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Update: Mill Valley Paths & Stairs, Mission Street, and trees

Today I led one of three walks for the Berkeley Path Wanderers summer event, which was a lot of fun. One great thing about the Path Wanderers events is all of the interesting and friendly folks who come to the walks. Today I spoke with a woman from Mill Valley about their path system, which is much more extensive than I thought. I’m excited to go check it out sometime soon. The Mill Valley Paths, Lanes & Steps map is available at city hall, the library, and the community center.

I’ve still been doing lots of walking, and have a list of various walks in the Bay Area that I’d like to do. Last weekend, Joe & I did one of them — walking the entire length of Mission Street from the Embarcadero in San Francisco to where it ends and El Camino Real begins in Colma. It is about 10 miles total. It was really a great walk going through a variety of neighborhoods, and interesting to see the changes in the street throughout San Francisco. Sometime soon I hope to walk all of Geary Street in one day across town, as I expect this street will provide just as many interesting sights.

As I’ve mentioned previously, this blog is only updated very periodically now that I have walked every Berkeley street & path, but coming up in the next month or so I’ll be doing a guest post for Local Ecology on observations about trees during my walking project. I’ll post here when that is done and up on Georgia’s website.

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If you are coming to this blog for the first time – welcome! At the end of 2007 I completed my goal of walking every street and path in Berkeley. Although I am still doing lots of walking around Berkeley and other places, I will not be doing much blogging here now that the project has been completed. I have been working on other walking and car-free related projects, but not anything yet that lends itself to blogging. If I do start a new blog or other web-related documentation, I will definitely post it here and will contact regular readers. In the meantime, please feel free to search and browse the archives of this blog.

Berkeley readers, be sure to check out Walking the Fault, Andy Datlen’s blog about “walks on, around, and across the Hayward Earthquake Fault where it runs along the base of the hills through Berkeley.” You may remember that I mentioned Andy previously; he has also walked all of the paths and streets in Berkeley! Another interesting walking blog is Beating the Bounds (thanks to reader Bernard for pointing me to this site), about a UC Davis grad student’s attempt to walk along the Capitol Corridor rail line. As you will see from the blog, the project was stopped by Union Pacific, but she may be walking the roads paralling the tracks. And reader Sabrina pointed out this interesting upcoming dérive, or wandering, in the East Bay starting on March 21 and continuing through the night (for related information, see my post on psychogeography and Theory of the Dérive on Berkeley writer and theorist Ken Knabb’s website.

Finally, the Hidden Gems of Berkeley ride will be happening this year on Saturday, May 10. This year this will be a bike ride and a walk! The ride will visit hidden gems in Westbrae and West Berkeley, and the walk will focus on locations in Westbrae. More details should be available next month here and here.

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Odds & Ends

  • The Berkeley Path Wanderers included an article about my walk in their latest newsletter [large PDF file].
  • I recently wrote an article for the Berkeley Daily Planet about some of the interesting places I discovered during my walk of Berkeley.
  • Another every-street walker, in Scotland! Follow Rob’s adventures at Walking Dunfermline.
  • And another walker: Wulf wants to walk every street in Hither Green in 2008, a district in the London borough of Lewisham. Follow it at Walking Hither Green.
  • And somehow I missed Walking the Streets of Forest Hill. Rob walked every public path in Forest Hill (which is also district in London borough of Lewisham), finishing in 2007. I’m excited to go back and read about the walk.

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Finishing the Walk

Over the weekend I finished the short remaining section of my walk of every street and path in Berkeley — the Bay trail path from the Berkeley bicycle bridge to the Emeryville border — and then came home and marked the final section on my map. Although this was walking project was definitely more about the enjoyment being in the journey itself rather than the end result, it was nice to feel the sense of accomplishment that came with drawing that last line to fill in the map!

So what’s next? Of course this will not be the end of walking in Berkeley; I walk every day to get around, and have many spots on my list to return to and explore in greater detail. I’m also interested in doing more walking in the cities and towns that surround Berkeley — Albany, El Cerrito, Kensington, Oakland, Piedmont, and Emeryville — to see what makes these areas unique and how they compare and contrast with Berkeley. In the past, I have explored San Francisco’s stairway system, but I would like to walk more of the paths and stairways there and in other towns where they occur (such as the Oakland hills). I also have in mind some long, all-day walks, such as taking BART to Orinda and hiking and walking back over the hills to Berkeley, and a walk of all of Berkeley’s paths in one day. Luckily there is no shortage of places to walk here.

One of the unexpected benefits of this walking project has been the number of ideas that have arisen for other projects. There must be something about walking and making observations with an open mind that sparks the creative process, but whatever it is I found that I have filled pages of a notebook with ideas. Some of these are walking related, and some have to do with other ways to explore neighborhoods and communities, and others have to do with something else altogether. It will take some time to process this walking project before I decide what to do next, but I am excited about the possibilities and especially hope to focus on other ways that I can encourage people to get outside and explore on foot or by bicycle.

I will be taking a break over the holidays from writing, but keep a look out early next year for more posts. The Berkeley Path Wanderers interviewed me about my walk for the winter newsletter, so I will post that when it’s up on their website, and have some topics that I did not get around to writing about before finishing the walk. Please feel free to leave a comment or send me a message if there is anything in particular you were hoping I would write about Berkeley or about walking. And many thanks to everyone who has expressed words of encouragement or posted thoughtful comments or interesting stories in response to blog posts. And happy walking to everyone!

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Status Report

A number of people have asked about the progress of my walk, and also how I plan to finish the walk. I haven’t been able to give more than vague answers, but at this point I think I can see that I have one long and three short walks left to do to complete the walk of every Berkeley street and path. These include several streets surrounding the Clark Kerr Campus of UC Berkeley, a small group of streets off Tunnel Road in Claremont, and a longer walk in the Berkeley hills near Grizzly Peak and Wildcat Canyon roads. I had not been sure what I would do for my final walk, but when I was reviewing my marked-up map I realized that I had not walked the Bay Trail south from the I-80 bike bridge to the Emeryville border. I’ve walked throughout the Marina (which might not be entirely accessible for awhile due to the recent oil spill), and on the Bay Trail north to the Albany border. At this point for my last walk, I am planning to do the remaining section out and back that then end at the bike bridge, which is one of my favorite features in Berkeley.

Timing wise, my goal is to be done by the end of the year, which shouldn’t be a problem. The most difficult walk will be the one in the hills. That section has taken much, much longer than I expected. Each time I go up there, I only end up doing part of my originally planned route due to confusing intersections, lack of street signs, and lots of hills. I really thought that I would be finished with that section on my last walk, but four hours later I still had a bunch of streets left and decided to head home. It is not unusual to see wildlife, especially deer, up in this section of the hills near Tilden Park. However, I did not see any the entire time I was walking early on a Sunday morning. Surprisingly when I got down from the hills and was near Sacramento and Hopkins I spotted deer near behind some trees at a school. I watched for awhile, and they eventually ran down the middle of the street a ways and into someone’s back yard. I couldn’t figure out how they got so far away from any wooded/natural area, nor how they would get back, but hopefully they ended up getting there. Oh, and I inadvertently captured in the second photo one of the modified “Stop Driving” signs that appear throughout Berkeley.

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Odds & Ends

Lots of interesting news and correspondence related to past posts and walking in general:

  • After a few days of rain, the Saturday of the Path Wanderers’ fall harvest walk that I led turned out to be a beautiful day for walking and exploring gardens. Georgia of Local Ecologist went on the walk and did a very nice write-up with photos. If you didn’t attend but are interested in doing the walk, I’ll be getting the walk to the Path Wanderers webmaster this week, so look for it here, along with other self-guided walks in Berkeley and the East Bay.
  • And speaking of the ever-popular topic of fruit trees, I was alerted via a blog comment to harvestr dot org, a Google Maps mashup showing public fruit trees and berries, farmer’s markets, and other free or low-cost food. They’ve got a Bay Area map that is under development, where you can easily map the roadside blackberry bushes you spotted out on a walk.
  • A couple of weeks ago the Chron had an article about the woman behind the art-SITES series of guidebooks, which feature walking tours of all sorts of art — galleries, contemporary architecture, film centers, sculpture, etc. — in locations such as San Francisco, Paris, and London. The article notes that when researching the books, she walks all day and after dark, often seven days a week. Of course there is the other nine months spent in front of the computer, but the walking part of it sounds amazing. Definitely an inspiring story to see someone pursuing a dream like this.
  • I have art-SITES San Francisco on reserve at the library, and am hoping the library will soon be ordering Will Self’s Psychogeography, which Eric Fischer mentions on his blog. I had read the New York Times article about Self’s 20 mile walk from JFK Airport to Manhattan back in December, so I will be interested in checking out the book. If you’re new to reading this blog and/or psychogeography, here’s my post about psychogeography from earlier this year.
  • If you are interested in learning more about Claremont and Elmwood, you’ll enjoy reading Northwest Ladybug’s memories of growing up in the area during the 1960s. She has shared all sorts of interesting tidbits about the Claremont Hotel, John Muir School, Elmwood and Claremont shops, the move in 1968 to integrate schools in Berkeley, the People’s Park riots, interesting neighbors. A great read!

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Cycling in Berkeley, From the Perspective of Walking

I have not talked much about bicycles and cycling — what it is like to ride a bike in Berkeley or my observations while on a bicycle — because this is, after all, a walking blog. However, I do have noticed a few things about this subject while out on walks. First of all, there are many bike lanes and bicycle boulevards in Berkeley, mostly in the flatland areas. Cyclists do not generally need to go too much out of the way to ride on streets that accommodate bicycles, and can connect lanes and boulevards to find an easy route across town. Because of the bike routes and the flat roads, there tend to be all sorts of people out on bicycles, and all varieties of bicycles from fancy to rusty. In the Berkeley hills, however, there are only a handful of roads that are popular bike routes (Spruce, Euclid, Grizzly Peak, and Wildcat Canyon), and in the Claremont area, most cyclists travel from Russell Street up Tunnel Road (with a few connecting to Tunnel from The Uplands). In contrast to the flat areas of Berkeley, in these hilly areas I have mostly seen only cyclists who are out riding for exercise on road bikes.

The bicycle boulevards are signed, often with the distance to destinations such borders with other cities, BART stations, points of interest, parks, and schools. This is handy for me as a walker, as well, to know the distances to different landmarks. I have also found that I really enjoy walking on the bicycle boulevards because it is fun to see what bicycles people are riding, what they are carrying, and what types of people are out on bikes. Admittedly, it is also more pleasant to hear the sounds of bicycles and people laughing and talking than only cars whizzing by. Last night I realized that another thing I like about the bike boulevards is the increased level of safety provided by them. I don’t often walk alone at night, but yesterday I went to a meeting that finished after dark and was walking home along Milvia Street. Other side streets seemed deserted, but Milvia was just the opposite because of the number of people on bicycles. Extra people and extra light (from streetlights and bicycle lights) made the walk enjoyable. I was reminded of another idea from Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which I mentioned in my last post about parks: that streets that have a high concentration of people coming and going at different hours of the day and night are safer and more pleasant.

In keeping with my aim of trying to observe as much around me as possible while walking, I have looked at lots of cars around town even though I would prefer not to think about them too much. I would much rather look at more bicycles. Although I have seen lots of bicycles whizzing by on the road, I have not had a chance to look at too many up close. Like most American cities and like most college towns, bicycle theft is a regular occurrence here. For that reason, most people do not leave nice bikes locked up anywhere. Any bicycle that is halfway decent or that has quick-release parts is likely to be taken in part or in whole. Mostly what I see locked to bike racks are beat-up bikes or bikes with various parts missing. At some cafes with outdoor seating, there will be higher concentrations of bicycles because owners can keep an eye on them. Also, there is a Bikestation in the downtown Berkeley BART station that provides secure bike parking on weekdays.

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