City Tackles Safety Concerns As More Cyclists Take To The Road

Jun 17, 2015

A cyclist rides on the Friendship Ave. bike lane in the East End.
Credit BikePGH

Pittsburgh is putting more capital budget dollars into bicycle lanes and infrastructure this year than it has in recent memory, but it’s still not enough to accommodate the growing number of cyclists on the road, according to Patrick Roberts, Pittsburgh's principal transportation planner.

“The number of new cyclists that are out there is somewhat outstripping the amount of infrastructure that we can have in place,” Roberts said.

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership recorded more than 24,000 bike trips along the Penn Ave. bike lane in May. With more people choosing bicycles and the recent launch of Pittsburgh Bike Share, city officials want to make sure cyclists are getting around safely.

As part of its bicycle and pedestrian marketing program, the city is planning to produce a safety video for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

“If you think of the most vulnerable user as the pedestrian, the next one up would be a cyclist,” Roberts said. “In interactions with motor vehicles, typically a pedestrian or a cyclist is going to be the one that’s harmed.”

Roberts said it’s important not only for cyclists to obey traffic laws, but also to keep an eye out for drivers who may not do so themselves. He cited rush hour commuters who speed up at yellow lights instead of slowing down.

Mayor Bill Peduto's office and the Department of City Planning are petitioning City Council to approve a $25,000 expense for production of the video. Another $75,000 would come from PennDOT. Legislation to approve the expense was introduced in council on Tuesday.

Roberts said the city is pushing bicycles as an alternative means of transportation because of the benefits to both cyclists and non-cyclists alike. Fewer cars on the road means less congestion and quicker commutes for those who do choose to drive. It also means less carbon monoxide in the air. Plus, Roberts said, bicycling is healthier and less expensive than driving to work every day.

But safety isn’t the only issue people point to when explaining why they are reluctant to hop on a bike, according to Roberts. He said there is an assumption that Pittsburgh’s hilly terrain makes biking difficult.

“Part of what we do in the marketing campaign is help people understand how easy it is to get from point A to point B, (and) how you can utilize a combination of off-street paths and on-street infrastructure to get places where you want to go,” Roberts said.

Bicycling Magazine recently named Pittsburgh number 21 of the top 50 U.S. cities for cycling.

The marketing program is part of the city’s Complete Streets Policy. Public engagement on the policy will begin this summer, while policy development will take place in the fall.

The bicycle safety video is expected to go into production in September.