Bikes and Bridges: Getting to class the hard way

Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor
Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

By Seth Culp-Ressler | Features Editor

Welcome to the Continuing Misadventures of a Displaced Duquesne Student, a series in which Features Editor Seth Culp-Ressler grapples with his newfound life off campus. For the veterans of apartment life, feel free to laugh at his incompetence. For non-veterans, perhaps the mistakes he chronicles are valuable lessons.

Chapter Three: The Commute

It’s been a good while since I last had to subject my body to this much exercise. As in — if I had to guess — junior year of high school. So, what’s that, four and a half years? My legs would certainly believe that number.

Alas, such is the life of commuting to Duquesne’s campus.

Living up on the Bluff, while limiting in terms of flexibility of lifestyle, is undoubtedly superior when it comes to getting your butt to class. Students take that for granted, of course. I used to bemoan my trek up the Seitz Street hill between Des Places and College Hall. Today, I’d give up Halloween candy for, like, two or three days to get that walk back.

Now my commute is a hop, skip, jump, river and bridge away. And, as one soon learns when living on the South Side, getting to campus day-in and day-out isn’t exactly the most straightforward proposition. Unfortunately, once across the Monongahela, you’re left standing on the wrong side of the cliff. As in, the one without elevators.

As most Duquesne students know, you have two options: the South Side steps (formally known as the City Steps) or the Armstrong Tunnel sidewalk.

Neither are ideal.

For the first few weeks of class I was committed to biking. After all, travelling on wheels has to be faster than by foot, right? Well… yes and no.

See, the route from South Side to campus isn’t exactly easy for bikers. There aren’t dedicated bike lanes, and the majority of the trip is comprised of the Tenth Street Bridge and the Armstrong Tunnel.

I don’t know about you, but for the majority of the day I don’t have much interest in riding on the road in either case. If something goes wrong, you’ve got nowhere to escape to — no shoulder, no runoff area. Not my jam.

Naturally, then, that leaves you riding on the sidewalk, which brings its own set of problems. There are other pedestrians walking there, for one. Now, I should be clear: I do everything in my power to be as respectful of others as I can when I ride on the sidewalk. I know this is a shared space, and I’m not trying to be That Biker™ who rolls up on people, screaming for them to move over. If I have to wait behind somebody, I have to wait. It’s all good — I leave plenty of buffer time to get to class on schedule.

Of course, that clearly diminishes the speed advantage of riding, meaning that in most cases it would be just as slow as walking. So, with that, I’ve whittled down my seat time to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when my commute home is late at night with little to no traffic, allowing me to ride on the road and truly cut down my travel time.

All other days I walk. That means I have to conquer the big, bad South Side Steps. Hence the increased exercise. Now, I hear you: I could take the Armstrong Tunnel sidewalk. Trust me, though, having a dump truck blow by you at full tilt just a single time — coating your lungs in diesel exhaust and blowing out your eardrums — is enough of a deterrent.

Up and down the steps it is, then. Admittedly, it does get easier the more you do it. I guess that’s how exercise works, huh? Also, the relative silence of the steps (in comparison to the tunnel) means I can better listen to my podcasts, and I love me some good podcasts. I’ve been able to rip through a huge catalog of the things so far, and it’s pure bliss. Highly recommended for boring commutes.

For now, that’s where I’m at: a nice balance between walking and riding. I’ve totally got this whole commuting thing figured out!

Wait, what’s that you say? Winter is on its way?

Yeah, yeah, I know. Adapting to the weather change will be a whole new challenge, one that will probably have its own installment of this series early next year. At this point, I know I need some nice gloves and sturdy boots, but I’m sure more deficiencies in my attire will rise up as quickly as temperatures drop.

But, hey, I’ll cross that (windy, cold, “May Be Icy”) bridge when I get there.