One of the worst things about Yale, aside from the fact that Durfee’s is not open in the mornings and that no one told me until today that the Thain Cafe accepts lunch swipes, is that we must walk everywhere for everything no matter the rain or the cold or the wind.

Or do we? Some students here remember that humans have invented many wonderful devices, like the wheel and the Zamboni, precisely to avoid walking.

Hannah Lee ’20, uses skateboards (technically, penny boards: “Classic skateboards are larger and have harder wheels; they’re for doing tricks and sports. [Penny boards are] less functional. I can stick mine in my backpack. They’re more portable.”) to navigate these streets. She started to board last summer because she needed to get to work quickly, and she didn’t have a bike. Although she has developed great skill and experience in the art of skateboarding, her penny board is reserved only for the days she’s running late.

Valuing convenience, Lee deems penny boards as good “for cruising.” Unfortunately, her first penny board was  stolen (she has acquired another one since.)

“I’ve seen it. It’s a black penny board, with distinctive scratches on the side.” Lee identifies an “East Asian man, 5-feet, 5 inches,” as the mysterious purloiner of her transportation device. “We made eye contact,” she reports. “If you’re reading this, give it back to me.”

Lee, for the most part, rejects the Yale Shuttle. “It’s super slow sometimes, and unreliable.” Her complaints mainly involve wait times, both waiting for the bus (“I can skateboard down in the same 10 minutes it takes to wait for a shuttle.”) and waiting on the bus (“At some stops, like the med school, they’ll stop for five minutes, or 15 minutes, or one minute depending on the driver and the time of day.”)

Still, she reports that she’ll take the shuttle if it stops right next to her, which I interpret as a practical concession to the reality that sitting down is vastly more soothing and comforting than standing up.

Although she enjoys having and using her penny board, Lee does not recommend skateboards to all Yale students. “It’s not great for long-distance trips or going uphill. It’s more dangerous. You get little heart attacks when you go over cracks.”

Also, it would make skateboarding harder for her; just as how too many cooks spoil the soup, too many boarders make the sidewalks a mandatory game of Crossy Road.

There are benefits to the board, though: It’s good for short-distance traveling. “If you have a keen interest — why not?”

Jacob Abdallah ’21 has a board too — powered by a natural force older and stronger than the foot. It’s the One-Wheel, a one-wheeled (big surprise) electric skateboard, equipped with a two-horsepower motor and a range of four-six miles per charge. His One-Wheel is a blue-grey beauty with a giant wheel in the center. It’s a little beat-up, clearly used for years already, but Abdallah takes care of it faithfully.

It’s convenient, like the penny board, too: “plug it into the wall; it takes a half-hour to charge.” Unlike Lee, Abdallah doesn’t feel the bumps in the road because of the One-Wheel’s special wheel, which aside from being quite large, is specifically all-terrain.

Abdallah denies missing the exercise from walking. “I enjoy the riding. I have a good time. It gets me places fast; it can go 21 miles an hour.” It makes him happy, since it “reminds me of my dad and my family because that’s where I started riding.”

“The One-Wheel changed my Yale experience entirely just because I’m able to get from Point A to Point B so much faster.” Abdallah reports that while many students complain about the 15-minute walk to Science Hill, that particular trip is but a five-minute ride for him. “It shortens my commute, and it helps me see friends and attend events I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”

“Something that’s really good about it is that your hands are free, so I can eat.” When not catching up on lunch or breakfast on the One-Wheel, Abdallah keeps his hands in his pockets when the weather gets cold. He has no complaints about his chosen transportation method: he doesn’t have to lock it up as he can take it wherever he goes, and unlike the similarly electric-powered boosted boards, the design of the One-Wheel makes the braking system much more efficient and the bumps practically imperceptible. With a foot pressed firmly on the activation pad, all you have to do is lean in the direction you want to board to go.

Annabelle Pan ’20 doesn’t use a board of any kind; she uses a bike.

For the most part, she deems Yale as bike-friendly. “I think people are pretty patient about bikers on sidewalks.” However, “there are definitely some streets like the one-way streets that are difficult to bike on. West to east on Elm Street, for example.”

She recognizes the bike as superior to the board in two main aspects: it’s safer because you can put your hands on the handles, which gives an added sense of control despite the bike’s greater speed. The bike can also go over cracks that wreck boards.

“It’s nice biking,” she reports of New Haven.

I’m glad that for the most part, students with unusual transportation methods are happy and content with their way of life. I personally walk and shall continue to walk for a while (those prices on the One-Wheel are a little … too far). But if you, dear reader, ever tire of the lactic acid buildup in your leg muscles, perhaps these accounts will provide inspiration for new ways of locomoting around campus.

Claire Fang |