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North Hills Monthly

OpenStreetsPGH Invites Everyone to Explore the City Sans Car

Jun 30, 2018 11:46AM ● By Vanessa Orr

Photo courtesy of Murphy Moschetta

The warm summer months provide perfect weather for exploring Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, whether by walking, biking or rolling along the city streets. What makes it even more fun is when there’s no traffic to avoid…which is exactly the premise of OpenStreetsPGH.

The four-hour event, which takes place each year on the last weekend of May, June and July, enables people to wander through areas including downtown, the Strip District, Lawrenceville, the Southside and the East End on streets that are closed to regular traffic. Hosted by BikePGH, the goal of the free event is to encourage people to connect with their neighbors in safe spaces and explore the best that the city has to offer.

“We’re now in our fourth season of OpenStreetsPGH, and we’ve had tens of thousands of people participate,” explained Alex Shewczyk, communications and marketing manager, BikePGH. “What’s neat about this experience is that it gives you the opportunity to check out different communities and to see things that if you were watching the road, you wouldn’t be seeing.”

People can choose to bike, walk, rollerblade, skateboard or run along the 3-1/2 to 4-mile routes, as well as check out shops and restaurants while wandering. There are different things to do along the routes, which are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and include kids’ activities and more.

“We partner with the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh to have three fitness hubs along the route, which include a Mind & Body Hub where you can do yoga, a Strength Hub for high-intensity, body weight exercises, and the very popular Dance Hub, where people can take Zumba or hip-hop classes,” said Shewczyk. “There’s something for everyone, and it’s all free.”

Local fitness and bicycling businesses also get into the act, setting up stationary bikes for people to try, as well as hosting rowing classes. A snowboarding group has created a dry land option where kids can try equipment, and Strider sets up a Learn to Ride section that includes an obstacle course. Open Streets also partners with restaurants to offer special discounts on meals along the way.

“Two years ago, in 2016, we attracted 40,000 people and last year, we had more than 90,000!” said Shewczyk. “The event is growing by leaps and bounds; people are now inviting their neighbors and friends.”

BikePGH is especially excited to be expanding its routes, and this July will introduce the longest route yet. “We want to make sure that we offer this opportunity to as many people as possible, so we try to create routes in different locations,” said Shewczyk.

This past May, the route traveled from downtown to uptown to the South Side and included the Armstrong Tunnel and two bridges. June’s route went from downtown to the Strip District to Lawrenceville, and July’s route will travel through the East End, and include East Liberty, Shadyside, Homewood, Point Breeze and Larimer.

“In addition to creating a brand new route, we’ll also be holding it on a new day—Saturday, instead of Sunday,” said Shewczyk of the July 28th event.  

It takes a lot to put together an OpenStreetsPGH event, especially since it requires shutting down a number of well-traveled roads. “We go to a lot of community meetings and explain what OpenStreets is, and we listen to each neighborhood’s ideas and concerns,” said Shewczyk. “We want to make sure that we’re doing the best route possible. 

“We also don’t completely shut down all of the streets—numerous intersections are open to cars so that traffic isn’t stopped for hours and hours. We understand that people still need to get around, so we work with them. We’re trying to keep everyone happy.”

Inspired by the global OpenStreets movement, Pittsburgh is one of hundreds of cities throughout the world that holds this event. They are expanding the program even further with the new route and hope to see even more people turn out in July to take part. 

“We can’t wait to transform the East End into a car-free wonderland; it has the potential to be our biggest and best route yet,” said Shewczyk. “We hope that everyone comes out to experience the city in a brand new way!”

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