I partially blame myself for getting into this predicament — a freshman on a huge college campus without a bike. Maybe I could have tried harder this last year to learn how to ride one (a skill I do not yet possess), or I could learn to ride one of those scary, motorized skateboards. So no, I am not innocent in this situation. But after dislocating my knee in late July, biking was out of the question and currently still is. So, therefore, I showed up to my freshman year at Stanford bikeless, and it’s week four, and I am already well aware of the consequences of that decision.
Everything takes a lot longer to get to, and living in GovCo only exacerbates this issue. It takes me at least 15 minutes to walk to White Plaza, so I have given up on ever wearing heels anywhere. (I quickly found though that wearing converse does nothing to stop the blisters, so really what’s the point?) When I do finally reach my destination, if I decide it’s even worth the walk, I am sweatier than I would like to be. Also, I get sunburnt easily, so my cheeks are now perpetually some shade of pink or red. My heart rate actually rises during my walks, not really because I’m moving but because I almost get hit by bicyclists on a daily basis. Getting through the Main Quad is terrifying, and I am honestly floored at how narrowly a bike can miss colliding with my body. I might have a newfound appreciation and slight confusion for how the physics of biking works, but I also have a newfound source of anxiety.
The deciding whether my destination is worth the walk aspect is actually pretty big. Do I really want to spend 30 minutes on my feet to get to Wilbur? Do I want to walk across campus in the dark by myself? Because walking at night while being a woman is not my favorite pastime. I would ask friends to walk with me, but they have bikes, and I would like to think I am above torturing others. So when mentions of a party across campus arise, I have to have that awkward conversation with new friends about why I can’t get to frat row in less than 10 minutes. I end up backing out pretty quickly. Is this limiting my social life? Yes. Is it still a good excuse to watch Netflix instead? Also yes.
Now you may be wondering to yourself: Nina, why don’t you find better ways of coping? Maybe the Marguerite? Well, the free shuttle can only take you so far, and getting to the stop itself can be a terrifying journey when you have to cross the street, and every bicyclist is somehow unable to recognize the existence of stop signs. But yes, sometimes I use the Marguerite during the day. Sometimes I just try to power through the sweat and tears. When I do get tired or frustrated, I make the interesting choice of calling my mom to vent. She, without failure, reminds me “what great exercise this is” for me. Following this comment, I usually hang up, swear under my breath and walk on.
I feel though that I should point out that having to walk everywhere isn’t all negative. I’ve had some nice moments on my longer walks, and they can be something I look forward to if I’m in the right mood and it’s daylight. I think a major plus is feeling as though I’m in a music video when I walk while listening to music in my earbuds. Nobody else knows I’m pretending to be Adele, and they don’t need to. Walking also allows me to clear my head before class or social interactions. It can be hard to find time alone at college to simply contemplate one’s thoughts, and walking gives me time to myself. It also doesn’t hurt that the Stanford campus is beautiful, and I actually saw a bunny last Wednesday, which pretty much made my week. I even spotted this one really orange tree, and it reminded me of fall back home. (I’m from the east coast.) Also, at least cars stop at stop signs.
Contact Nina Knight at ngknight ‘at’ stanford.edu.