Walking

Slow Down and Linger

One of the reasons I like living in a walkable suburb is because it slows the world down a little bit. And one of the best things about slowing down, is having the opportunity to linger.

Lingering is not something you can do very easily in a car. (And if you do, you’ll probably hear about it from the car behind you!) But when you're walking, you can linger on the foot bridge over Edgemont Pond if you happen to see the white heron strutting near the shoreline, or you can linger in front of the Montclair Bread Company because it smells so dang good out there.

One of my favorite places to linger is Watchung Booksellers – and not just because it’s my neighborhood bookstore. It's just a delightful place to spend time. It’s cozy and unhurried. And everyone in there seems as if there’s no place they’d rather be. Add to that the fact that it's full of books and it just doesn't get any better than that.

I came across a piece about Watchung Books  on Facebook (another place I sometimes like to linger) and the writer summed up the vibe so well.

“The term ‘curate’ is often used for what booksellers do, but as [owner] Margot and I sat chatting about the business in the conjoined café, we agreed it is less like a museum collector than a chef or a matchmaker. What do you want to read today? With platters of book covers spread out before you, the store resembles a cocktail party of stories and ideas.”

I loved reading Thomas Pluck’s ode to my favorite bookstore. I liked the way he provided so much context for its existence, and how he, himself, lingered over details about our town, painting a picture that feels authentic and true for all of us that have made our home here.

Maybe it’s just the sweet melancholy of autumn, but it’s been feeling especially good to me these days to slow down and linger.

 

Get Healthy: Run Your Errands in a Walkable Suburb

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I live about a mile from the drug store. A post office and a Starbucks are across the street. One block north is one of my favorite gift shops.

When I walk "uptown" to run some errands, it absolutely takes more time than if I drive. But the experience is 100 times better.

I love looking at people's gardens on my way to do my errands. I'm a sucker for pretty flowers - they remind me to pay attention to what's beautiful in the world.

I'm also bound to run into friends or acquaintances on my way there or back. We may not have time to sit and catch up over coffee, but a spontaneous 15-minute chat in front of the firehouse can be almost as soul-filling.

Plus, when I walk, my body feels better. Soaking up some sunshine, moving rather than sitting, taking in the fresh air. Turns out all the things my grandmother told me were good for me really are.

The medical community says when we're running our errands on bikes or on foot, we're healthier. When I do it, I'm happier.

With 7 train stations, myriad bus stops, 5 distinct retail centers and several more smaller clusters of shops, restaurants and services, Montclair offers plenty of opportunities to show up on foot. Wherever you live, there's always somewhere to walk.

If you want to find out more about this Walkable Suburb or even take a walk around town with me, please call! 973.809.5277

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Montclair Fireworks and Footpaths

I love fireworks.fireworks

My mother grew up in Copenhagen near the Tivoli Gardens where there are fireworks every Saturday night. It was a source of great joy to her and I think she "infected" me because, come July 4th Weekend, there's nothing I'd rather do than sit back and watch the sky explode.

When I first moved here, the town fireworks display took place at the high school football stadium. My young family could easily walk there - it was about a mile away if you drove on the streets but the walk was made easier by some of the "shortcuts" between my house and the field.

When my kids were young, we referred to these shortcuts as "secret pathways," but with their own street markers, they are anything but. These little paved footways were created so that people walking to the bus or train didn't have to go all the way around a long block to reach the bus line. They allow you to "cut through," as if you were going through someone's backyard to take a more direct route to the bus line. There are about half a dozen of these little corridors throughout Montclair, and if you live in the middle of one of the longer avenues, they can cut your walking time in half.

We used to call them secret pathways because we often discovered them accidentally, while on a walk. This has been one of my great joys - discovering the quiet amenities of a town that upholds a commitment to walkability.

The fireworks have moved from the high school stadium to the stadium at Montclair State University - too far for us to walk, although there are always non-car options. That show always takes place on July 4th. There's another show each year at Brookdale Park - this year it's on Friday, July 1st. I, of course, go to both, because I can't get enough fireworks. If you're like that too, here's a list of all the surrounding fireworks shows this weekend.

And if you want a tour of Secret Pathways, or to talk about any of the other ways Montclair rules as a walkable suburb, please call me. It would be my pleasure to walk you through them! 973.809.5277

 

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My "Walkable" New Year's Resolutions

New-Year-Greeting-PicturesI've gone through years of outlandish resolutions (lose 25 pounds by February, finish all the half-read books on my nightstand, eat kale at every meal), and I've greeted the New Year with no resolutions at all. But this year, I've thought about how I can take better advantage of this amazing community I live in -- and also how I can give back. Many of my resolutions this year are "walkable" in nature, and they feel absolutely right. It's a list that captures the things that are really important to me -- the perfect recipe for a Happy New Year!

o  If I'm buying only one bag of groceries, I will ride my bike to Acme     rather than take the car.

o  If it's not raining (or snowing!) I will walk to the train station for my trips into New York City.

o  Rather than drive to the YMCA for my usual 45 minutes on the treadmill, I will walk the 3-mile loop from Edgemont Park, up through Yogi Berra Way, across Highland and down through Anderson Park.

o  If it's above 20 degrees, my daughter will walk home from the high school rather than me picking her up. (However,   if she's annoying me, it will only have to be above 15 degrees!)

o  I will grow half the veggies my family consumes between the months of July and October.

o  Every month, I will give away or sell at least one un- or underused item from my garage attic or basement. (My favorite way to do this is on the Montclair Swap Meet Facebook page.)

o  Each month, I will make a donation of either time, food or supplies to the Montclair Animal Shelter.

If one of your resolutions is to move yourself or your family up, out or over and a walkable suburb seems like it might fit with what's important to you, too, please don't hesitate to call me. I'd love to show you all this area has to offer! 973.809.5277

Montclair: One of the Best Main Streets in NJ!

Main-Street-Fights-BackIf, like me, you are a fanatic about walkability, you will love this article I came upon in Huffington Post. It's very comprehensive and includes almost anything you want to know about who wants to live in a walkable area and why. The biggest takeaway for me was neither revolutionary nor surprising: people who live in areas where they can easily walk to things are reportedly more satisfied with where they live than those who have fewer walkable options.

This makes sense. Walking makes people happy.

The piece cites a few things that you should consider when looking for a walkable area to settle in.

1. Well-connected streets. The smaller the block size, the more easily and directly you'll be able to get from one place to another. 2. Things to walk to, like movies, stores, cafes, parks. Part of the satisfaction, it seems, is having a destination. 3. Good infrastructure for safe walking. If you're looking for housing in an area that doesn't have sidewalks, there's a good chance there won't be a lot of pedestrian street life.

This seems the perfect segue for another article I came across last month: These 12 Towns in NJ Have the Best Main Streets.

Montclair is number two! Restaurants galore. Cute stores. Movie theaters. Activities.

This time of year - when people are all out and about doing their holiday shopping - is when I truly appreciate having options other than the mall. I might be crazy, but being able to do my shopping locally, on foot, makes the holidays feel more special to me.

Ok, maybe not that's not so crazy coming from a Walkability Fanatic!

When You Come to a Fork in the Road...

IMG_7148One of my regular morning walks includes a route up the mountain where I come to a fork at the base of a big hill. If I go to the left, I end up eventually passing a house that used to be the home of Yogi Berra.

Montclair has been abuzz today with the news of Yogi's passing. Yogi moved to Montclair around 1960, at the time to a bigger house on the other end of town. He raised his family here, putting his kids through the public schools, and was always known as an active member of the community.

Whenever I pass by that house, it still blows me away that it belonged to the renowned Yogi Berra. Not because I'm so star-struck (although I am a little bit), but because it reminds me of how special this town is. Plenty of "celebrities" moved here early in their careers, no doubt because of Montclair's beauty, but also because of its proximity to Manhattan. However, many of them stayed, presumably because here they found a lively, vibrant community - a place that seemed perfect to start a family. To call home.

I'm a born-and-raised New Yorker - no stranger to famous people in my midst. Of course, when you become successful enough to live anywhere, who wouldn't choose to live in what's often regarded "the greatest city in the world?" Well, Yogi Berra, for one. Along with the host of others who found Montclair.

If you or someone in your world has found themselves at their own fork in the road - thinking of downsizing, upsizing, heading for the suburbs or heading out of town - you can do what Yogi suggested: "Take it." Or you can call me. I can help with forks, life changes, and all matters of real estate!

Surgeon General Calls - Montclair Answers

walking-web-buttonI just came upon one of those cute 2-minute videos where a narrator explains some broad concept while a high-speed hand renders an animated line drawing to illustrate the point - in this particular case, the point being:

We All Need To Walk More!

The walking information should come as no surprise to anyone - the health benefits of walking have been written about abundantly. What was surprising (and gratifying) to me was that Step It Up! - the campaign that the Surgeon General launched last week - involves not only a call to action for people to increase the amount of time they spend walking, but also for communities to become safer, more hospitable places to walk.

This means adding sidewalks, taking care of green space, and generally creating a vibe throughout the community that makes walking pleasant and appealing. For me, that often means having interesting destinations - coffee shops, boutiques, bookstores - that I can get to on foot. The good news is, Montclair already does all of that!

This video even included things that are already part of my life - like walking to the train or the bus if I'm going into the city, or structuring some of my social time around walking (I have as many walking dates as I do lunch dates to catch up with friends).

Do I feel proud of my town for being a poster child for the Surgeon General's most recent communique to create more walkable communities? I don't really have to answer that, do I?

ISO Walkable Suburb with Castle!

There are a couple of places in Montclair that feel like happy secrets and when I'm reminded of them I always feel the need to share.

Kips CastleOne such secret is Kip's Castle. Sitting high atop First Mountain, this majestic structure offers an equally majestic view. There are no lords or ladies living there - in fact it's actually part of the county park system - so visitors are welcome to wander up and check out the grounds.

Kip's Castle is not too far from my home and I'm sure readers of this blog will not be surprised that I occasionally take a walk up there. I'm no castle fanatic, but I always like a good turret. That said, I'm usually most taken with the winding road that leads up there, and the stone wall that flanks the road. The whole thing feels very otherworldly, making it even more delightful that it's practically in my backyard.

There are other houses in Montclair that, while not bona fide castles, certainly look like castles. And there are plenty of charming, modest single-family homes. I think the thing that makes Montclair so magical, is that not only do we have dwellings on either end of the spectrum - we have everything in between. And all of us, no matter where we live, have created quite a vibrant and inclusive community together.

Have I piqued your interest? Call me! 973.809.5277

 

I'm a Walkability Advocate!

IMG_5284 2I love this piece in Slate's design blog. It's the story of a guy who felt so strongly about the benefits of walking that he started his own guerrilla campaign to encourage people to walk more.

The Slate bloggers write, "Although 41 percent of all trips made in the United States are 1 mile or less, fewer than 10 percent of all trips are made by walking or biking."

They go on to say that the wayfinding signs that this guy developed - signs that tell people how many minutes it takes to walk or bike to popular local destinations - have become prototypes for pilot programs in other cities, used by community organizations, city planners and "walkability advocates."

Walkability Advocate! I didn't even realize there was a term for someone like me!

Yes, I can tell you how long it takes to walk from anywhere to anywhere else here in Montclair. Because that's why most of us come here... so we have the choice of leaving our cars behind.

But you don't need me with you when you're out and about. Montclair installed its own award-winning pedestrian  wayfinding system downtown a couple of years ago.

Don't worry, we won't look at homes together on foot - there's too much to see. But I promise you, I'll always make sure you have a full grasp of the wonderful walkability that awaits you here.

 

Montclair: A Very Friendly Town

bicyclistsAs a longtime resident of Montclair, I've always thought of my town as a very friendly community. Apparently the U.S. Department of Transportation thinks so too; Montclair was just designated a Silver Level Walk Friendly Community by the DOT's Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Walk Friendly Communities is a nationwide program honoring communities which have made pedestrian safety and convenience a priority. With our Safe Routes to School program, traffic-calming projects, and other initiatives, Montclair is definitely pedestrian-friendly.

Montclair is also a welcoming town for cyclists: We were recently recognized as a Bronze Level Bike Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Our major roads all have bike lanes (all?), and one of the most popular town-wide events for the past 10 years has been the Tour de Montclair, sponsored by Bike & Walk Montclair (BWM took a break this year but plans to bring back the Tour in 2014).

You might be wondering why any of this matters.  Well, the way I see it, these awards show that Montclair  is a town that values the environment (bikes and feet don't spew pollutants into the air) and the health (exercise is great for our physical and mental well-being) of its citizens. Sounds pretty friendly to me.