Like being the first person to leave tracks after a snowfall, a stretch of brand new pavement can incite glee, regardless of age.
On a recent evening, a small cadre of bikers and walkers along a newly re-opened section of riverfront trail in the Strip District shared smiles and, it seemed, knowing glances as they rolled along.
The Three Rivers Heritage trail runs for 24 miles on both banks of the city's rivers. The stretch from 11th to 21st streets has been closed since last year. The length between 11th and 15th streets is once again open for walkers and bikers.
It’s crucial to update the trail system, said Vivien Li, president and CEO of the nonprofit Riverlife.
“We’re now planning a city of the 21st Century," she said. "What might have been fine in the 20th century to kick off the effort, we really want to have the types of amenities that makes it user-friendly. It is much easier to ride, and to walk, and to push a baby carriage. The vegetation has been pruned so it’s easier for people to actually see the riverfront.”
The trail runs through land owned by the Buncher Company, which paid to add benches and update lighting. Buncher is one of the first private landowners to implement the Strip District Riverfront Park vision, which aims to activate the neighborhood’s riverfront, said Li. Riverlife led the planning process.
“People move to the riverfront and they want to work on the riverfront, because they want to be close to the water. All of these improvements are making the riverfronts much more accessible to the public,” she said. “So we’re hoping this will be an example that others will follow.”
Fifteenth through 21st streets will remain closed as NRP Group builds residences on the property, which leased the land from Buncher Company. It will likely re-open next year, said Li.
The trail improvements are happening as the city and volunteers prepare to conduct a cyclist and pedestrian count.
“If you don’t count bikes, bikes don’t count,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, adding that they count pedestrians as well.
Bricker said the information gathered during Count Pittsburgh will allow the city to better plan infrastructure based on actual use.