour was creepy and I didn’t do it again.

It’s nice to imagine a world where we can get around on foot. We’d be in a lot better shape, for one thing. Talk to anyone who has lived in London or New York and they’re likely to tell you how fit they were, getting around using their feet and public transportation.

We’ve got a long way to go in San Diego, and we may never get that far. But here’s wishing you a happy Walk to Work Day. Do it too, if you can.

Editor's Note: Tom's essay also appears online at Walk San Diego and on Tom's blog, Cul-de-sac.

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