For Andrea, walking was the pandemic's "gift"
I ditched my car and found freedom
As the year 2020 kicked off in Victoria, Andrea Cook was already plotting to get rid of her car.
She had moved back to inner-Melbourne after time spent living regionally and felt irritated by the costs of car ownership in the city.
“Insurance and registration was costing me nearly $3000 and then there's paying for parking, petrol …”
She decided to ease into the plan. At the start of 2020 Andrea made a resolution to stop using her car for trips less than 2km in length, and to walk at least 20km each week.
Soon she was racking up the steps easily, and feeling better for it.
When Covid arrived in Australia and Melbourne was thrown into its first lockdown on March 31st, Andrea realised her new walking habit would be a saviour.
Like many people in Australia, Andrea (who works in urban research), began working from home full-time.
It was just her and her dog Teah in the Abbottsford flat.
Walking became a gift, keeping Andrea physically healthy but also serving as a panacea for lockdown loneliness.
“During the first lockdown when there was no social bubble for people living alone, my only conversations were with people in the dog park, or sometimes gardening around the apartment block.”
Many of those lockdown dog-park friends have now become "go-to-the-pub-together friends".
She and Teah would average about 13km of walking, through local streets and parks, or by the Yarra River.
“Walking really was the highlight of my day, otherwise I really was just working on Zoom and very housebound.”
In November of 2020, during a break in lockdowns, Andrea bit the bullet and sold her car to a friend (sooner than she had planned).
“While the car had been pretty useful before the pandemic it was now entirely useless and was a bit of an albatross,” she says.
“It was a drain on my pocketbook and my fitness and my motivation to walk. It would have been a step backward to start driving again to things I was now comfortably walking to.”
Reflecting, Andrea says she realises that prior to Covid-19, her car had been “bewitching”.
“You always imagine the best car scenario, like the car ads where there is no traffic… And you think of the worst scenarios when you imagine public transport or walking somewhere …"
Her thinking has now completely flipped.
As well as daily dog walks, nearly all of Andrea’s other trips are on foot now too; “all my shopping, most of my work-related trips, hairdressers, doctors, dentists … ”
Even nights out to the city. “If it’s an hour walk I just walk it, pretty much automatically. I don’t even use public transport much any more.”
“It might be quicker to drive or train, but now I think about the exercise, the fresh air and the relaxed state you’re in when you get to where you are going …”
"Walking during the pandemic was such a gift."
See more reasons Victorians are walking more at our #LoveWalking 'Stories' page. Spread the love!
DID YOU KNOW?
Andrea is not alone in giving up a private motor vehicle in recent years. As more people work at least some of the time from home now and in future, travel behaviours may continue to shift.
This story from The Age (August 2022) found the number of people using car share companies in Melbourne has grown rapidly after Covid lockdowns, with some companies reporting three times as many users.
A 2022 Monash University research paper on Impacts of COVID-19 on Long Term Commuting in Melbourne found workers living in Melbourne were still avoiding public transport. While this has meant some people are now driving to work more often, the number of trips to work by walking has increased by one per cent in both inner and outer Melbourne suburbs.