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North Hills Monthly

City Bike Plan Aims to Create Connections for All Modes of Travel

Jul 30, 2020 08:40PM ● By Erica Cebzanov

Family Ride. Photo by Erin Potts

The City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) has released its 10-year Bike(+) Plan, updating the city’s existing bicycle plan developed in 1999.

The plan adds 123 miles of on-street bike facilities and 27 miles of trails across the city for riders of all ages and abilities. The document targets people who ride personal mobility devices such as electric bicycles, kick and e-scooters and other low-speed, lightweight vehicles, in addition to conventional pedal cycles. 

“Now more than ever, we need resiliency and safety in our transportation network,” said Mayor William Peduto in a statement. “People on bicycles, people in vehicles and people on foot all benefit from a complete network that logically accommodates travelers of all modes.”

The Pittsburgh Bike(+) Plan aims to support the following mobility goals: 

• No one dies traveling on city streets;

• All households can access fresh produce within 20 minutes of their homes without personal automobiles;

• Walking and bicycling are the most joyful modes for short-distance trips;

• No household must spend more than 45 percent of household income on household income and mobility; 

• Pittsburgh streets reflect community values.

Established in 2017, the DOMI has gathered plan feedback from city residents, employees and residents online and at community events. Kim Lucas, the department’s assistant director, said participants reflected Pittsburgh’s diversity across age, race, income and geography. 

She noted that the plan benefits everyone—not just cyclists. 

“While our plan identifies over 120 miles of network connection, it doesn't specify what exactly that connection will become,” she explained. “So, it doesn't necessarily say this will be a bike lane, or this will be a protected bike lane, or this will be a sharrow (a marked roadway denoting a shared lane for cyclists). 

“It just says that we know that this is a route that people need to get access to for grocery markets, schools, employment opportunities, or recreation, and we're going to work with the community to figure out how to fill it,” she continued. 

Nonprofits BikePGH, Friends of the Riverfront, Riverlife and Healthy Ride partnered with the city on the Bike(+) Plan’s development. The city, BikePGH and Healthy Ride have launched to engage the community throughout the infrastructure’s installation. 

Pittsburgh Bike Share operates Healthy Ride, which provides access to more than 550 bikes at 100 stations in 24 neighborhoods. The service is meant for short, one-way trips around the city. Healthy Ride strives to make ridership affordable by charging $2 for 30 minutes, $12 for a month of unlimited 30-minute rides or $20 per month of unlimited 60-minute rides. Port Authority ConnectCard users get unlimited 15-minute rides. 

“We have seen ridership get higher and higher in places where there are safe spaces for people to ride, so we're excited to see more people riding through the implementation of this program,” said Healthy Ride’s Marketing and Outreach Director Erin Potts of the Bike(+) program. “I think it can make a big change for our city.”  

Walk Bike Shaler director Chris Chirdon considers connectivity the bike network’s biggest issue.

“While experienced cyclists like me will bike just about anywhere, for bike mobility to be more broadly adopted 

by less experienced users, we need to be sure that bike lanes/multiuse paths/sharrow corridors connect to each other,” he said.

Thomas Hill Jr., 37, founder and organizer of the Etna Pedestrian Alliance, concurs. 

“There have been great strides in making Pittsburgh more accessible, not only for cyclists, but pedestrians, neighbors with mobility issues and folks who do not have access to motor vehicles,” he said. “However, the biggest issue we face right now is safe connectivity. 

“In Etna, we can get by foot or bike to Sharpsburg and Aspinwall, but trips to Shaler, Millvale and the city aren't as accessible,” he added. “The big steps that need to be taken are how to get people safely to and from resources such as grocery stores, medical care and points of interest and entertainment, whether by improving or putting in new sidewalks, closing trails to motor vehicle traffic, or getting the Port Authority on board to restore routes and add more frequent service to the area.”

Chirdon, 47, looks forward to the plan’s implementation. “I am really stoked to see that the plan includes attention to the 62nd and Highland Park bridges; there are significant impediments to accessing much of the existing patchwork network from across the river,” he said. “It's also nice to see that the plan recognizes the need to include low-speed mobility devices (scooters, e-skateboards, etc.) into future plans.”

Hill said that he is also excited about the plan’s goals of accessibility for all as many community members don’t feel represented by the cycling community during bike/ped infrastructure discussions. 

“I hope that this plan extends the dialogue that this is not just about cycling but ensuring that all citizens of the region are safely able to access the resources that they need,” he said.

The city budgeted funds a year ago for the plans that are currently under development. Additionally, the city is soliciting private financing and grants, such as the funding match it received from PeopleForBikes, a national advocacy group dedicated to making biking safer and more accessible. 

The nonprofit recently named Pittsburgh its 20th best city for cyclists, in terms of ridership, safety, network (how easy it is for people to reach their destinations), reach (how well the network serves the community) and acceleration (how fast the community is working to improve biking). Last year, Pittsburgh ranked 170th.