Walking Works Best - Simon

By Julia Thorley

Published: May 24, 2024

Simon, walking case study

5-minute read

Simon Stokes has always been a walker, to the extent that when it came to choosing where to live in Kettering, one of the main criteria was that his new home should be close enough to work, shops and socialising for him to walk there.
‘I have no choice but to walk everywhere now,’ he says. ‘I had a mild stroke in 2013 that has left me visually impaired. I can’t see to the right out of either eye and my peripheral vision is very limited. I couldn’t drive, even if I wanted to, and I wouldn’t dare to cycle.’
Simon had only been driving for three years before he was forced to give it up.
‘I’d never really felt the need to drive anyway, because I was fit and active. I’m happy to walk.’


Troublesome pedestrians
The problems that Simon faces on his regular walks are those that anyone might encounter, such as uneven surfaces, street furniture, cars parked on the pavement and bins left out. The thing that irritates him most, though, is other pedestrians.

Simon, walking case study

‘My natural pace is fast, even when I’m walking for pleasure, and I get impatient when I can’t get past people who are dawdling. The other main problem is people who are on their phones not looking where they’re going, and groups of three or four people walking side by side who don’t make way for someone coming the other way. When I walk, I walk for a purpose, and have been known to make loud shuffling noises to let people know I’m behind them. Maybe we need fast and slow lanes!’
Night-walking is also difficult for all pedestrians because the streetlights don’t illuminate the pavements sufficiently.

‘I have to pick the side of the road that has the best light.’

Four seasons in one day
The other problem Simon encounters, like all of us, is the British weather, and there’s nothing we can do about that. He says if often dictates his clothes and the distance he walks.
‘You have to dress for all the seasons, because you can set off in the spring and finish the day in the winter. I tend to have a multilayered approach and a big choice of footwear. I might also vary my route depending on the weather.’

Simon has of necessity a finely tuned sense of hazard perception.
‘I look ahead all the time so I’m aware of potential obstacles, including people. For instance, walking down a pavement where there are a lot of takeaways can be tricky because people cut across in front of me.’
Walking can be mentally challenging for Simon because he has to pay attention all the time. He mentions that supermarkets can be especially difficult because of the lights, the clutter and the sheer volume of people.
‘It can really tire out my brain, which obviously isn’t good for my mental wellbeing. When I’m out in the countryside, it’s so good to be away from people and obstacles.’

Travel choices
Simon says he deliberately chooses a longer way to and from work than is strictly necessary.
‘It’s good for my fitness, but also it’s a route that takes me along wider paths that are better lit and more scenic.’
When he can’t walk, Simon tends to take a taxi or, for longer journeys, the train.
‘The amount of money I save by not having a car means I can afford to take taxis occasionally. People tell me that having a car gives them independence, but I wonder if that is cancelled out by the cost of having to run and maintain it. Walking is free.
‘I tend not to use buses because the walk to the bus stop is often halfway to where I’m going anyway. I did have a bus pass that meant I could travel for free, but when it expired after three years I didn’t renew it. I’m not registered disabled, so I had to apply for a driving licence knowing that it would be refused but that it would prove I wasn’t able to drive. I also needed a letter from my optician to confirm my limited field of vision. It was simply not worth the effort.’

Advocating for walking
Simon regularly clocks up 15,000 steps a day during the working week, then walks at the weekends for pleasure.
‘There are some great walks in and around Kettering that take me out to the villages. I set off from home on foot, but my walk doesn’t really start until I see green. I use the OS Maps app, which is great for planning. I pick a route based on how long I think it will take me – which is usually less than the app suggests! I generally plan to walk for up to four hours, whatever the weather.
‘Walking is definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done for my health.’

Simon, walking case study. Sofa interview Simon, walking case study in green space 2 pedestrians walking

Which Trips Would You Switch?
Even if you go everywhere by car, which trips would you consider switching to walk?  What would inspire you or enable you to give it a go? 
Our ‘Which Trips Would You Switch?’ series of case studies are based on interviews with people from Kettering, North Northamptonshire as part of the Brightwayz Get Down To Town project which aims  to support, enable and promote more travel options for short journeys in the town. 
The Get Down To Town project is funded by North Northamptonshire Council with funding from Active Travel England and is designed and delivered by Brightwayz social enterprise.

Now Watch our Video: Which Trips Could You Switch Walking - Simon

Simon Stokes walking w play button.

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