Last Friday, I worked from my firm’s facility along the Oxford Street in Osu. In the course of the morning, I needed to pick up an item from the Total Shop close to the Koala Shopping Centre.

As I stepped out of the Oxford Street Mall, my attention was drawn to someone who was calling me from a Ford Escape pick-up. As I drew closer, I noticed that the driver was a church member who wanted to know if everything was okay. I guess he found it weird seeing me walking. I informed him I was picking up an item up the road and preferred walking. Along the way as I got to the former Ecobank building (now occupied by a pharmacy), another vehicle honked from behind.

It was an old College mate who pulled to the side wanting to know if I needed a ride. I assured him that I was okay and preferred to walk up the road instead. We exchanged pleasantries and parted ways. Just as I approached the St. Maraun’s Catholic Church, I saw a engineering colleague who was in the company of a foreign guest. He actually express surprise seeing me walking. For the third time along a stretch of less than ten-minute walk I had been compelled to explain my preference to walk on three separate occasions.

On my way back to the Mall still on foot, I kept wondering why all the familiar faces I had met on the road were surprised about my walking. As if not enough, one of the Mall Security Guards on seeing walking into the facility holding a package asked why I walked while my car was in the car park. It really set me thing. Was it really out of place for me to prefer walking for that distance?

My dear friend, I grew up in Cape Coast in an environment where some of us walked some eighteen kilometres from home in UCC to the college (before enrolling in the boarding house). Those were the days when commercial vehicles were not allowed beyond the peripheries of the university. Walking those days was thus the order of the day. All manner of people walked across the campus to attend lectures, programmes, church services, visiting friends and even out of campus into the town centre. These included Senior Members, their spouses and children, students, workers and all others.

I further recall how while under ten years, we used to regularly see our Catholic Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Isidore Kowalski, SJ walking in between the coconut trees anywhere along the OLA College of Education and the town centre stretch (a distance of over 8km).

He was a priest in his late 60s but always preferred walking – to and from church and everywhere else. As recent as the mid 2000s, I recall how we walked from Food Research Institute (behind Police Headquarters) in Cantonments to NAFTI in East Cantonments (a distance of about ten kilometres) and to the Labone Osu Children’s Home area, all to visit friends. We could have used taxis and trotros but we walked and actually enjoyed our walks. Walking was very much part of our lifestyle and it had nothing to do with whether or not you could afford a ride on a commercial vehicle.

The thought of these scenarios then set me thinking about the radical shift we see these days.

So my question….what changed, that today we all, have stopped walking. It is almost a taboo to suggest to someone to walk a distance of even less than three kilometres (ten minutes walk). People will prefer to drive or wait and take vehicle for distances as short as ten minutes walk.

Is it no wonder that many people including youngsters are begin to struggle with non-communicable diseases such a Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Cancers, etc. Interestingly, these are generally referred to as lifestyle diseases, suggesting that it is our mode of life that causes the development of such diseases in us.

Strangely, after we have pampered ourselves by enjoying vehicular rides at the least instance, we end up undertaking weekend walks which these days have become more of lifestyle trademarks than anything else.

It’s really about time that deliberate attempts are made by State actors (government, Health authorities, religious bodies, educational institutions, National Council for Civic Education, etc) to inculcate in the general populace the need to imbibe walking in our everyday activities.

My dear friend, we should begin encouraging ourselves to walk to work if it is less than ten kilometres away from home. At least we can walk to the junction for a commercial vehicle instead of the current situation where people take a vehicle to another point to catch another. This should not be because for economic reasons but an attempt to introduce healthy lifestyle in the lives of the Ghanaian. Efforts should also be made to make our roads much more friendly with pedestrian lanes, have our streets lined up with more shady trees to encourage walking among others.

Where we are headed currently, is certainly a recipe for disaster if we don’t apply the brakes ASAP!