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OpenStreets moves to Pittsburgh's North Side, West End

| Thursday, July 28, 2016, 11:54 p.m.
Bikers ride along Penn Avenue in the Strip District during OpenStreetsPGH, Downtown on Sunday, May 29, 2016.
Justin Merriman | Tribune Review
Bikers ride along Penn Avenue in the Strip District during OpenStreetsPGH, Downtown on Sunday, May 29, 2016.

OpenStreetsPGH will wrap up its 2016 summer programming Sunday by bringing the popular bike- and pedestrian-friendly event to Pittsburgh's North Side and West End.

After taking thousands of walkers and cyclists along a 3.5-mile, traffic-free route from Market Square to Lawrenceville through the Strip District in May and June, OpenStreets' new course will cross the Roberto Clemente bridge, head east through Allegheny West and Chateau, then cross the Ohio River on the West End Bridge.

OpenStreets supporters said the course offers a chance to see some of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods from a unique vantage point while strolling or cycling down the center of streets normally occupied by cars, trucks and motorcycles — which will be forced to detour.

Nick Ross, a Mexican War Streets resident and volunteer with the Northside Leadership Conference's bike and pedestrian committee, said he was surprised to see Lawrenceville in a new, more relaxed light during past OpenStreets events.

“It's been a great opportunity to learn about neighborhoods that I thought I was familiar with, but didn't know as well as I expected,” he said. “On the North Side, we're excited for other folks to be able to do the same.”

OpenStreetsPGH started in 2014 as a pilot program intended to promote healthy living, local businesses and an alternative way of thinking about how people get around the city. In 2015, the initiative expanded to three events throughout the summer.

Skeptics questioned how OpenStreets would impact traffic and affect businesses, but many business owners reported strong sales during 2015 events.

Ngani Ndimbie, a spokeswoman for OpenStreetsPGH's presenting organization, Bike Pittsburgh, said organizers continue to hear positive feedback from businesses and visitors to the first two events this year.

The new route aims to bring that success to parts of the city that residents don't necessarily think about as being easily connected for cyclists or pedestrians. OpenStreets supporters hope to try out even more routes next year, Ndimbie added.

She didn't offer specific possibilities, but said good OpenStreets paths are about three to four miles long, relatively flat and accessible to participants of all ages and connect multiple neighborhoods.

“Those are three things that make us excited and make good candidates for OpenStreets,” she said.

Sunday's route will feature 10 traffic crossing intersections and programming stations at Market Square, at Ridge Avenue and West Ohio Street, and Wabash and Main streets.

Nonprofit groups and community organizations such as YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh will hold a host of events at the programming hubs, ranging from yoga to kickboxing classes.

Gretchen North, YMCA's associate vice president of healthy living, said her organization looks forward to OpenStreetsPGH moving to the North Side and West End.

“In terms of who we're trying to reach and what we stand for, the more people promoting being actively engaged in our community the better,” she said.

Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5627 or mwalton@tribweb.com.

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