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Pedestrian Dignity

October is Pedestrian Safety Month. While you are outside taking a stroll to admire the foliage and perhaps enjoying a pumpkin spice beverage from your favorite local café, be sure to take a look at your surroundings and take note of what is there to make walking and rolling safe and accessible, and what is missing. Could someone pushing a stroller or using a walker or wheelchair navigate the sidewalks? Are there sidewalks? Do you see protected crosswalks at intersections? Are they clearly marked? How fast is traffic moving? These are the kinds of questions advocates for active transportation ask all the time!

Jonathon Stalls is a walking artist, an author, a TikTok star , and founder of Intrinsic Paths. He has crossed the United States on foot and advocates for pedestrian safety through video storytelling, deep community engagement, and training others as Walk Leaders. This week he is visiting Madison and Milwaukee while on tour with his new book, Walk: Slow Down, Wake Up, and Connect at 1-3 Miles Per Hour.

Image: Johnathon Stalls: walking artist, writer, founder of Pedestrian Dignity and Intrinsic Paths

On Monday, 1000 Friends and AARP Wisconsin organized a visit with a group of seniors who have formed a health and wellness club at West High School in Madison. The walk took place at lunchtime. Everyone grabbed a slice of pizza and walked with Johnathon on the sidewalks around the entire perimeter of the school, where they made observations and asked questions about the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of pedestrian infrastructure. West is located in a tightly packed area of the city with plenty of bikers and pedestrians, a fair amount of bus and car traffic, and a complex intersection at the confluence of Regent/Highland/Speedway/Virginia Terrace; currently there is a major renovation project underway at the high school, which is impacting walkways as well.

Image: a group of seniors from West High School in Madison gather with pedestrian advocate Johnathon Stalls at a stop sign near their school

On Tuesday, Johnathon led a 3-hour Walk Leader training in downtown Madison. A small group of us gathered at the AARP offices off the Capitol Square and spent the morning sharing with each other the significance of walking in our own lives, and we learned how walking can be a tool for health, healing, connection, and bringing decision-makers and other people of influence into community conversations about equitable access to safe transportation systems. We spent the last hour walking down West Washington and back up Mifflin St., making observations about what works well for pedestrians and what are safety concerns in the area. During the walk, Johnathon offered advice for video storytelling on social media.

Image: Johnathon talks to participants in the Walk Leader training during a walk down West Washington in downtown Madison. Across the road, a sidewalk is fenced off inside a construction zone.

Many thanks to AARP Wisconsin for helping bring Johnathon Stalls to Wisconsin during his book tour! We are inspired to incorporate more walking tours into our own work, and are excited to share through video storytelling.

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