Bike riders can jump on trails on the North Shore, the South Side and even along the Parkway East to get away from automobile traffic. Not Downtown, though, where it’s every bicyclist for himself.
But that could be changing by September.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday that he hopes to have Downtown’s first truly dedicated lane for bicyclists in place by the time the Pro Bike Pro Walk Pro Place conference arrives in the city on Sept. 8.
The protected lane, which will be separated from traffic by a physical barrier, is one of two the city hopes to have up and running before the conference. The other would be outside of Downtown.
Mr. Peduto’s comments came during the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership’s annual meeting at which the group announced plans for free yoga classes on Sunday in Market Square this summer, a series of outdoor public film screenings in conjunction with Pittsburgh Filmmakers, and a week-long series of activities, including an expanded Farmer’s Market and a Project Pop Up Fashion Market, in July to commemorate the organization’s 20th anniversary.
Pittsburgh was one of six cities selected by the national PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project last month to receive two years of financial, strategic and technical assistance to install protected bike lanes.
Mr. Peduto said the city plans to utilize that expertise, as well as that of local experts, to identify the street to be used Downtown. The mayor has said in the past that he would like to see a dedicated bike lane running the length of Smithfield Street.
The protected lane will be installed as part of a comprehensive overview of traffic Downtown to be conducted in conjunction with the partnership and other stakeholders.
“We want to use the bike summit that’s coming to Pittsburgh as really a launch off for looking at the option of creating a complete streets model for Downtown Pittsburgh,” he said. “What that means is that the streets are designed for everyone — for motorists, buses and public transit, for bicyclists and for pedestrians.”
Mr. Peduto said there hasn’t been a comprehensive review of traffic circulation in the city’s core since the 1950s.
Jeremy Waldrup, the Downtown Partnership’s president and CEO, said a protected bike lane makes sense given the increased bike traffic Downtown.
He believes there are opportunities to connect the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Point State Park, and the Great Allegheny Passage through such lanes Downtown.
Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, said a dedicated lane for biking definitely is needed Downtown. It is the type of improvement that can help get more people involved in bike riding and make the streets safer for everyone, he said.
“Any time the mayor’s vision aligns with your organization’s vision, it’s a great moment. We’re ecstatic about that. We’re really excited to partner with the mayor’s office to put it in place,” he said.
The broader traffic review will include an examination of a controversial loop system that would relocate bus routes and stops from the heart of Downtown toward its edges.
While the proposal has come under fire from some transit advocates who claim it’s designed to serve the interests of a few Downtown businesses, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said the plan has broad support.
Mr. Peduto said such a system would provide greater accessibility, not less, for those who use public transit. He added that the traffic review would include an extensive community process lasting at least a year.
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262. First Published April 1, 2014 11:14 AM