Schneider's death mourned by many

Beloved Pittsburgh developer, biker


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Developer Mark Schneider's many friends and business acquaintances continued to pay tribute Monday as new details emerged about the weekend bicycle crash in Maryland that claimed his life.

Schneider was riding in the Catoctin Challenge, a two-day charity fundraiser through the mountainous terrain north of Frederick, Md., early Saturday when he lost control on a downhill curve and crashed helmet-first into a roadside mailbox, suffering a severe head injury. He died Sunday at a hospital in Baltimore.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday afternoon in Downtown Pittsburgh. Details had not been finalized Monday.

Schneider, 55, was instrumental in several Pittsburgh developments, including Summerset at Frick Park, which turned an abandoned slag heap into a gleaming residential community, and Washington's Landing, which rejuvenated an island once notorious for its foul-smelling rendering plant. He also was a key figure in construction of PNC Park, Heinz Field and the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

Bicycling was a passion and the Catoctin event was "by far his favorite" of the many events he entered each year, said his son, Maxwell. It featured breathtaking scenery in the rolling terrain between Frederick and Gettysburg, Pa., and was even more breathtaking in that it meant riding more than 100 miles up and down hills, some of them severe.

Shortly before 8 a.m. Saturday, Schneider was in a group of about eight riders, including his son, on Ramsburg Road, which winds through farm country north of Frederick. He and another rider fell behind on an uphill stretch and the group that included his son stopped at an intersection to await them.

"We were waiting for a minute. It was odd that they hadn't caught up. They weren't way behind us," Maxwell Schneider said. A call was placed to the other missing rider who told them Mark Schneider had fallen. The others rode back and found him sprawled in a ditch. A mailbox that had been anchored in concrete in the side of the ditch was ripped from the ground. He may have been traveling at 30 mph or more, very fast for a bicycle, at impact.

"There was no flat tire. There was no indication that he should have had any trouble there," his son said.

Schneider was taken by ambulance to a medical helicopter and flown to the University of Maryland's R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 1 p.m. Sunday.

Maxwell Schneider said his father had suffered from a form of vertigo for the past few years. Riding in the same event two or three years ago, Mark Schneider had an episode that caused him to lose control and go off the road into a field. The family theorizes that another attack might have preceded Saturday's crash, he said.

"He was an experienced cyclist. He had fallen before. He knows how to fall," Maxwell Schneider said. But indications were that on Saturday he hit the mailbox head-on.

The family decided against an autopsy.

Phil Heffler, a former resident of Pittsburgh's Morningside section and founder of the Catoctin Challenge, said Mark Schneider had participated for the past eight years, and took part in several other bicycling events that Mr. Heffler organized to raise funds for charities.

"Mark was very generous with both his time and his money and was a great ambassador for the ride. He helped us raise a lot of money," he said.

"I know Pittsburgh's in shock, and so am I," said Mr. Heffler, who became a close friend. "Mark was a member of the VFW in Morningside. He could've been with the poorest guy in Morningside having a beer or he could've been in the governor's mansion. He treated everybody with the same dignity and respect."

In a statement Monday, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Schneider "saw opportunity and vitality in urban areas that were once undesirable. His vision and leadership led to the creation of some of Pittsburgh's most amazing and successful developments. Mark was dedicated to his family, generous with his time and committed to his community."

Mulugetta Birru, former head of Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority and Allegheny County's economic development department, said Schneider "was one of the smartest developers I have witnessed in this region."

"He radically transformed community economic development in the North Side to one of the best in the country. He later pioneered such landmark developments like Washington's Landing, Summerset at Frick Park and many others. His sudden departure is a very sad history in the development community," Mr. Birru said.

obituaries - neigh_city

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Staff writer Annie Siebert contributed. First Published July 31, 2012 4:00 AM


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