Pittsburgh to convert South Side free parking area into bike lane

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More cyclists could be coming to the South Side soon -- a neighborhood already with its own bicycle cafe and shop.

That's because the Pittsburgh Department of Public Works will install a new bike lane on East Carson Street in the South Side within the next two weeks. The lane will replace a popular free parking area next to a wall that runs along East Carson Street between Arlington and South Seventh Street. "No Parking" signs were installed along the wall last week.

The wall-side bike lane will be part of the more than two miles of new lanes and share-the-road markings that will run along East Carson from Arlington Avenue to the Hot Metal Bridge, said Stephen Patchan, the pedestrian and bicycle coordinator for the city of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Patchan said the new route will allow cyclists better access to shops and restaurants in the South Side business district. Another bike path already runs along the south side of the Monongahela River. Many bikers feed onto that path -- part of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail system that runs throughout the city -- from the Great Allegheny Passage, a mostly bikes-only route that connects Pittsburgh with Washington, D.C.

Mr. Patchan said he hopes the bike lane and shared road markings will encourage people to travel from the path onto East Carson Street.

Scott Bricker, director of Bike Pittsburgh, an advocacy group, agreed that the new lane would help bring bike traffic to the South Side.

"Thousands of people who use the trail system ... don't necessarily feel safe enough to share the road with cars," he said. "This will encourage them to use the business district."

Chris Beech, 42, who owns Thick Bikes on Bingham Street between 14th and 15th streets, agreed that using bike lanes and shared road markings to connect East Carson Street to bike trails would help bring positive business to the South Side.

"Those are good outdoorsy people who have money to spend in all types of places," he said, describing bike trail riders.

People who work at offices across the street, however, had concerns about the new lane. At Pat's Lunch, a lunch counter on Terminal Way just off East Carson Street, customers discussed the new lane as they purchased juice, coffee and breakfast sandwiches one morning last week. Owner Patty Lewis said she thought the street was a dangerous place to bike.

"If I were a biker, I would not want to ride there," she said. "It's just going to be a matter of time before a biker gets killed out there against that wall."

Ms. Lewis said people who had been parking along the wall for free for many years would likely have to pay for parking. The nearby Station Square West Parking Facility charges $105 per month for parking, according to its website.

Mr. Patchan said the wall side parking is dangerous because people who park there must cross the street to the sidewalk on the opposite side without a crosswalk.

Bobby Trent, 36, who attends a trade school on East Carson Street nearby Ms. Lewis' restaurant, said that he supported the lane, which he thought would be safer for bikers.

"I prefer to ride a bike," he said. "I'd rather never have to be bothered by a car."

Wes Roch, 27, who was having a drink at Over The Bar Bicycle Cafe, on East Carson between 25th and 26th streets, said he would benefit from the new lane. Mr. Roch, who lives on the South Side, rides his bike home from work on East Carson, past the walled section, at least three or four times a week.

"I'd rather bike up against that wall than a bunch of cars," he said. "I think it will be overall safer for cyclists."

neigh_city - Transportation

Marcus Schwarz: mschwarz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1964.


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