BLACK: Power to the pedestrian



Brigid Black

I belong to a very rare breed of Villanovan. It is a minority far smaller than those who do not pop their collars or sport North Face fleeces.

What makes me stand apart actually causes those around me to gasp with astonishment, display looks of utter bewilderment on their faces and appear as if they’ve just heard that aliens have landed on Lancaster Avenue.

The shocking truth is that I do not have a driver’s license, nor have I ever at any point in my life possessed one.

You’re probably already thinking that I must be crazy. Truthfully, though, it really isn’t so hard to believe. Nearly 21 years spent growing up in Brooklyn, New York largely contributed to my pedestrian lifestyle.

In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority links the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island together with an extensive network of trains, buses and boats that is fairly inexpensive – a $2 swipe on a Metrocard will get you almost anywhere within the five boroughs. In such a well-connected city, there is simply no need to drive.

Neither myself nor most of my friends in high school were in any kind of rush to get driver’s licenses. Those of us who did have them were only part of a very small group. Some of us did, however, obtain learner’s permits (myself included), but only for the sake of owning a form of identification.

Having said this, I’m not just a fluke in the family. My parents do not have driver’s licenses, nor do my teenage brothers. Growing up without a car meant that the subway was more than just a means of transportation; it was a way of life.

Whenever we could, we would get from place to place the old-fashioned way – by walking. It was the simplest method of getting to a destination that was no more than a few miles away.

Having walked my entire life throughout my neighborhood and around New York City, I found it easy transitioning to campus life at Villanova – having classrooms, gyms and dining halls all within walking distance from my residence hall felt like the epitome of traveling convenience.

And yet, it’s amazing how much it irritates my peers to have to walk anywhere across campus.

A walk from Bartley to John Barry Hall feels like a forced march, and a walk from South to West Campus is cruel and unusual punishment. I’ve seen students scramble to catch the on-campus shuttle just to ride from Tolentine Hall to the library, an easy two-minute walk away. Missing the bus becomes more tragic than the ending of Titanic.

Of course, I do realize that there are many advantages to being a driver. Firstly, cars are how most people get around the Main Line area.

Living off-campus in Havertown next year will certainly be a challenge – but biking and taking the R100 won’t be so bad.

Secondly, a driver’s license is one of the most universally accepted forms of proper identification. Not having one makes important processes such as applying for a passport incredibly difficult.

For example, my New York State learner’s permit is not an acceptable proof of photo ID for a passport application. Neither is my mother’s NYS non-driver’s ID, which is technically supposed to be equivalent to an NYS driver’s license.

Consequently, I had to apply with a witness that already had a license who could verify my existence as a human being. It felt highly unnecessary.

My passport experience only confirms what I’ve noticed for years: just about everyone outside a major city tends to assume that you have a driver’s license, and if you don’t have one, you are either a) stigmatized or b) inconvenienced.

And yet, the planet is probably so much better off because pedestrians exist. We help reduce air pollution, get a ton of exercise and clear up space on the street.

Think about it: without us, West Campus would be an even fiercer battleground for parking spots than it already is – scary, I know.

So until the day that driving becomes absolutely necessary to me, I will, to quote U2, “walk on.”


Brigid Black is a junior English and French major from Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at [email protected].