I have had all sorts of commutes to work over the years. When I lived in Northern Virginia, my commute into Washington, D.C., was usually an hour and a half, and two hours when traffic was bad. Pittsburgh doesn’t have the traffic of a large city, but that doesn’t mean we are immune to long, difficult commutes. My previous job in Green Tree’s Foster Plaza was a 35- minute pre-COVID commute. Post COVID it took about 20 minutes. Still not bad, considering some of my colleagues traveled an hour or more one way. That is a lot of time to spend in a car and in traffic, escalating stress levels before you even arrive at work.
Then a wonderful thing happened. I got a job in Uptown as the administrator for the public information office, and suddenly I can walk to work!
It’s a relatively easy, mostly flat, 20 minutes of sidewalks, crosswalks, pretty churches, a manicured cemetery and a business district coming from Dormont. On a pleasant sunny day, it’s glorious. On a cold cloudy day, it’s still OK and once I get moving, it’s nice. It wakes me up in the morning, and winds me down and clears my head in the evening. It’s a pleasant way to help me achieve my 10,000 steps.
In this area, there is a whole community of sidewalk people out there. Runners, retirees, moms with strollers, kids walking to school, dog walkers, people walking to the T and our beloved crossing guards. To the drivers, these people often go unnoticed. But to the sidewalk people, you smile, say hello and pet the dog. You begin to recognize them, and they become a familiar and welcome part of your day.
What is even better, is that I can stop along the way to complete errands. Need to get some cash? The ATM is on the way. Need something from Rollier’s? It’s right there. Stop for take-out on the way home? There are plenty of choices. Stop at the Saloon on a Friday to meet friends for a drink? Why not? And, I never have to worry about finding a parking spot!
People are so used to getting in their cars in the morning that they don’t think about the other option. Many people are close enough to their job to walk to work, but don’t because it’s not the norm, they’re running late and it’s faster to drive, or they just don’t think about it. I know that walking is not an option for most. I know that I’m lucky that I don’t have to deal with highways, strip malls and traffic light after ill-timed traffic light, and that I have sidewalks to keep me safe and away from the street.
A colleague of mine walks every single day and saves a ton of money by not needing a second car. On the rare occasion when the weather is dangerous, she takes a $10 Uber. She loves the fact that her half hour workout each way is automatically factored into her day.
The downside, you might have guessed, is the weather. I don’t mind the cold. Snow and ice are tolerable with appropriate clothing and my Yaktrax for a slip-free commute. The rain can be managed with a raincoat, umbrella and waterproof footwear. The heat and humidity of the summer can be tricky however, since I hope to be presentable and sweat-free when I arrive. The most challenging thing is managing the extra time but once it becomes part of your routine, it’s easy!
I like to think that Mother Nature thanks me for being kind to the environment. My car thanks me for giving it a rest and not relying on it every day. My wallet thanks me for not having to fill up the car at the gas station every week. My health thanks me for doing a little extra to stay active. And my brain thanks me for reducing stress and giving it some much needed time to unwind, relax and enjoy the walk.