PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – If you’ve been in or around Downtown, Oakland or any one of 11 Pittsburgh neighborhoods in the past couple of weeks, maybe you’ve noticed something new popping up: Occasional series of short, shiny, metal posts – all in a row – along roads or sidewalks.
People on Twitter certainly noticed, creating a mini Pittsburgh phenomenon with the hashtag, #bikesharespotting.
Soon these racks – 50 of them around town – will be filled with 500 bikes.
Pittsburgh Bike Share Executive Director David White says people have been doing more than tweeting.
“We’ve had a lot of interest, calls coming in every day,” says White.
Everyone wants to know when the bikes will be available. And KDKA-TV just found out the date is Sunday, May 31.
Although, staff from “Healthy Ride,” as the bike share system is called, held a preview last week for sponsors. They demonstrated how to access a bike by entering your information on the rental kiosk or by using your smartphone.
Rates start at $2 for a half hour. Monthly memberships are also available.
Backers say this gives Pittsburgh a fun, healthy, environmentally-friendly way to get from here to there – say, from Downtown to the Strip. There’s a rental station right next to Wholey’s in the Strip and Jim Wholey says bike sharing will be good for his business.
“I’m expecting a lot of people to rent the bike in town and drive out for lunch,” he says.
The hope is for all sorts of new connections like that. Or sightseeing. Or anything, really. Advocates say the key is, bike share is one-way and it’s flexible. You can ride as long as you want then leave the bike at any Healthy Ride rack, anytime, 24/7.
“You’re on the bike for an extra two hours, no problem. Drop it off at any of the 50 stations,” says White.
It may seem like a small step, but bike share is one of the ingredients that urbanist and author Charles Montgomery says can make, as his latest book is titled, a Happy City. In town for a speaking engagement last week, Montgomery said Pittsburgh was lucky to be getting a bike share system.
He says people who commute by bike “report feeling more joy and less fear, rage and sadness during their commute than in any other way of moving around the city.”
He says bicycling culture can take hold even in cities with harsh winters. And Healthy Ride says its 7-gear bikes should make Pittsburgh’s hills manageable. But, Montgomery says Pittsburgh has a bigger challenge: Safety.
“I’ve seen your network of safe, separated bike lanes — well, there isn’t one,” says Montgomery. “So bike share is great, but it’s only for the brave until you build that network, particularly Downtown.”
Tim McNulty, spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, says a protected bike lane network is a work in progress.
“We’ve started with on-ramps before building the highway,” says McNulty. “With more lanes and Healthy Ride, we’re zooming toward a 21st century system that works for everybody.”
Some people are not happy that some bike racks have eaten up parking spaces. Pittsburgh Parking Authority Executive Director David Onorato says about 97 metered spaces are being lost to Healthy Ride stations. The city has a total of approximately 8,700 metered spaces.