Bike racks coming to city next month

Private group plans to donate, maintain them

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New, abstractly designed bike racks will likely begin popping up Downtown and in business districts citywide, starting next month.

Bike Pittsburgh
A Public Art Bike Rack is shown with and without bicycle. For the purpose of the picture it is propped up by a small support, outdoors they will be bolted down using the plate at lower right.
Click photo for larger image.

The racks will be funded privately and maintained by Bike Pittsburgh, a Highland Park cyclist-advocacy group, and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. They will cost the cash-strapped city nothing and are on track to get final City Council approval Tuesday, though two councilmen did not vote in favor of the proposal.

Councilmen Gene Ricciardi and Jim Motznik abstained from voting, saying council members should have final approval of the placement of the racks. Ricciardi feared the racks would congest pedestrian traffic on East Carson Street on the South Side, which he represents, and produce more bike traffic on narrow city roads, placing cyclists at risk.

Other council members -- led by William Peduto, Alan Hertzberg and Sala Udin -- disassociated themselves from Ricciardi's comments, saying the city should do more to help cyclists, including allowing the racks on city-owned sidewalks.

The city's Public Works Department wants the yard-long steel racks placed parallel to streets, between parking meters.

"We ought to be warm and welcoming to bike riders," Udin said.

Unlike rectangular bike racks, the "Public Art Bike Racks" are circular and cross-cut with a sideways "Y" shape that looks like the three rivers (or a peace sign, or a Mercedes-Benz symbol, depending on one's perspective).

The PDP used a $50,000 federal grant to build the racks and will place about 115 of them in Downtown, the North Shore and Station Square. Bike Pittsburgh used a $10,000 grant from the Sprout Fund for the initial design of the racks, and wants to place them at 18 coffee shops and cultural outposts in the city, Edgewood and Wilkinsburg.

The racks were designed by Wall-to-Wall Studios in the Strip District and are being fabricated by Garfield's Red Star Iron Works. The hope is to get them up by May 17, the start of the national Bike to Work week.

Bike Pittsburgh's Executive Director David Hoffman told council the racks would help provide parking for the estimated 150 workers who commute by bike. Many of those commuters -- as well as the bike messengers zipping around Downtown -- currently chain their bikes to trees, parking meters, parking signs and the like.

The racks also may attract people Downtown during off-work hours, PDP Executive Director Mariann Geyer said, to stop for coffee, theaters and other amenities.

"We have a wonderful bike trail system in the area that goes right to Downtown. This lets us make Downtown very convenient and easy to use, outside of work hours. ... The racks are something very visible and cool that make you say, 'maybe I'll go Downtown and then be on my way,'" Geyer said.

The racks will be maintained by Bike Pittsburgh volunteers for at least five years, according to an agreement with the city's Public Works Department. The sites all were approved by the business owners directly adjacent to the proposed racks, the city's Ben Carlise said.

City Council tentatively approved the plan yesterday in a 7-0 vote with Ricciardi and Motznik abstaining.

Most of Ricciardi's complaints stemmed from a rack planned outside the Beehive coffee shop in his South Side district. He claimed there is loitering outside the shop and elderly pedestrians already have trouble navigating crowded Carson Street sidewalks nearby.

"Am I going to have 20 bikes in front of the Beehive crowding in? That could be a major problem," Ricciardi said.

He also worried the bike rack legislation would increase bike usage, which he said would make cyclists unsafe, since the city has few dedicated bike lanes.

"By doing this, am I inviting more bike traffic on the streets, without bicycle lanes?" Ricciardi asked.

Councilman Doug Shields assured Ricciardi that under state law, bicycles have the same rights to city streets as cars do. Hertzberg, who owns mountain and street bikes, also advised Ricciardi to ease up. He followed Udin's earlier pro-bike comments by saying cyclists are good for the city, its trails and parks and its businesses.

Ricciardi plans to run for mayor next year and after hearing Udin, another possible candidate, praise bike users, he said he simply wants to amend the legislation to let community leaders approve where the racks are placed.

Besides the 115 sites in and near Downtown, Bike Pittsburgh plans to place them at the following locations: Enrico's Tazza D'Oro, Highland Park; Pittsburgh Decorative Center (Pink Building), Strip; Bruster's Ice Cream, Greenfield; Pittsburgh Filmmakers theaters, Oakland, Downtown and Edgewood; East End Food Co-Op, Point Breeze; Friends of the Riverfront, South Side; Quiet Storm, Garfield; Wood Street Gallery, Downtown; Crazy Mocha Coffee, Bloomfield; Beehive, South Side; 61C Cafe, Squirrel Hill; Mr. Roboto Project, Wilkinsburg; Coca Coffee, Lawrenceville; Shadow Lounge, East Liberty; East Liberty Presbyterian Church, East Liberty; and Cafe Susu, Oakland.

Timothy McNulty can be reached at or 412-263-1542.


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