Roberto Clemente Bridge closes for construction of bike lanes
Paul Beaver, by his own admission, plays in traffic for a living.
He delivers food by bike. On Tuesday, his route took him to PNC Park, down the block from where Allegheny County Public Works crews began constructing bike lanes on the closed Roberto Clemente Bridge.
“It’ll be good,” said Beaver, 42, of Oakland, “except for people that are still going to complain about it.”
Work on the bridge requires a detour and will permanently reduce traffic lanes from four to two. The $50,000 installation of protected bike lanes, one in each direction between a single lane of traffic and the walled-off pedestrian walkway, is coupled with a $150,000 deck and drainage repair project.
The iconic yellow suspension bridge connecting Downtown’s Sixth Street with the North Shore’s Federal Street will be closed through April 10. Traffic from Federal is detoured one block over to the Andy Warhol Bridge.
Bill Kaper, 58, a Slippery Rock carpenter who often works in the city, said he figured bike lanes would be “useless.” He wonders why crews are not addressing other problems such as potholes.
“With all the problems they have in the city, why are they spending money on this?” he asked.
When driving through Pittsburgh, Kaper said he tries to obey the “four-foot rule” — the designated space between a traveling car and a cyclist — but it slows his driving or causes him to use the opposite lane.
Once completed, the five-foot-wide Clemente Bridge bike lanes will be demarcated with white thermoplastic paint and cordoned off with bollards.
Mike Dillon, deputy director of engineering for Allegheny County, said crews will paint a bike lane on Sixth Street that connects to protected lanes on Penn Avenue.
Kristin Saunders, the city’s bike coordinator, said the bridge can be unsafe for cyclists because of a small crest in the center, and drivers in general are more aggressive on bridges, treating them more like onramps than storefronts. Improvements, she said, will draw more cyclists and make safer roadways.
“This is a turning point in bicycling infrastructure, because you’re tapping into a whole new demographic of people who might not be comfortable riding in traffic,” she said.
Beaver, who has cycled throughout Pittsburgh for about 14 years, is accustomed to dodging cars. He said the best result of new bike infrastructure is public awareness.
“We gotta stop driving like jagoffs,” he said.
Melissa Daniels is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8511 or [email protected].