First Time

Walking In Old Montreal

Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti once surveyed commuting behaviour across the past one thousand years, and determined that the constant first discovered by Yacov Zahan of the United States Department of Transport holds true for mankind all the way back to the neolithic period: the mean amount of time people all across the world spend in transit each day is about an hour.

More recently, Chris Turner, in an article published in Canadian Geographic magazine, described a number of experimental walks that he went on in various Canadian cities, testing this one-hour constant. One of his trips was in Old Montreal.

The boundaries of the Old Montreal walk stretch from McGill in the West to Berri in the East, travelling along St. Jacques and St. Antoine to the north, and rue de la Commune and Place D'Youville to the south.

Turner noted that "the circumnavigation took longer than a simple bisection would have back in 1750, but in any case, I made it all the way around in about 50 minutes."

My mother and I tried to replicate the walk, and discovered that an hour is barely long enough, unless you hike at a brisk pace. Such a speed might be relevant to a commuter, but for a leisurely stroll, it was much too short a time.

The one-hour constant is an average, after all, and surely discounts the amount of time taken up by, for instance, stopping at a market stall or to chat with a neighbour. Even commuters nowadays might break their journey at a coffee shop or stop at the gym for a brief workout before arriving at the office.

On our walk, we lingered by the river, watching the operation of the locks. We read the placards on various statues and art installations and, yes, stopped for coffee.

Not exactly commuting, perhaps, but definitely gaining a deeper sense of the place.

October-November 2012

Old Articles by Deniz B. Bevan:
My First Novel
Istanbul Sapphire
Pâté or Pouding Chômeur

An Expression
Ice Apple Wine
Montreal Is An Island
Lavender Fields
Exotic Fruit
Ideas for Your 'Staycation'
Istanbul: I Only Have Two Days To See Everything!
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Bladeby Diana Gabaldon
Approaching Ireland by ferry...
Just Plain Nesin