Metro's Matt Elliott, formerly of Ford For Toronto, keeps the light shining on Mayor John Tory's city hall.
Matt Elliott: Beautiful skylines, squirrel statues, goats and a profound love of Toronto
How one year dedicated to walking nearly everywhere in this city gave Matt Elliott an even deeper respect for the city he calls home.
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The holidays are a time for taking stock of the year. For me, that’s easy. Here’s what I did in 2017: I walked.
I walked a lot. More than four million steps, according to my pedometer app. It’s a distance of about 3,000 kilometres, at least. Had I walked that distance in a straight line going west, I’d be somewhere around Calgary by now.
I have always liked walking, but this year I doubled down on it. It started last February, when a combination of general winter malaise and concern over my expanding waistline prompted me to set a basic and cliché goal: walk 10,000 steps a day, every day.
And so I did. I’m now on a streak of more than 300 days. I walk to meetings. I walk to social events. I walk to get groceries. I walk to walk.
It’s been good for me, obviously. Not just because of the obvious physical health part, but for my own mental health as well.
Back when I owed a car, I hated the person I was behind the wheel – twitchy and angry at everyone. Taking transit is a better experience, but uncertain TTC travel times can make it nerve-racking. And while I like cycling, I spend an outsized amount of time worrying that someone might steal my bike.
When it’s just me and my own two feet, those anxieties are gone.
But none of that is surprising. Here’s the part I didn’t really expect: walking made me love Toronto more.
My four million steps have taken me through neighbourhoods I’d never experienced before. To events I would normally have not gone to. To hidden and unknown places.
Now I have my routines. I like to go north from my house through Riverdale Farm, because seeing goats in the city is absurdly great. Then I’ll go through Cabbagetown, loop across the Bloor Street viaduct, and head back down Broadview Avenue, passing by the best skyline view of Toronto.
Head south from there, past the Old Don Jail, and you can cut through Joel Weeks park, where there’s an amazing statue of squirrels worshipping a giant acorn.
Another good one: Lake Shore Boulevard to Leslie Spit then back home through Cherry Beach. But don’t try it when it’s bitterly cold. It sucks. Over the last few chillier months, I’ve taken to taking the Don River trail to the Evergreen Brickworks, then getting lost in Rosedale.
It’s not all great times. The statistics on the number of pedestrians, cyclists and other users who have been killed or injured on Toronto’s streets don’t lie: walking is not as safe as it should be.
Narrow sidewalks and badly-designed intersections with fast-moving traffic have meant too many close calls.
In addition to taking more than four million steps over the last year, I also shot death stares to bad drivers hundreds of times. I flipped the middle finger at least a dozen times. I yelled an obscenity through a windshield twice.
But despite any momentary rage, I will end 2017 happier and more in love with my city than I was when the year began. Walking works.
It’s self-improvement that started with a single step, repeated more than four million times, in a city that still has secrets to share.