Bike lane proposals in Pittsburgh might get more scrutiny
Controversy over Pittsburgh’s growing number of dedicated bicycle lanes prompted a city councilwoman Tuesday to propose an advisory board that would oversee the creation of new lanes.
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith of Westwood said her office has received numerous complaints about existing lanes Downtown from residents who say they take up space for street parking and cause traffic congestion. She said the 10-member board, if approved, would listen to all suggestions before recommending new lanes.
“It’s not that we want to stall or delay bike lanes,” Kail-Smith said. “There’s nothing in writing right now that says these are the policies and procedures you need to follow for putting in bike lanes. We want to make sure we’re enhancing the city of Pittsburgh’s infrastructure.”
Scott Bricker, director of Pittsburgh’s largest bicycle advisory group, BikePGH, disagreed. He said Pittsburgh has policies for planning and engineering bike lanes and has followed those policies. BikePGH would be a member of the advisory board, according to the legislation.
Bricker said it seems as though the board would mirror Pittsburgh’s Complete Streets Advisory Committee, which is planning improvements to make city streets safe and accommodating for all modes of travel.
“We’re not at all opposed to the formation of a bike committee,” Bricker said, adding that he hopes it would follow national best practices for bicycle safety. “It seems like it might be redundant.”
Kevin Acklin, Mayor Bill Peduto’s chief of staff, said the mayor’s office has fielded plenty of complaints about the lanes and agrees the advisory group would offer a structured way of resolving problems.
“This creates a formal process so people who have complaints have a place to go,” he said.
Kail-Smith called existing lanes “ugly” and said she hopes the group can find a more attractive design.
Her bill calls on the group to meet at least monthly and provide a report to City Council at least 120 days before installing a new lane. It also calls for a public meeting at least 90 days before installation.
Pittsburgh has protected bike lanes on 2.2 miles of its 1,300 miles of street, according to BikePGH. They include East Ohio Street in the North Side from Chestnut to East Street; Schenley Drive in Oakland from Schenley Drive Extension to Bigelow Boulevard and Schenley Plaza to Anderson Playground; the Roberto Clemente Bridge; Saline Street in Greenfield from Greenfield Avenue to the Eliza Furnace Trail; and Penn Avenue from Sixth Street Downtown to 16th Street in the Strip District.
The city has plans in 2017 to construct a protected lane Downtown along Fort Pitt Boulevard from Grant to Stanwix Street and along Stanwix to Point State Park. Some business owners and residents have complained that a bike lane would make it difficult for cars to access buildings along busy Fort Pitt Boulevard.
Plans also include a lane along part of East Street. The combined cost is estimated at $800,000.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected].