Biking has never looked so good to so many people, and with good reason. Filling up the gas tank puts a big dent in the household budget, while running errands or commuting on a bike gives everyone a chance to burn calories instead of fossil fuels.
Pedaling is an opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint while improving our health, quality of life and the quality of our air. And rolling around on two wheels creates a connection to city neighborhoods that's impossible from the confines of a car.
Biking looks good to city leadership, too. Last week Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, city Councilman Patrick Dowd and Port Authority CEO Steve Bland addressed a packed coffeehouse in Highland Park to pledge their commitment to making Pittsburgh a better place for cyclists and pedestrians. For the first time there's talk of investing in bike infrastructure and paying greater attention to everyone's safety on our streets. With the help of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the city has hired its first-ever full-time bike/pedestrian coordinator who is charged with heading up these efforts.
We at Bike Pittsburgh could not be happier. We applaud the city for its vision and commitment. High gas prices, climate change and competition to attract residents demand that we rethink our transportation system.
Step one is safe passage on the streets for everyone, regardless of age or transportation choice. Pittsburgh leaders have outlined four E's to make this happen: engineering, education, enforcement and events. Look for increased attention to planning for bikers and walkers, traffic law enforcement and encouragement from the city to get folks riding. Increased bike parking and greater availability of showers and lockers will put bike commuting within reach of more people, saving them and their employers the cost of parking.
These initiatives will benefit more than those who choose to get around on two wheels. They will improve the entire city. Embracing alternative transportation is a hallmark of progressive cities, and a bike-friendly reputation goes a long way toward attracting newcomers.
Employers will have an easier time recruiting new hires to the city, once known only for its smoky skies. Local businesses will benefit from more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods because folks will be saving money on gas and parking, and thus will be able to put more of their cash into the local economy.
The city's announcement is a wonderful place to start. Now we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It's budget season on Grant Street, and we need to make sure the necessary resources are in place to continue this momentum.
Bike Pittsburgh was founded six years ago to foster a safer, more bike-friendly city. We're here to work alongside the city to make these improvements happen, but in order to bring about real change, the city must devote generous funding to this landmark endeavor.