Organized bike ride draws nearly 3,000 bicyclists for tour of Pittsburgh

Pedal Pittsburgh is a great way to see Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods, unless you’re on Fifth Avenue in Oakland.

A rider in a yellow shirt and gray cargo shorts pedaled mightily Sunday afternoon, but cars still backed up behind him. Luckily for all, he made a quick left onto a side street — and lost the reporter trying to catch up with him. Note to self: Never try to cover a bicycle event in a car.

Nearly 3,000 riders took part in Sunday’s 21st anniversary ride that Bike Pittsburgh organized.

“This year, we had people from Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia and Cleveland. We’re starting to attract people from all over the country,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh.

Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette

Bicyclists participating in the Pedal Pittsburgh event cross the Smithfield Street Bridge as they begin their rides.

Though city dwellers turn out in force for this casual ride, more than a few of the cyclists were suburbanites like Mike Katz of Mt. Lebanon and his daughters Amy and Jenny, who tackled the longest of four rides, the 62-mile-long PJ Dick, Trumbull, Lindy Paving Metric Century.

The 100-kilometer route began in the South Side, crossed the Smithfield Bridge to Downtown and the Andy Warhol Bridge to the North Side. It headed as far north as Bellevue, looped back through Reserve and Millvale to Troy Hill and crossed the David McCullough Bridge to the Strip District. Riders then headed east to Bloomfield, north to Highland Park, south through Squirrel Hill and Oakland before crossing the Birmingham Bridge back to South Side. Then it was a climb through the Slopes to Mount Washington and back down 18th Street to the South Side Flats for a party at REI in the SouthSide Works. Whew!

The Katzes all agreed that the climb to Mount Washington was the toughest part.

“Those hills kept coming,” said Jenny Katz, 23, as her father nodded.

“It’s not a straight climb — four or five ups and downs,” he said.

It was the longest ride the Katz sisters had ever done and their first Pedal Pittsburgh. They are training with their father to do the Moab Century Ride in September in Utah. Mr. Katz, who has done Pedal Pittsburgh before, signed them all up as a warm-up. He said this year’s event was the best one yet, with a well-marked route and a rest stop where they needed it most: in Grandview Park on Mount Washington.

Robin Rombach/Post-Gazette

Bicyclists participating in the Pedal Pittsburgh event joke with people in a car as they all stop at the light at the end of the Smithfield Street Bridge.

Other than Fifth Avenue, the Katzes took the time to do some sightseeing from their bike seats. They enjoyed the colorful kitsch of Randyland, Randy Gilson’s complex of buildings on the North Side, and saw vendors and organizers setting up for the last of “Little Italy Days” in Bloomfield.

Three of the four routes took cyclists along Liberty Avenue past the Italian festival, but no one appeared willing to cut short their ride for a pizzelle or picture with a Pope Francis cutout (suggested donation $2).

However, one bicyclist was seen heading back toward the festival, which closed Liberty from Ella to Mathilda streets for the entire weekend.

Two other rides, 47.2 miles and 24.9 miles each, included the East End, which has the greatest number of shared bike lanes in the city. A 10.7-mile family ride traveled from the South Side to the bald eagles’ nest in Hays.

Kevin Kirkland: or 412-263-1978.

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