Here are some of the self-imposed rules that I established for consistency’s sake, anecdotally annotated.
1. No walking after dark.
I established this rule after a walk in early July that took place mostly after the sun set. The point of this is to look around and admire gardens, architecture, pets, Cambridge bunnies, decor, etc. so if I can’t see it, can I truly count a street? After declaring this rule, I denoted the streets on that walk that I needed to revisit in light.
However, I lifted that rule in November. It’s a lot easier to ensure daylight while on vacation in the summer than while working in the winter. On a lovely walk near Harvard Square on election night I decided to lift the rule, both for logistical ease and because the houses and streets had something new to offer this time of year: light! Beautiful stained glass windows. Holiday lights. Solar lights in the garden.
2. No listening to anything or talking on the phone while walking.
Because it’s distracting! I want to focus on the sites, and found if I was on the phone or listening to news or a podcast I wouldn’t look around enough. I did count the streets I did under this influence, however, before declaring the rule. I also made an exception to listen to the news on my election night walk.
3. Friends can come along as long as….
They aren’t too distracting! I do feel like the walks I took with company are less lodged in my memory due to the distraction of conversation, but it’s also nice to share the experience with somebody. The friends who came along knew the drill, with the weird navigation guidelines and cool stuff to look out for, and have been overwhelmingly a boon.
There was one walk, though, where my companion and I got into a heated argument about white fragility/privilege and I took in nothing at all. Luckily that was the same July walk that I didn’t count due to darkness so I’ll replace that stretch anyway.
4. Visual completion of a street counts
One of the FAQs from walking companions is about if we have to walk all the way to the end of each tiny, dead-end side street. The answer is no. The point is to see everything, so if we’ve reached a point where we can see everything down there, we can turn around. But if there’s anything obstructing our view, we need to investigate. But I would never bail more than 20 feet away from the end of the street.
5. One side of a street is sufficient
I had a moment of horror early on when I realized that in order to be fully thorough, I’d need to walk BOTH sides of every street. I soon dismissed that idea (it’s nice to be in charge of making the rules!) and just vowed to make sure I looked at both sides. If I know I need to back-track on a street, I will intentionally focus on one side at a time.
5. Dangerous roads require a sidewalk to count
I wasn’t thrilled to see “State Route 2/Concord Turnpike” on my list of streets, since it’s the highway. Naturally, I decided to not pursue that. I did end up over at that “Vox” building right off Route 2 delivering school supplies and walked back to the car near Alewife, and technically that stretch of sidewalk counts as Route 2. But since it’s the only stretch with a sidewalk (that I’m aware of), it’s enough to count the whole street.