Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Footsteps in the Snow: A Pedestrian Map

Coming from Vancouver, it's a strange experience to have snow stay on the ground for so long. I'm used to light dustings that melt and disappear, usually within a 24 hour period. But it's amazing how fast you become used to something, and now that snow on the ground has become just a part of the city for me.

It also serves the purpose of unveiling the walking patterns of everyone in the city, something that is usually invisible on grass and pavement. Sure, there are some dirt paths carved through grassy areas in the spring and summer, but generally people's footsteps go unrecorded as soon as they pass through. It takes a good amount of snow on the ground in order for people to begin to leave little trails of themselves all around the city.

One thing that's obvious is people's hate for 90 degree angles. It's also interesting to find all the spaces where people cross mid-block, thus carving out a little space amidst the piled up snow at the curb. There is probably a lemming effect to all of this as well. I know that when I have to cross an area that is covered in snow and there are already one set of footsteps, I will literally follow in the footsteps of that former person.

And a note to the paranoid: if you are going to be away from your house for an extended period of time in the winter in Toronto be aware that everyone will know you're not home due to the unbroken field of snow before your front doorsteps. Someone could probably make a few bucks renting themselves out as front-door walkers, leaving their footsteps up and down the yard, stamped into the snow to say: someone was here.

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