Pittsburgh Complete Streets planners emphasize change at initial public meeting
December 2, 2015 12:00 AM
City planning director Ray Gastil discusses the exisiting bike infastructure Tuesday at a public meeting addressing Complete Streets for Pittsburgh at Pitt’s Alumni Hall.
Phil Kreckel from North Oakland holds his 1 year-old daughter, Regina, during a public meeting addressing Complete Streets for Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
By Ed Blazina / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
One goal for Pittsburgh planners as they develop a Complete Streets policy for the city was to get the public involved. Consider that goal met.
More than 150 people attended the initial meeting at the University of Pittsburgh's Alumni Hall Tuesday night, interested to learn the types of steps the city may consider to improve street safety for motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. The city is working with the National Complete Streets Coalition to develop a policy over the next 18 months and presented an overview of the project.
City planning director Ray Gastil stressed that the Complete Streets approach has been adopted in nearly 800 communities large and small, so it is “not a crazy new idea we are trying here.” He noted that nearly 5 square miles of the city's 55-square-mile area is devoted to streets.
The importance of moving all forms of traffic safely becomes more important as the city attracts new residents to areas such as East Liberty and Lawrenceville, he said.
“We have to be sure the safety of those folks goes up as they move here rather than goes down,” he said.
Complete Streets “isn't a transportation issue,” said Emiko Atherton, national director of the Complete Streets program.
“This is a community issue, a generation issue, an ‘all’ issue,” she said.
She said the key is adapting streets designed mainly for cars and trucks, "which no longer suit the ways we move around," for other modes of transportation. City statistics show about 11 percent of residents walk to work and about 3 percent use a bicycle, higher percentages than most midsize cities, Ms. Atherton said.
Jeff Riegner, a transportation planner and engineer who leads workshops for Complete Streets, stressed that slowing traffic and redesigning streets can lead to economic development. He showed examples from Lancaster, Calif., and upstate New York, where four-lane streets were redesigned into two lanes with bike lanes, diagonal parking and wider sidewalks, resulting in more businesses and less traffic accidents while maintaining the flow of traffic.
The costs of changes doesn't have to be expensive, he said. Sometimes painting crosswalks can make an area safer and changes can be added during other projects like painting bike lanes during utility work.
In an interview before the meeting, Ms. Atherton said the commitment of Mayor Bill Peduto and other city leaders to the Complete Streets concept is a big advantage compared to other areas the coalition has worked, where there has been disagreement. Mr. Riegner said he was impressed with the city's neighborhoods.
“One of the great things is how intact the neighborhoods are,” Mr. Riegner said. “That enables people to walk and bike to places easier than they can drive.”
Mr. Gastil said the city isn't waiting for the formal Complete Streets policy to begin changes. It has already improved traffic signals in Downtown and expects to install about 10 miles of new bike lanes a year over the next five years.
Ed Blazina: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1470.
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