The GuardianThe Guardian

One down, 39,136 to go: the explorers who walk every street in their city

By Amy Fleming

04 May 2022 · 8 min read

There’s no better way to soothe the soul – and get to know a town – than striding through its streets. In my 20s, heartbroken after getting dumped, all I could do was march with the tide of London’s rush hour until the city grew quiet and dark, and I was too exhausted to feel in shock any more. A little lost in my early 30s, I spent a six-week cat-sitting stint in New York compulsively plodding around Brooklyn and Manhattan listening to Townes Van Zandt. It was a strange and lonely time, but moving through an endless montage of concentrated history and humanity felt beautiful and instructive.

The pandemic has sharpened a collective appreciation of wandering our cities with fresh eyes, exploring the streets we shunned in the pre-lockdown days, when walking was merely about hurrying from A to B. Increasingly, urban adventurers are taking this pastime even further and deciding to walk or run all of the thousands of streets that make up their warts-and-all cities. There’s even a website for tracking these epic runs or walks called CityStrides, which more than 45,000 people are using. “I can’t even wrap my head around that – so many people,” says programmer James Chevalier, who runs the site as a side project and uses the open-source site OpenStreetMap for his street statistics. So far, he says, there have been 6,300 completed attempts in various cities around the world, none of which were by him. He has covered only 45% of Holyoke, Massachusetts, but to be fair, he moved there having already done 21% of his nearby home city of Easthampton.

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