NYC Walk Info
What I’m Doing
I am going to walk every block of every public street in all five boroughs of New York City, excluding only the high-speed expressways and parkways that prohibit pedestrian traffic. I will also walk every bridge with pedestrian facilities, as well as many private streets, multi-use greenway paths, pedestrian paths and trails through parks and cemeteries, boardwalks, and accessible stretches of coastline.
It is my understanding that the total length of all the public streets in NYC is somewhere in excess of 6,000 miles. Add the bridges, private streets, paths, and coastline to that, as well as all the blocks I will end up covering more than once, and I expect to have walked more than 8,000 miles before I’m done.
Rather than trying to rigorously determine the most efficient route to accomplish my goal, I’m going to keep a more flexible approach. Each day I will simply walk somewhere I haven’t been yet, hopefully jumping from neighborhood to neighborhood for the sake of variety. As my progress map begins to fill in, my options for where to walk next will become narrower and narrower until, finally, there will be no streets left unwalked. At that point I will probably drink a beer and sit down for a while.
Continuing my status as a vagabond, I won’t have a permanent residence while I’m walking. I’ll stay with different friends, old and new, as I make my way across the city.
- At one point or another, I will walk by the home of every single person who lives in New York City — all eight million of you! Warm gestures of hospitality, such as fresh baked goods and foot massages, are to be expected, I’m sure.
- I will pass through every intersection in the city at least twice. So you’ll have ample opportunity to get those muffins and croissants to me.
In many ways, this is an exhaustive approach to getting to know a place. By the time I’m finished, I’ll have seen as much of New York as anyone ever has. And yet, the sum total of my experiences over these thousands of miles will be just a tiny speck, imperceptible against the immensity of this city.
What kind of truth can I hope to find? Every step I take will be deeply colored by many transient factors — the weather, the time of day, my mood, the people around me. I could go back to any given spot the next day and have an entirely different experience. Who knows how many fascinating things I’ll totally overlook? Maybe I’ll be facing the other way as I pass by, or maybe the fascination lies in some story or context that I won’t be aware of. There are countless indoor spaces that I’ll never see. My walking experience will be largely confined to street level, even though much of what makes New York New York exists above the first floor.
If you try to make this quest into a conquest — an attempt to subjugate the bewildering vastness of this metropolis beneath the well-worn heels of my boots — then perhaps it seems dispiriting to contemplate how little of the city I’ll have actually seen and experienced after my extensive journey. But why would you ever want to know a place completely? The excitement of New York, and the whole world for that matter, is that there’s always something else to see, and something else to learn, no matter how long you’ve been around. To me it is profoundly encouraging to think how many secrets will still lie undiscovered after I’ve walked every last one of these goddamned streets. At its core, my walk is an oxymoron: an exhaustive journey through an inexhaustible city.