By Andrea Pineda-Salgado
Head down to Pier 45 in Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon and you may notice a group of dozens of young women in their 20s and early 30s walking down the pier. No, it’s not a protest or a rally, but the City Girls Who Walk walking group. The group was created last month by fitness trainer, Brianna Kohn, 28. When the pandemic started, Kohn was living in Chicago and working as a fitness instructor. As the pandemic began to escalate and gyms were shut down, she was no longer able to work in-person. To fill the void, she began posting workout videos on Tik Tok and social media. And, like many people during that time, she found a new passion: content creator.
After living through a lock down in Chicago, Kohn decided to move back to New York City, where she lived pre-pandemic, in September 2021. She realized that people weren’t going out as much as they used to and it was difficult to make new friends. That’s when she came up with the idea for a walking group. Perhaps by going on a weekly walk, women from across the five boroughs would have a chance to connect and get to know each other. She posted a video on her Tik Tok which amassed more than 140,000 views. On March 6, the first walking group took place. Over 100 women showed up.
“I can’t believe it. It’s really just a sight to see,” Kohn said. “I was not expecting this turn out, but it’s awesome to see that all the girls are all in the same boat and we all kind of feel the same.”
In a survey done last month, by the New York Health Department, 57% of respondents reported feeling lonely during the pandemic, and with all the restrictions, it has been difficult to make new friends. But the walking group seeks to change that, its Instagram bio reads: Get ready to meet new life long friends.
Women who joined City Girls Who Walk come from a variety of backgrounds. Some just moved into the city while others are trying to escape the isolation of remote work. Most women who join the group come by themselves. Abby McMullen, 23, just moved from Georgia to Bushwich, Brooklyn, last month. One of the first things she did was join the group.
“I just moved in, so I [used the group] to come out, explore the city and meet new people,” she says. “I think it’s just fun, low stakes and low pressure. [You can] show up or leave whenever you want. I think it gave me a lot of ease, I just moved here three weeks ago, but I knew about this and I had planned to come here on my first Sunday. I think it gave me an ease moving here knowing I have a chance to make friends.”
“I’d say it’s empowering, it’s a great chance to practice meeting people and find your confidence a little bit,” McMullen continues. “It’s always a little funny because everyone’s staring but you’ve got a hundred other girls with you.”
Phoebe, 28, moved to New York City in October. City Girls Who Walk was the perfect way for her to meet new people, this was her first free Sunday and she decided to join the group.
“I have a couple of friends that live here from college, but I don’t know that many other people here. So it seems like a good opportunity to meet people that you might not otherwise run into” she says.
Like many women on the walk, Phoebe is working remotely. She thought her Brooklyn office would open soon, but that hasn’t been the case.
“A lot of people on my team have moved to other parts of the country or like other parts of upstate New York or into New Jersey. So there’s not going to be any kind of office social life that I thought I would have,” she says.
Abby McMullen (R) with three other women she met on the walk. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado
Only a couple minutes into the walk, she was able to make a new friend. Kohn wanted to make a couple of new gal pals, and because of her walk, she was able to make about 40 new ones.
“[I would recommend this walk] to any girl in New York City who is looking to make new friends. No matter what age you are, race, anything like that, we are here to support and that’s just what this walk is for,” she says.
If you would like to join City Girls Who Walk, show up to Pier 45, on Sundays at 2p.m. which is located next to the Westside Highway. You can show up by yourself or with a friend, either way by the end of the walk your friend group will be expanded. Since its launch, the walking group has expanded nationwide, other women followed Kohn’s example and started walking groups in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and several other cities.
Stay updated with news and events from the City Girls Who Walk group by following its Instagram page.