Proposed board would advise Pittsburgh on bike lanes
January 4, 2017 12:00 AM
Bicyclists ride along bike lanes on Penn Ave. Downtown.
By Adam Smeltz / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Delighted or frustrated, Pittsburghers passionate about the city’s expanding bike lanes may have a new place to air their thoughts.
A proposed advisory board would publicly review bike lane plans and draft policies for installing the infrastructure, according to legislation introduced Tuesday by Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith.
“It’s not that we want to stall or delay or do anything to prevent bike lanes. We just want to do it right,” Mrs. Kail-Smith said. “All that does is create tension when they're not done right. If you have a public process, at least you can listen and implement some of the feedback.”
She said her office has fielded numerous complaints over city bike lanes, with some callers upset with the planning process, Downtown building access or lost street parking. Business operators on Fort Pitt Boulevard recently said they felt left out as the city planned bike lanes for their street.
Those lanes are due for completion by this fall. Mrs. Kail-Smith said her proposal would give Pittsburghers — including bicycling advocates — a better chance to voice their opinions. It would afford communities at least 90 days to comb through plans before any bike lane installation.
Further, she said, council would be briefed in detail on bike lane designs. Guidance from the advisory group would be delivered to the mayor's office "subject to council approval," she added. Board members would include city public-works, parking and planning representatives, along with people from the local business and bicycling communities.
Mayor Bill Peduto supports the effort, said Kevin Acklin, his chief of staff.
“We thought it was a good way to formalize a process that we think is already underway,” Mr. Acklin said. He said the Department of City Planning, which handles bike lanes, already undertakes a “robust community discussion” before any new ones take shape.
But for people with specific worries, Mr. Acklin said, the advisory group would provide “a formalized place to go.”
At the Bike Pittsburgh nonprofit, advocacy director Eric Boerer said the city performs many of the tasks that would be prescribed under Mrs. Kail-Smith’s bill. His organization does not oppose a bicycling advisory committee, he said.
Still, “we have concerns that this bill might be more concerned with oversight rather than making the city better for biking. We want to make the best use of people’s time,” Mr. Boerer said. Council could discuss the legislation as early as Jan. 11.
Since 1999, Pittsburgh’s bicycle lane network has grown from about 11 to 30 miles, including a variety of protected and shared lanes, according to city figures. Bike projects in a 2017 capital budget feature more than 5 five miles of additional lanes, with more expected.
Also Monday, Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle introduced a bill to help police in Washington, D.C., secure President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration this month. Washington police sought the assistance, for which Pittsburgh would be reimbursed, Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said.
Pittsburgh would be among a number of cities expected to send officers to Washington. Mr. Hissrich said 15 officers from Pittsburgh could make the trip for several days. Council is set to discuss the proposal today.
Adam Smeltz: 412-263-2625, firstname.lastname@example.org, @asmeltz.
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