Michael's walkable area bigger thanks to Covid

Out of habit, Michael Bell used to drive to shops that were 1.5km away. The Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 triggered a small but empowering change.

A sudden switch to working from home gave the 52-year-old the opportunity and motivation to walk more around his southern suburb of Parkdale, located on Port Phillip Bay between Mentone and Mordialloc.

Michael says walking more became his “stay healthy plan” during Victoria’s multiple lockdowns. 

He was far from alone with a 2020 VicHealth survey finding more than 1 in 3 Victorians planned to walk or ride more than they did pre-coronavirus. A more recent survey found active Australians walked 27 per cent more often during Covid-19 restrictions.

Michael quickly found his “walkable range” increased as he got fitter. “Before Covid I was typically walking 3km per day when my wife and I would take our dog on a regular recreational circuit…"

After the pandemic began Michael’s wife continued commuting to work, taking the family’s only car.

“My only way to leave home was to walk...

"It meant if I needed to go somewhere I had to find another way, so I have made those trips a part of my daily routine and I also get my dog walked and some exercise. It’s three birds, one stone.”

The family now only use the car for one main shopping trip each week while Michael enjoys doing “top-ups” by foot to shops in Mentone or Mordialloc 1.5km - 2km from home, which he previosuly always drove to.

“Covid presented us with a realisation that things were a lot more walkable than we had considered in the past," he says. “If I need something I just find that now the first choice is to walk.” Michael Bell's walkable range increased during Covid lockdowns

Michael is now typically walking 5km each day. With this increase he’s become aware of factors that can make a walk a positive experience, or less appealing – such as having to navigate over busy main roads  and trying to access shopping centres located in the middle of large, ugly car parks.

“If I just need to buy a lightbulb, I don’t need a car,” he points out.

He is looking forward to a Level Crossing Removal Project to elevate parts of the Frankston Line, which will create some better local paths with new greenery.

“We should be able to walk from home to Mordialloc along the new [skyrail] path without having to go along busy roads… Mordialloc is a very busy area and activity centre so it will be great to have better walking access.”