Bicycle count to analyze impact, pattern of added lanes in Pittsburgh
Wende Fefolt and Dave Hanner mounted their bicycles in the North Side near Heinz Lofts last week for one of their increasingly frequent jaunts around Pittsburgh.
The Bradford Woods couple pedaled their way Downtown before taking the Penn Avenue bike lane to the Strip District, across the 16th Street Bridge and back to their car.
“We were over on the South Side last week,” said Hanner, 67, an admitted newbie.
“It’s a really pretty city to cycle,” said Fefolt, 55, who said she appreciates the increased number of bike lanes and trails. “They make a really big difference.”
Pittsburgh city officials hope to continue improving the system, which has undergone tremendous growth since 2007.
This week, it will conduct the city’s annual bike and pedestrian count. Volunteers are needed.
More than 40 slots remained open over the weekend, though Planning Department employees can step in to fill voids, said Kristin Saunders, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
“I think there still will be some openings,” she said.
About 100 volunteers will man 36 intersections across the city for three counting sessions, which will cover Tuesday’s morning and evening commutes and two hours on Saturday.
“People think bikers are only in certain neighborhoods,” Saunders said, “but people bike citywide.”
The count will include locations in Allentown, Beechview, Bloomfield, Crafton, Downtown, East Liberty, Greenfield, Hazelwood, the Hill District, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, the North Side, Oakland, Regent Square, Shadyside, the South Side, Squirrel Hill, the Strip District and the West End.
The city conducted its first count in 2015. The three sessions counted 3,355 cyclists and about 20,026 pedestrians.
Saunders said she looks forward to adding a second year of data, which will help identify patterns and show the impact of added infrastructure. The information is useful in deciding how and where to spend money from grants and the city budget, she said.
Other factors that help determine priorities include census data, political and community support, neighborhood density and automatic counters, such as ones along Penn Avenue, Downtown. The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership reports that more than 500 riders a day have used that bike lane since April.
Other automatic counters are being developed for the city by Carnegie Mellon University students, Saunders said.
“We’re really trying to focus on the connectivity of the system,” she said. “It’s not just to add mileage. We want to add to existing connections and increase the number of riders.”
In 1980, Pittsburgh had 3 miles of designated bike lanes. Today there are 73 — with more than 62 miles added since 2007, when the city launched a renewed effort.
The city’s budget shows that about $1.8 million, including bond and grant money, is to be spent on bicycle infrastructure projects through 2021.
Mayor Bill Peduto has called for “complete streets,” a planning strategy that incorporates more bike lanes and ways for pedestrians to get around. That includes an Envision Downtown program that will spend $32 million over five years on complete streets initiatives.
“Once you give people a place they feel safe (to ride), it changes everything,” said Ngani Ndimbie, a spokeswoman for Bike Pittsburgh, a cycling advocacy group.
Nearly the entire Bike Pittsburgh staff will participate in this week’s count, as it did last year, Ndimbie said.
“The count from the city gives us a more full picture,” she said.
Fefolt started riding a bike around Downtown and the North Side to track her son, a rower who competed in the Head of the Ohio regatta.
While she still enjoys riding in that area, she said, it would be nice to be able to bike throughout Downtown without having to walk for blocks without bike lanes and to ride to Bakery Square in East Liberty or to Regent Square with a sense of safety.
“Being able to take Penn all the way out would be nice,” she said.
Jason Cato is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7936 or email@example.com.
Jason Cato is a Tribune-Review assistant city editor. You can contact Jason at 412-320-7936, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .