Biking commuters brace for harsh weather arrival

Olivia Higgins|Staff Photographer
Bikes lined up at a campus rack wait in rainy weather, something commuters must battle.
Olivia Higgins|Staff Photographer
Bikes lined up at a campus rack wait in rainy weather, something commuters must battle.

Kaye Burnet | Staff Writer

With Halloween behind us and the possibility of freezing rain and snow ahead, one group on campus is affected more than most by the forthcoming precipitation: cycling commuters.

According to the Office of Commuter Affairs, commuters make up the majority of Duquesne’s student body. While most commuters drive to campus, some walk from Uptown or South Side, take buses from Shadyside or Oakland or even take the T, Pittsburgh’s metro, from the North Side.

Graduate student Josef DiPietrantonio rides his bike. He said it is the most convenient way for him to get to school from his apartment in Uptown.

“I can bike right down Forbes or Fifth, leave my bike at the elevators [to the Forbes Garage] and take the elevator right up to College Hall,” DiPietrantonio explained.

Students are not the only ones to commute via two wheels. Media Department Chair and journalism professor Mike Dillon spends much of the year cycling to his office, also in College Hall.

“I’m more of a fair weather biker … if it is above 50 degrees, I’ll bike, so from about April to October,” Dillon said. “I’m about done for the year.”

Dillon’s commute begins with a short drive from his home in the South Hills to a church parking lot in Hays close to the Glenwood Bridge where he leaves his car. From there, he said his cycling commute is about seven miles one way, which takes him approximately 30 minutes.

For DiPietrantonio, the ride to school is much shorter.

“[It’s] less than 10 minutes,” he said with a laugh. DiPietrantonio lives in an apartment on Van Braam Street in Uptown, just beyond Mercy Hospital. He said he used to walk to campus most days, but switched to biking when construction closed Stevenson Street and blocked his easy access to campus via McCloskey Field.

According to DiPietrantonio, he plans to still ride his bike when the weather gets colder.

“Usually the sidewalks and streets are pretty clear, so unless there’s a ton of snow, I’ll probably ride,” DiPietrantonio said. He added that it’s nice to have the option to walk or ride, depending on the weather.

“It all depends on where the snow is,” he said.

For David Lampe, a biology professor and the faculty advisor for the Duquesne Bicycle Club, snow is not a deterrent to his daily commute.

“If you have the right clothing and the right gear, you can bike in any weather,” he said.

Lampe’s commute from his house is about 12 miles in one direction, he said. Although he has been teaching at Duquesne for almost 20 years, he has only been a cycling commuter for the last seven. He began for “health and money” reasons, he explained.

Dillon also espoused the wellbeing aspects of cycling.

“Biking isn’t aggravating like driving,” Dillon said. “You feel invigorated, and it gives you time to think.”

Both the City of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University have expanded their biking infrastructure in the last five years, Dillon said.

“I’ve been teaching here for 20 years, and when I arrived, there was almost no biking infrastructure in this city,” Dillon said. “Now this city is phenomenal [for cyclists] and still getting better.”

DiPietrantonio said he has been impressed by Duquesne’s biking facilities such as the bike maintenance stand next to College Hall, where cyclists can pump air into their tires or use tools to adjust their bike seat.

“I’ve used it once or twice for pumping [tires],” DiPietrantonio said. “I think things like that have a big impact on people choosing to bike, because sometimes people don’t ride their bikes for a simple reason like that – ‘Oh, my tire’s not pumped.’”

Lampe said there there is still room for Duquesne to improve its bike-friendliness, especially given Pittsburgh’s fluctuating weather.

“When you only have about two months in the fall of nice weather, September and October, it can be hard to get people out riding if they aren’t as committed yet,” Lampe said. “Something like a flexible campus parking permit would help people who want to bike while the weather is nice but use their cars in the winter.

“Right now, you have to buy a permit for the entire semester. Also, [providing] reasonably-priced Port Authority bus passes, like what other schools have, because each bus has a bike rack on the front.”