I sometimes forget how hilly Pittsburgh is, and then I go to my hometown of Buffalo, which, in comparison, is flat as a pancake. My son spent a week with my in-laws there soon after school ended and biked an average of 10 miles a day. As a kid, I went on evening bike rides with my family, biked to a friend’s house, or even biked to the ice cream shop.
Here, cycling requires thought and preparation. We ironically have to drive somewhere to ride our bikes. I realize there are brave people out there who aren’t dissuaded by the hills, but I’m not one of them.
We don’t need bikes in this walking community of ours anyway, do we? Why is it that when I travel to other cities, I walk miles each day, yet walking to Washington Road from my house feels like an ordeal?
I suspect it has to do with the unknown; if I’m in a new city, it’s fun to explore, and I don’t know exactly how long it takes to get from Point A to Point B. Here, I know the route from my house to Pamela’s or Hitchhiker Brewing (good reasons to walk if ever there was one!) will involve hills (which aggravate my migraines) and take a known amount of time. In other cities, I don’t learn about the hills or duration until I’m already underway.
My kids are spoiled in that we carpool to school in the mornings, but they walk home more than 95 percent of the time. My daughter laughed when my son complained about the hill he has to climb walking home from Jefferson Middle School, because her route from the high school means walking up Cochran.
Our recent family trip in Maine may have motivated them to be more physical. A couple of days after we returned from hiking, climbing, and biking in Acadia National Park, they actually walked from our house to the Mt. Lebanon pool. My son complained about the walk, but did it anyway.
Many European cities are inherently more accessible to pedestrians and have good transit to address the hard-to-walk parts, whereas the United States is known for its suburban sprawl. But this is where Mt. Lebanon differs; we have business districts interspersed with our lovely neighborhoods. In many ways, these centers provide the closeness of a walking city without the grit and grime.
Whether by bike or foot, we should appreciate this unique feature of Mt. Lebanon and get over them thar hills.