PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It is Earth Week and Pittsburgh is in the midst of a battle over asphalt. Drivers want every inch they can get while the city is trying to make bicycle riders safer.
More bike lanes are coming as the city tries to create an environment where people will feel comfortable climbing onboard their bikes.
Karina Ricks, the Director of Mobility and Infrastructure for Pittsburgh says about 40% of all driving trips in the city are less than two miles and could be easily done on a bike — so the bike plan’s goal is to provide a protected path.
“We don’t want to have any bicycle fatalities or serious injuries in our city. We want to make sure that we’re designing streets and providing connections so that no one ever has to experience that tragedy,” Ricks said.
Steadily, more bike lanes are being carved out of the city’s street, starting even before the current Bike Plan was drafted.
“We had about 60 miles of on street bike facilities. Just last year, we added another 13 miles. So the bike plan in total, takes us up over 250 miles.”
A recent study indicates about 15-20% of the population already use their bicycles on a regular basis for pleasure or commuting. But Ricks says, “Well over 60% of our population actually would bicycle, more if they felt safe.”
Which is the point of the bike lane expansion, to create safer lower stress paths through all of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.
“It does reach into our communities of color and into our lower income communities, It’s city wide we’re looking at, you know, north, south, east and west aisle portions of the city to to make this a possibility.”
Ricks says the narrow streets and the hills in the Northern and Southern Neighborhoods make those areas more challenging.
This year, the city is focusing on connecting existing bike lane fragments.
“When you look at our map today. You can see that our bike connections start and stop very abruptly. And so to really use this to complete that journey. We need to complete those connections.”
Watch as KDKA’s John Shumway reports:
Over the next two years Ricks says the bike lane corridors from Oakland to Downtown on Fifth and Forbes will take shape.
“That will include essentially converting what is the existing bus only lane on Fifth Avenue, and making that a bidirectional cycle track to provide for safe bicycle connections there and then Forbes through uptown includes some bicycling improvements there on the Forbes Avenue side.”
Downtown at the intersection of Penn and Stanwix, the city has its first Bicycle Traffic Signal.
It’s a special signal that gives Bicycle Riders a designated time to go.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone had clear direction as to when it was their time to move in that intersection and and so the bike signal. Really just provides that clarity.”
Ricks says the bike lanes are needed even more now than before the pandemic.
While overall traffic is returning, ridership on mass transit is not.
In fact, the sale of automobiles is rising and she’s concerned that will mean even more congestion in the future if alternatives are not provided.