NYC Walk Info
What I’m Doing
I am going to walk 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 of the multi-use greenway paths, and many of the pedestrian paths through parks and cemeteries.
It is my understanding that the total length of all the streets in NYC is somewhere in excess of 6000 miles. Add the bridges and pedestrian paths to that, as well as all the miles of streets that I will end up covering more than once, and I expect to have walked more than 8000 miles before I’m done.
Rather than trying to rigorously determine the most efficient route to accomplish my goal, I would like to keep a more flexible approach. Each day I will simply walk somewhere I haven’t yet been, 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 are no streets left unwalked. At that point I will probably drink some beer and sit down for a while.
(Updated March 2013) I treat this endeavor as a full-time job, and then some. I didn’t anticipate this at the outset, but I actually spend most of my waking hours working on my walk’s non-walking aspects: editing and researching photos, updating maps, and planning routes. I still try to average around 10 miles per day to maintain a sense of progress, although this makes it tough to stay up to date with my photos, as you’ve probably noticed. At this rate, I hope (optimistically, perhaps) to be finished sometime in early 2015.
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 little 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 a completely 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 vast potential of this city 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 of 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.