Bicyclists ride with cautious exuberance
Joe Marini grinned on Sunday morning as he toweled off his bicycle after finishing the 25-mile route of Pedal Pittsburgh.
“It rained every mile, but it was fun. You felt like a kid,” said Marini, 43, of Monroe-ville.
Hundreds of dripping cyclists shared his sentiments as they gathered at Southside Works, the designated trail end of a series of rides ranging from 2 to 64 miles.
The passage of a state law requiring motorists to give bicyclists a 4-foot “safety cushion” when passing, the expansion of bike lanes in Pittsburgh and the continuing development of the region's trail network have contributed to a blossoming bike culture in Pittsburgh.
“The bike lanes are huge,” said Samson McHugh, 28, of Oakland, “Just the fact that they are there makes people a whole lot more conscious (of cyclists).”
Even so, many people at Sunday's event, which kicked off a 15-day gathering of cyclists, rode with a renewed sense of caution since two recent local cycling deaths and the July 29 death of Pedal Pittsburgh co-founder Mark Schneider. Sunday's ride was dedicated to the memory of Schneider, who died as a result of a cycling accident in Maryland.
Police are still looking for the hit-and-run driver who killed cyclist James Price, 46, of Homewood while he was riding on Penn Avenue near Penfield Court just before sunrise on July 25. A second cyclist, Anthony Green, 47, of Wilkinsburg, died Aug. 1 after he was struck by a sport utility vehicle while riding in the 7700 block of Penn Avenue. Authorities said the men were the city's first cycling fatalities in two years.
Despite the hazards, Eryn Hughes, 35, of Point Breeze continues to rely on her bicycle for transportation. She's hyper-aware of traffic because of an accident in June 2009 when she was heading to Penn Hills on Frankstown Road and a car turned left in front of her, crushing her ankle.
“Later, when I read the police report, I saw the driver was texting when it happened,” she said.
Hughes, a native of California and one of the founders of Velomuse, a local women's mountain biking group, hopes the region will embrace cyclists as part of the transportation mix as more and more bikes take to the streets.
“That would be a great thing, not just for the cyclists, but for the businesses along the way as well. I never worried about getting hit until I moved to Pittsburgh, but I've been moderately reassured seeing police out there and the radar sign that reads speed. And the other day I noticed a ‘share the road sign,'” she said.
Chris Bolich, 19, who rides into the city from his Baldwin home, said cyclists need to be cognizant of bad drivers.
“If you ride enough, you know which roads you can be on and which ones you shouldn't,” he said.
Even so, Bolich ended up in the first aid tent because he hit a pothole during the ride on Sunday and flew over his bike's handlebars, cutting his elbow and knees.
Organizers from BikePGH, the group that sponsored this year's ride, were not sure how many riders showed up for the event. More than 2,500 had pre-registered for the event.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.