There were also the logistical challenges of walking during the pandemic. In the spring of 2020, when most of the country was locked down, the couple continued their walks but tried to stay six feet apart and wear masks. Stopping at a gas station to use the restroom or at a McDonald’s to buy coffee suddenly seemed risky to them, so they packed more snacks and brought devices that would allow them to relieve themselves discreetly outside.
“We just got creative,” said Ms Hosbrough, an adviser. “We were determined not to shorten the duration of our walks.”
There were also benefits to walking during a pandemic. Justin Robbins, who walked every street in Longmont, Colorado, in late 2020 and early 2021, said the pandemic seemed to inspire more ambitious Christmas decorations in his town.
“People got taller – taller than they usually would,” said Mr. Robbins, a software engineer who had grown bored walking the same route near his home and credited his visit. of 586 miles from Longmont improving his physical and mental health.
But the pandemic has also led to an increase in reckless driving and, in some places, a record number of pedestrian deaths. Crashes killed more than 6,700 pedestrians in 2020, up about 5% from an estimated 6,412 the previous year, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Peoria police said there has been no increase in pedestrian fatalities there.
Ms. Hosbrough and Ms. Jacobsen-Wood, who are 50 and grew up in the Peoria area, said they saw their walks as a way to counter what they saw as a pervasive but unwarranted fatalism in how some Peorians saw their town. . Local journalists sometimes joined them in their wanderings.
Peoria, located halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, has seen its population stagnate at around 110,000 in recent decades. Caterpillar, the maker of construction and mining equipment, moved its headquarters out of town a few years ago. And homicides have reached record highs during the pandemic, according to The Peoria Journal Star, leading some commenters on the Pedestrians in Peoria Facebook page to question whether it was safe for women to walk through certain neighborhoods.