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Walker Profiles: Meet Michael

 In Events, Walk to Work Day

Walk to Work Day is just around the corner on Friday, April 12. Leading up to the big day, we talked with San Franciscans who already walk to their workplace or wherever they spend their day.

In our first installment of Walker Profiles, we’d like to introduce you to a Parkside resident, Michael Sokoloff, who walks over 5 miles to work downtown each day.

How did you decide to start walking to work?

I lived in the upper Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco for 17 years. I work at a conservation organization downtown near 2nd Street and Mission. A friend of mine from work also lives in the Upper Haight Ashbury. I saw him walking to work one day and asked him if he had walked all the way from the Haight. He said he did. I was looking for a way to exercise and lose weight, so I thought I would give it a try.

When I was still living in the Haight, the walk to work was about three miles. There was only one big street incline, on Hayes Street, right on the way to Alamo Square where the three sisters view of SF is located. At lunchtime I would walk from 2nd and Mission to the Embarcadero and Mission and then back to my office (about 1.2m round trip). I would take public transportation home. That meant I was regularly walking about 4.2 miles a day.

I found that walking to work each day had certain advantages. First off, walking to work took me about 55 minutes. Taking the bus to work took me about 45 minutes. So, if my bus was late, I could get to work faster by walking than by Muni. Over the first few months, I found I was losing weight and that the morning walks really helped brighten my mood once I got to work. Also, I was getting fewer colds, which I attribute to both my daily aerobic walking exercise and from the fact that I was being subjected to “bus germs” less frequently.

At the end of 2012, my housemate and I received an OMI eviction notice and were forced to move out of our one bedroom apartment in the upper Haight by February 2013. I moved to temporary housing out towards the SF Zoo in the Parkside district of San Francisco. As soon as I moved into my new digs, I started taking my new walk to work. I would walk from Sunset and Sloat to the L Taraval (about .7 miles). I would take the L Taraval to Castro Muni. Then I would walk from Castro muni to 2nd and Mission (about 2.8 miles). At lunchtime, I would walk from 2nd Street and Mission to Pier 14 and back (about 1.2 miles roundtrip). After work, I would take the L Taraval to Taraval and Sunset and walk the .7m home. All told, I now walk about 5.4 miles each weekday, which is a daily walking distance increase of about 1/3 from when I was living in  upper Haight.

One challenge I’ve set for myself since I moved into my new Parkside apartment is to walk from my home, near the SF Zoo, all the way to 2nd Street and Mission street some morning. If I take the Portola Street and Market Street route, that walk appears to be about 7.15 miles. Since I walk about 3 miles per hour, that would probably take me about 2.5 hours. In order to get to work by 8 a.m., which is when I like to get arrive, I would need to leave my house at 5:30 a.m.. That means waking up at 5 a.m. to eat breakfast and shower. Whew! That’s a tall order. Perhaps on Friday, 4/12/13’s Walk to Work Day, I’ll wake up early and attain this goal. Perhaps not.

What is your favorite part about walking to work?

Excellent exercise, strong body, losing weight, improves my mood at work. Beautiful sunrises. At the beginning of 2013, I finally knuckled under and got a smartphone. It has been really fun taking pictures of beautiful sunrises I see on my walks to work and posting them to my Facebook page. I’ve had some friends write some nice comments on some of the pictures I have posted.

What challenges have you faced when walking to work? How do you overcome them?

When I was walking to work from the Upper Haight, I walked down Hayes Street from Masonic to Van Ness, and then down Market to 2nd Street and Mission. After several weeks of taking this three mile walk every day, I noticed that my right foot was starting to feel strained. I got a new pair of walking tennis shoes, which seemed to help a bit, but then I started feeling a strain again. I finally figured out that there is a slope to the sidewalks on Hayes Street where the left side of the sidewalk is higher than the right side of the sidewalk. That was probably putting more strain on my right foot. If I had continued to live in the Upper Haight, I would have tried other routes to work to find a street that didn’t have that sloping sidewalk issue. But, since I moved to the Parkside district of San Francisco and the sidewalks there are pretty level, that’s solved the right foot strain problem.

Do you have regular stops on your walk? Regular people you interact with?

Yes. I stop at a breakfast diner/coffee shop near 7th Street and Market pretty much every morning to buy coffee. I greet the Chinese couple there each daily with a “Nee how ma?” (“How are you” in Chinese) and leave with a “Shay, shay” (“Thank you” in Chinese). I am considering learning other Chinese phrases like “Have a nice day” to say to them on the way out. They were happy when I said “Gong hay fat choy” a few weeks ago for Chinese New Years. Fun!

Thanks Michael for sharing your story with us! Are you already walking to work? Tell us about your experiences here.

Interested in walking to work on Friday, April 12?  Learn about Walk to Work Day contests, drawing prizes and Hubs near you for FREE coffee and pre-loaded Clipper cards at