I’m from the city that has the most “stair streets” in the USA, Pittsburgh. I understand their utility. Too steep for a street but gotta go there? Put in steps.
“On some of the steepest hills, steps even double as legal streets. Known as ‘paper streets,’ these staircases appear on maps as valid thoroughfares – an often consternating surprise to unsuspecting visitors.”(1)
I don’t have to like them, though. <grumble, grumble>
Like those in my hometown, the steps at West 187th Street are not for the faint of heart. I chug up and down them reluctantly, when I really need to… because I’m too lazy to walk three blocks to take the elevator. Despite being the venue for an art project commemorating the Revolutionary War—for which I fail to connect to the historical past—these steps harbor a pedestrian functionality. At best they are a shortcut from Fort Washington to the valley (Broadway) below. At worst they are an insurmountable obstacle. For the thousands (my guess) of people who use them daily, they are just another way to get from low to high or high to low without detouring south to the A train station to use the elevator or walking up/down the long, bleak hill on Overlook Terrace between West 190th Street to West 187th St. So you see all sorts of people there: old, young, pregnant, and occasionally those with shopping carts or strollers.
Among these (primarily young) people are fitness buffs, determined souls who actually decided to run up and down the staircases! I’ve counted the steps (135) and the landings (8) and usually cannot walk up the entire staircase without stopping for a breath about two thirds of the way there. HOWEVER, I have a new world’s record to announce: I walked all the way up on Wednesday morning without a break! After coming all the way down I stopped to photograph these brilliantly glowing young people(2) with their own camera when they were trying to use a water bottle as a tripod. Then I asked to take my own shot and use their picture in my blog. New friends. How happy they made me!!
While my old knees won’t let me aspire to running up and down, and my lungs protest asthmatically, I can still aspire to climb and breathe freely! Care to join me?
1. Albrecht Powell. Steps of Pittsburgh: Explore Pittsburgh’s Many Steps & Staircases. http://pittsburgh.about.com/od/about_pittsburgh/a/steps.htm, accessed June 6, 2015. ↩
2. If you know these people, please shoot me an email so I can thank them again.↩