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Bike counts will inform Pittsburgh planners

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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Kristin Saunders, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator with Pittsburgh's Department of City Planning, notes pedestrians walking past a point on Smithfield Street and First Avenue, Downtown, as part of a study of pedestrian and bicycle traffic Thursday. The study will help determine sidewalk and bicycle usage.
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Andrew Russell | Trib Total Media
Healthy Ride Pittsburgh kiosks, like this one on First Avenue in Downtown, have been set up throughout Pittsburgh as part of a public bike-sharing system.

Jane Kaminski kept her headphones in her ears and her eyes on the Penn Avenue sidewalks in front of her.

“I saw bicyclist after bicyclist, and lots of pedestrians,” she said. “You got to kind of see everyone’s morning routine.”

Kaminski was one of 72 volunteers participating in the city’s first bike count Thursday. Paper in hand, volunteers tracked the number of cyclists and pedestrians walking by at 36 predetermined intersections as part of city planning efforts. They tracked morning and evening commutes.

Another count is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Kristin Saunders, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said volunteers were trained Wednesday to conduct the count. The goal wasn’t to spot as many bikes as possible, but see how streets are used.

“We emphasized the necessity to have really accurate counts,” she said. “It’s not important if you don’t see any bicycles or pedestrians in your location. We really want to know that, because there’s probably a reason for that.”

The city did not list the intersections for the count publicly, but locations spanned Downtown, the Strip District and the South Side. The results will be shared with the public, Saunders said, and she hopes to repeat the process on a seasonal basis.

“The macro picture is to look at change over time,” Saunders said. “If we create space after space for people to walk and bike, we expect that to change.”

Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration is championing a “complete streets” policy, a planning strategy that incorporates more bike lanes and ways for pedestrians to get around. This year, the city’s capital budget allocates about $2 million for bike lane investments and improvements.

The mayor’s Envision Downtown program aims to spend $32 million in five years on complete streets initiatives.

More cyclists could be on Pittsburgh’s roads this summer when the Healthy Ride bike-share system is implemented. Crews from the city’s Department of Public Works have this month started to install stations, where 500 newly assembled bikes will be available to rent.

Healthy Ride plans 50 stations. Maps show proposed locations concentrated in Downtown, Shadyside and Oakland with stops in the Strip District, North Shore and the South Side. Exact locations are being determined.

Riders will pay $2 per half-hour, $12 for an unlimited number of 30-minute rides a month or $20 for an unlimited number of 60-minute rides a month.

Title sponsors of the system include Allegheny Health Network and Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Other funding comes from a $1.6 million federal highway grant and at least $1.2 million from foundations.

A look at the #BikeShareSpotting hashtag on Twitter and other social media platforms shows residents are taking photos of the stations. As of Thursday afternoon, Healthy Ride had not announced a start date.

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or [email protected].

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