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Campus Life

Southie, not the South End


Were films like Good Will Hunting, The Departed, and The Boondock Saints (I or II) influential factors in deciding where you should go to college?

Every March, do you promise yourself that this will be the year that you wake up in time to watch the St. Patty’s Day parade?

If so, you might be in need of a South Boston education — if only you could get there.

For every 10 BU students who chuckle hearing a textbook Boston accent, I doubt more than one knows where Southie is (or wouldn’t confuse it with the South End). Maybe two could provide a rough idea of how to get there via T (“You take the Red Line, right?”).

The T barely scratches the surface of Southie. Three Red Line stations (Broadway, Andrew, and JFK/UMass) serve the neighborhood, but biking is the best way to get a taste for this community.

A good starting point is the Harbor Walk, a 46-mile network of paths along the water from Chelsea to the Neponset River.

Compliments of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (my favorite force for gentrification), the walk is a good beginner’s guide for bikers. Although the path can fade in and out, directional signs are clear and dependable. But there are some drawbacks: depending on the weather, pedestrian traffic can get heavy, park officials on Castle Island are strict about enforcing a no-bike policy around Fort Independence, and in areas like Fan Pier, it’s easier to take the road through a maze of warehouses and wharves.

There are a few ways to get over to the Harbor Walk from BU. The most direct route is to take Comm. Ave. inbound to the Public Garden. There, take a right on Arlington Street and a left on Boylston. Follow past the Registry of Motor Vehicles, where Boylston becomes Essex Street. Take Essex to South Station and then take a right. The Harbor Walk traces the edge of the water, but the easiest point for bike access is on the Old Northern Avenue Bridge (on your right off the Greenway just before Rowe’s Wharf).

Hopefully, there soon will be an easier way to get over to the walk and to Southie. The South Bay Harbor trail will go from Ruggles Station at Northeastern to Fan Pier, and that won’t just be easier, it’ll be a LOT easier. The project’s expected to be completed within a year.

Andrew McFarland can be reached at afarland@bu.edu.

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