The transformation of Pittsburgh into a bicycle-friendly mecca that attracts the kind of young professional every city competes fiercely to accommodate is ratcheting up.
On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hosted a community discussion about the possibility of turning the eastbound side of Penn Avenue into a bicycle-only lane from Stanwix to 11th Street, a path that cuts through the heart of Downtown’s busy Cultural District.
Current eastbound car traffic would be rerouted to Fort Duquesne Boulevard and Liberty Avenue. A bike-culture advocate since his days on Pittsburgh City Council, Mayor Bill Peduto wants to see this happen, preferably in time for the 18th Pro Bike/Pro Walk/Pro Place conference scheduled for Sept. 8, when an estimated 1,000 city planners, transportation engineers, bike and pedestrian advocates from across the country are expected to descend on the city.
A dedicated bicycle lane Downtown would signal to these esteemed visitors that Pittsburgh is serious about joining the ranks of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities. Still, there are many logistical problems and inconveniences to be considered, including the snarling of already busy traffic in the Cultural District. There also needs to be a plan to accommodate ACCESS vans that need to get as close as possible to various theater venues along Penn Avenue.
Assuming the most interested parties can come to a mutually acceptable plan, the city should move quickly to make the Penn Avenue bicycle lane happen. We’re not Amsterdam by a long shot, but biking commuters are now a big part of our future, too.