The coronavirus lockdown has changed my relationship to walking

Walking in Manchester in the age of coronavirus. Image: Getty.

Before the UK went into lockdown on the evening of the 23 March, I wasn’t really someone who walked for pleasure. For me, walking was a means to an end, not a thing in itself, and it was frequently boring and unpleasant. 

I live in Greater Manchester, where people own cars and public transport is for the eternally optimistic. As such, many of my commutes have involved walking, and not always in the kind of beautiful spring weather that the UK so cruelly saw during our first week of lockdown. One of my lowlights involved walking along a main road at night during a power cut, and being thankful for the snow on the ground because it meant I could see where I was going. I’d also have to mention the long, tedious walk in torrential rain from Oxford Road to the centre of Longsight, undertaken while listening to Cherry Ghost’s “People Help The People” on my mp3 player. It was, perhaps, my most ‘on brand’ Mancunian moment. 

At the time of writing, citizens in the UK are allowed out once a day for exercise. The lockdown rules, as laid down by the government, don’t mention how long we should be out of doors for, but a time period of one hour is often mentioned.  This is based on a series of off the cuff comments Michael Gove made during the first week of lockdown. 

Urban areas aren’t necessarily that well provided with green spaces, and that’s certainly the case where I live. As such, the immediate local area might not feel that attractive to many of you when faced with a request from your government and the NHS to stay local when exercising. I live on a main road, so pollution and noise are a big factor when taking a walk in the area closest to my flat.

But lockdown has changed my relationship to walking. 

For one thing, going for a walk is pretty much the only way I can get out of my studio sized flat each day, and as such, I value the opportunity to perambulate far more than I did previously. It’s amazing what a loss of freedom will cause you to value. 

Another reason I am beginning to enjoy walking is because the roads are both quieter and less polluted than they were a fortnight ago. This means I no longer have streaming non-seasonal rhinitis from road pollution and, as such, can wander the streets of Greater Manchester while thinking and contemplating life without my nose and eyes suddenly, and without warning, gushing saline and snot.

And it is quiet.  Not silent (I am still living on a main road after all) but definitely quiet enough to hear your thoughts.

My local area is very built up, with little in the way of green space (there’s a bit of grass about the size of a football pitch behind the flats which people use to walk their dogs and set off fireworks) but that doesn’t seem to matter in this new age of stillness. I no longer feel the need to put my headphones in when I’m out. Instead, I’m content to listen to the quiet and to my own thoughts while I notice my surroundings. I like to check which shops are open, and to smile at people.

A few years ago, walking was recommended to me as a good mindfulness activity to help with my anxiety. I didn’t get it then. I sort of do now. 

Cazz Blase is a freelance journalist specialising in public transport and music.


The future is here: Register now for Barcelona’s New Economy Week

Barcelona New Economy Week (BNEW) starts this Tuesday with the goal of turning the Catalan city into the "global capital of the new economy".

BNEW runs from 6 to 9 October, with registration remaining open throughout the event, offering insight from 350 speakers on how businesses can bounce back from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. It will feature top speakers from the business sectors of real estate, logistics, digital industry, e-commerce and economic zones.

The hybrid, business-to-business event – which is taking place in physical and virtual forms – is organised by Consorci de la Zona Franca (CZFB) and will showcase the way in which Barcelona is preparing for the post-Covid world and the "new economy". It is the city’s first big business event of the year and aims to help revitalise and restart the local economy.

“BNEW will be the first great event for the economy’s global recovery that will allow the redesigning of the productive fabric,” says Pere Navarro, state special delegate at CZFB. “It is an honour to have the participation of renowned professionals and attendees from all around the world.

“As we are not in a position to do a proper ‘in person’ fair, we decided to adapt by creating a disruptive and useful event in this way to relaunch the economy.”

The conference will encompass five interconnected events incorporating real estate, logistics, digital industry, e-commerce and economic zones. More than 8,000 professionals from 91 countries from all over the globe will take part virtually. A further 1,000 delegates are expected to attend the five events in person. Over 200 speakers will take part physically, while the rest will give their talks via a digital platform especially created for the unique event. An advanced digital networking platform – using artificial intelligence – will cross-reference the data of all those registered to offer a large number of contacts and directly connect supply with demand.

The conference will also be simultaneously broadcast in high-quality streaming on six channels, one for each of the five interconnected events and an additional stream showcasing Barcelona’s culture and gastronomy.

BNEW will take place in three venues in the city: Estació de França, Casa Seat and Movistar Centre. All are open, digital spaces committed to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda. Estació de França will host the BNEW Logistics, BNEW E-commerce and BNEW Real Estate events, while Casa Seat will be home to the BNEW Economic Zones event, and the Movistar Centre will host the BNEW Digital Industry.

Some 36 companies are sponsoring BNEW, and 52 start-up companies will take part and present their highly innovative products and services. A further 128 firms will participate in BVillage, a kind of virtual stand where they can show their products and schedule meetings with potential clients.

Highlight sessions will include: "the era of humankind toward the fifth industrial revolution," by Marc Vidal, a digital transformation expert; "rational optimism," by Luca Lazzarini, a commercial communications specialist; and "future smart cities’ challenges and opportunities," by Alicia Asín, a leading voice on artificial intelligence. Sandra Pina will also talk about how sustainability is transforming us, Jorge Alonso on the humane future of cities and Pilar Jericó on how to face changes in the post-Covid era.

BNEW is described as a new way of developing your know-how, expanding your networks and promoting innovation and talent.

“Networking is always one of the main attractions of the events, so to carry it out in this innovative way at BNEW – with the high international profile it boasts – is a great opportunity for companies,” says Blanca Sorigué, managing director of CZFB.

Readers can register for BNEW for free via this link using the discount code BNEWFREE.