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Originally published August 27, 2014 at 9:34 PM | Page modified August 28, 2014 at 11:13 AM

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Corrected version

Extreme walking commuter puts feet first

In a city known for terrible traffic, some commuters find relief on their own two feet. Fremont resident Luke Bayler is one such walking commuter.


/ Seattle Times staff reporter

Why walk

The Seattle Times asked readers via social media about their on-foot commutes. Here are the top five answers to our query: Why walk to work?

Pleasure

“Joy. That Seattle is a walkable city is the primary reason I stay here in spite of the rising cost of living. I feel better about my day when I get where I am going with my own two feet.” — Josh Jones (Walks more than 2 miles to work daily.)

Proximity

“Because I live just .75 miles from my office! Because it’s fun! Because I can clear my mind! Because I can!” — Denise Jones (Less than a mile to work, three to four days a week.)

Best alternative

“I walk to work because the buses are slow, cars downtown are a waste of space, and the roads are designed to hold as many cars as possible instead of making sure you don’t get killed while not on a sidewalk (such as when attempting to bicycle). So I walk.”— Adam Williams (More than 2 miles to work once or twice a week.)

Health

“I’m a big proponent of functional walking. The human body was meant to walk, and I feel it’s great for overall health — physical, emotional and even spiritual. It’s also built-in exercise that fits in beautifully with my budget (it’s free) and my schedule (no need for extra gym time, and traffic or bus delays don’t affect me).” — Caroline Zelonka (More than 2 miles to work daily.)

Community connection

“Good exercise, I don’t have to worry about parking or dealing with the bus, it’s a good ‘time out’ before and after work, and I feel like I get to know my city and my neighborhood better as a result.” — Paul Clarke (Walks 1 to 2 miles to work daily.)

Reader Comments
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People at my former job would always react in shock when I told them I walked to work. It was about 1.5 miles and took... MORE
Healthy choice. Bet he'll save on healthcare spending too. And gas. Healthier, cheaper, better. MORE
I used to live in Seattle and often walked from Capitol Hill to downtown. Walking two to three miles is no big deal and... MORE

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Luke Bayler walks more than 50 miles every week.

It’s 3 miles every day to work at Amazon.com in South Lake Union where he works as a technical writer and another 3 miles back home to Fremont, where he lives with his cousin and his cousin’s wife. A visit to his sister’s house on the other side of Lake Union takes him another 5 miles, and a round trip to see friends who live near Green Lake adds 8 more.

Sometimes, Bayler logs 20 miles a day — but he’s not walking alone. He’s among 10 percent of Seattleites whose feet serve as a primary mode of transportation.

“There are always interesting things going on when you’re walking if you’re willing to slow down a little bit and take everything in,” he said. “At first it was a little unnerving because I was a little anxious about it, like ‘Oh, God, it’s going to take forever to walk this far.’ But you just accept the fact that all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other for a while and eventually you’ll get there.”

Bayler, 37, estimates that he has been walking long distances for the last five or 10 years. It’s a natural extension of his love for foraging, the practice of finding wild fruits, berries, nuts, mushrooms and other edible plants. “I would be walking and lose track of time and realize that I’d walked 20 miles harvesting fruits,” he said.

For Bayler, foraging takes the shape of walks around Seattle, as well as longer backpacking trips to places like the Hoh Rain Forest, where Bayler likes to hunt for mushrooms, even in the rain.

Once he realized how much he was walking, Bayler got a pedometer and began to challenge himself to walk more. It’s a real-life version of David Sedaris’ New Yorker article “Stepping out: Living the Fitbit Life.” Like Sedaris, Bayler measures how many steps he takes daily on a Fitbit, a wearable digital device that tracks physical activity.

“I’d say, ‘Hey, I walked 10 miles that day, why don’t I walk 12 the next day?’ ” Bayler said. “And then take two days off and walk 15?”

Bayler is so committed to using his feet that he recently donated his car to a cancer charity. Gas money now goes toward buying new shoes, which wear out every few months.

Lately he’s been sporting a pair of strappy Chaco hiking sandals, which have performed better than his previous hiking boots and are ideal for summer.

“I’ve probably walked 500 or more miles on them,” he said.

The grip on the soles has been worn down under the pressure of Bayler’s extreme walking habits. He once walked 40 miles in a day (at his estimated rate of 3 miles an hour in the city, that’s more than 13 hours), but doesn’t remember much about it except that his knees were sore, his feet were wet, and his backpack was likely full of mushrooms.

Bayler attributes his health, especially his mental well-being, to walking.

“I think it slows down the pace of my life overall,” he said. “It’s like meditating. I used to walk fast, but these days I like to walk slower and try to clear my mind and be relaxed, think about things I need to think about. I think it’s really good for mental health. That’d be my plug for it. Walk for mental health.”

Apparently others agree. Seattle, along with Boston, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and New York, is one of the top five cities with the most foot commuters. In King County, the percentage is just under 5 percent.

The reasons to walk to work are varied. Some like walking because it’s an inexpensive and reliable way to get to work, and some enjoy the easy exercise. Others just really hate traffic.

“I think it’s really good for everybody,” Bayler said. “I would recommend everyone spend at least a little bit of time every day walking.”

Katharine Schwab: kschwab@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @kschwabable

Information in this article, originally published Aug. 27, 2014, was corrected Aug. 28, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly spelled Luke Bayler’s last name.



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