Bike sharing could come to Pittsburgh
Scott Bricker, Bike Pittsburgh executive director, left, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced plans for Pittsburgh's first bike-share system on Monday.
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From National Mall in Washington, D.C., to Hyde Park in London to the broad avenidas of Barcelona, Spain, the signature cruisers in those cities' bike-sharing networks have become a ubiquitous mode of travel for thousands of people.
And soon, Pittsburgh will follow in their footsteps -- or bike tracks -- with plans to debut a bike share system with 500 bikes and 50 stations spread across the city by spring of 2014.
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl joined Bike Pittsburgh executive director Scott Bricker and Gregg Perelman of Walnut Capital in announcing the plans at a news conference Monday morning at Bakery Square in Larimer, the base of a similar bike-share program for commuters between Carnegie Mellon University and Google offices.
"Bike-share programs like this are critically important to attract and retain the talent that we have here," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "To have that cool, young, vibrant, hip city that young investors want requires projects like this."
Mr. Bricker, whose organization is one of the partners in the project, said it goes "hand-in-glove" with the mayor's efforts to make the city bike-friendlier, including the installation of bike racks and paving new bike lanes.
"People don't want to ride these on streets that are busy, full of cars and no bike lanes," he said. "About 50 miles of bike lanes that have gone in over [the past] five years or so ... is paving the way to ride them all over Pittsburgh."
Users will have the option of signing up for memberships for a day, month or year. The solar-powered stations will have kiosks where day-users will swipe their credit cards and get a code to unlock the bikes. Longer-term members will get a key fob to unlock the bikes. The memberships entitle users to use the bikes, which will be securely docked at stations across the city, for up to a half-hour without additional charge. After that, they'll be charged a graduated fee.
Phil Goff of Portland, Ore.-based Alta Design + Planning will be tapped to design the system. His firm has already laid the bones for similar bike-sharing networks in other cities, including in Boston and Washington, D.C.
"Pittsburgh is ready for bike share," he said. "Like D.C., Boston and Denver, the city contains the key ingredients for a successful system."
He pointed to the city's dense layout and numerous business districts and the "high percentage of folks who are already walking or taking public transit," which form the base demographic for bike-share users in other cities.
His firm projected that 4,000 people would sign up for an annual subscription program within the first year.
Mr. Bricker said the cruiser-style bikes with thick, sturdy tires will weigh about 40 pounds and are "over-built" so that they require little maintenance.
The program is structured to encourage short point-to-point trips. Mr. Bricker envisioned a Downtown office worker fetching lunch in the Strip District. Mr. Goff said in other cities, they've been the key to filling in gaps in public transit.
The network will be operated by a public-private alliance through a newly formed nonprofit, the Pittsburgh Bike Share Partnership. The $4 million project will be funded in part with $1.6 million from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program, a part of the federal Department of Transportation.
Mr. Bricker said he's finalizing the details but is already anticipating around $600,000 in foundation money to support the program.
The remainder of the project, he hopes, will be funded through corporate sponsorship and foundation support.
First Published March 12, 2013 12:00 am