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Bike lane to replace several blocks of free parking in Pittsburgh

| Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 12:09 a.m.
Traffic passes by parked cars along the 200 block of East Carson Street on the South Side, Friday, July 13th, 2012. According to officials, a bike lane is scheduled to occupy the area along the wall. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Traffic passes by parked cars along the 200 block of East Carson Street on the South Side, Friday, July 13th, 2012. According to officials, a bike lane is scheduled to occupy the area along the wall. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Cars are parked along the wall in the 200 block of East Carson Street on the South Side, Friday, July 13th, 2012. According to officials, a bike lane is scheduled to occupy the area along the wall. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

A section of East Carson Street just barely wide enough for two-way traffic and a parking lane is about to become more spacious, though for travelers on two wheels, not four.

The west end of East Carson has evolved into a parking strip along an old stone wall next to the outbound lane, a situation City Planning bike-pedestrian coordinator Stephen Patchan says is unsafe. The city plans to disallow parking along that stretch and designate it a bike lane.

“There's no sidewalk there,” said Patchan, whose office is coordinating the project. “If you park there, you must wait by your car for traffic and then jaywalk. It's extremely dangerous. There's tons of traffic.”

The new bike lane will complement a bike rental facility already planned for East Carson Street. The lane, which will connect the Smithfield Street Bridge and the Hot Metal Bridge, also has in mind the Great Allegheny Passage, which, when finished, will help connect Pittsburgh and Washington.

“Once it's done, we expect a surge in bikes,” Patchan said. “We want to get them off the trails and into the retail area.”

In addition, he said, the city does not maintain the riverfront trails during the winter, nor are they open at night. The East Carson bike lane will supplement the riverfront trail during those times.

Cycling advocates say they are pleased with the changes.

“This is important because we've seen that people feel a lot safer in bike lanes and on streets marked with bike infrastructure,” said Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh. “It encourages more people to ride and makes them safer on the streets.”

Bricker said bike lanes have positive economic impact.

“Biking is a such a huge economic generator around the country,” he said. “It encourages people to explore business districts and businesses. It's an economic generator as well as a safety thing.”

Not everyone is happy about the coming change, though. The bike lane will replace several blocks of free, unregulated parking in the South Side.

Kayla Meixner of Mt. Washington parks along the East Carson Street wall almost every day and walks to her job at Station Square.

“I have no idea what I'm going to do,” she said. “I guess I'm going to have to start walking.”

Meixner waited by her car for several minutes for a break in traffic to cross the street on Monday morning.

“I'm not very happy about this,” she said. “At all.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5644 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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