Updated May 2023
I’ve always thought it would be a fun ‘side quest’ in life to try to walk as much of the world as possible. Walking a dozen miles every day is an amazing routine, and visiting every street is really the only way to experience a city to its fullest. So over the past decade I’ve GPS-tracked over 30,000 miles of walking – more than the circumference of the planet – in dozens of cities.
At first I considered literally going the ‘every street’ route, in which I cross off every street of a given city. I haven’t fully abandoned this goal, but the thought of endless residential neighborhoods and frequent dead ends makes the idea unappealing. The goal of this project is to enjoy the experience, and doubling-back on a cul-de-sac is not fun. So at the moment, this project’s goal is to walk ‘every interesting street’ of my favorite cities, with ‘every street’ TBD.
To log the data, I use an iPhone app (currently Arc) to passively track me in the background 24/7. This is easier than manually tracking it and the data also serves as evidence that I walked all these streets. To visualize my walks, the exported data is sent through a custom program that strips out all non-walking travel types, and then is visualized using this tool.
I’m still deciding what approach I want to take to sharing this data. The drawback here is privacy, so I’ve abandoned plans to make an interactive map. For now I’ll just manually update this page with a few of my favorite maps, like some sort of art project.
New York City
NYC is one of the best cities in the world for walking. Especially in Manhattan, where pedestrians essentially have the right of way so you never have to stop at a crosswalk. The city has so much going on that no matter where you walk there’s always something happening to keep it interesting. The subway system goes everywhere, which means every neighborhood is accessible for $2.75. So far, I’ve walked about 7,000 miles in NYC, of which maybe 1,000 miles are unique streets.
I don’t know what my endgame is with NYC. Walking every street would be a fun challenge, but would almost certainly take decades. The city is currently somewhere around 15% complete.
SF is somehow both one of the best and one of the worst cities for walking. Depending on the day, it could be one of the most beautiful walks you’ve ever been on or one of the most depressing. The city is also very small – about two hours to walk from one side to the other – so the lack of public transportation isn’t a huge deal since just about everywhere is walkable.
I won’t mention the problems SF has, since they’re all well known. But it is frustrating seeing the lifestyle of the people here spent entirely in the home/office, with the occasional weekend outing for (great) food or (amazing) parks, which leads people to deeply love and defend the city without spending much time actually immersed in it. Maybe more people walking would improve things. :)
Over the past decade I’ve walked around 7,000 miles in SF, of which maybe 700 miles are unique streets, putting me at around 70% completion. If I were to walk full time, I could finish every street in this city in about a month. Realistically, I likely won’t finish it for a few more years.
CDMX is one of the most enjoyable cities in the world to live in. Different neighborhoods visually look different and have completely different vibes, which is something very few other cities can say. I frequently compare this city to NYC.
Most of the city is very walkable, especially the older historic neighborhoods, however some of the newer, richer neighborhoods aren’t. This is pretty common in developing countries, since developers know if they remove sidewalks and make parking prohibitively expensive, they can completely eliminate poor people. Which works, but makes everything somewhat dystopian. In the Santa Fe neighborhood I once had to call an Uber to go 50 feet because the only way to walk it would have involved sprinting across a highway.
I don’t want to say I’ll never be able to walk every street in CDMX, but considering how much larger it is than NYC I’m keeping my expectations realistic. The 2,000 miles I’ve walked here is just a single digit percent. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if I hold the walking record for this city.
I’ve never lived in LA, but dozens of weekend trips have resulted in me walking more of the city than most people who live here. It’s really not a walkable city. However, there are plenty of sidewalks, so if you don’t mind walking a dozen miles alongside traffic, every neighborhood is technically reachable by foot. Luckily, LA has a metro system that’s surprisingly good by US standards.
Though I don’t see myself walking every street of LA, I would like to walk every street of all the interesting neighborhoods and then connect them together!
Austin is a terrible city for walking, like the rest of Texas, but everyone knows that. Sidewalks will just give up before leading anywhere. Even downtown it’s difficult to walk more than a few blocks, with many sidewalks completely blocked off for construction since the city isn’t aware foot traffic is a thing. The only exception is the running trail loop alongside the Colorado river, which makes it easy to forget you’re in Texas.
Though I’ve only been to Oaxaca once, and only for six weeks, the resulting map ended up looking great due to me walking the two main neighborhoods – Centro and Reforma – to near completion. The city itself is a lot bigger, but is entirely residential outside of the central area so it’s hard to find reasons to explore. Thanks to its historic thin, cobbled streets, walking is the best way to get around and is often faster than a taxi.
Thanks for reading! I plan to expand this page eventually, already have 10,000 words worth of walking thoughts jotted down over the years I’d like to condense and add… Let me know if you liked this page/project and if there’s enough interest I’ll prioritize it!