Filling gap in Great Allegheny Passage could bring more cyclists to Pittsburgh
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Filling the last gap of the Great Allegheny Passage could bring out-of-town bicyclists to Downtown Pittsburgh in droves.
But once here, they would be on their own in a bustling Downtown with no shared or dedicated bike lanes, few bike racks and what can be a confusing street grid, advocates say.
“There's nothing Downtown that really says, ‘Welcome cyclists,' ” said Eric Boerer, advocacy director for the Lawrenceville-based nonprofit Bike Pittsburgh.
Officials are looking for ways to change that, but any significant improvements probably would happen after the Great Allegheny Passage's missing link — a one-mile stretch near Sandcastle Waterpark in West Homestead — opens in June.
When done, the 150-mile passage will be unbroken from the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail at PNC's Firstside Center and Grant Street to Cumberland, Md. There, it connects with the C&O Canal Towpath, which goes to Washington.
The passage's steepest grade is 1.75 percent, making it acceptable for bicyclists of all ages and skill levels. About 800,000 use the passage annually, spending $50 million a year along the corridor, said Allegheny Trail Alliance President Linda McKenna Boxx. She expects the numbers to jump significantly when the Sandcastle link opens.
Boxx downplayed the lack of bicycle amenities Downtown.
“Bike-friendliness doesn't happen overnight. There have been great bicycle improvements in Pittsburgh in recent years and I expect that will continue,” Boxx said, noting it took about 40 years and $80 million to develop the Great Allegheny Passage.
Proposals to make Downtown more bicycle-friendly include the establishment of an on-street bike lane or “cycle track” from the end of the Eliza Furnace Trail to Point State Park, advocates said. From the park, bicyclists could easily make their way to trails along both sides of the Allegheny River.
Though bike lanes are simply painted onto streets, cycle tracks rely on barriers to separate bicyclists from vehicular traffic, such as poles, jersey barriers or parking lanes. Five-foot-wide bike lanes run along about 60 miles of city streets. The city doesn't have any cycle tracks, typically about 10 feet wide.
Stephen Patchan, Pittsburgh's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said a lane or track would “mimic the trail on the street,” providing more security for novice riders and those unfamiliar with the city.
Boerer and Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership CEO Jeremy Waldrup think Fort Pitt Boulevard would be the best location for a dedicated bike lane or cycle track. Patchan said the city is investigating several corridors, meeting with property owners in each one.
Downtown-based Riverlife Pittsburgh is looking to plug a hole in the riverfront trail that runs parallel with Fort Pitt Boulevard. It wants to build a switchback on the east side of Mon Wharf Landing, connecting Smithfield Street Bridge to the landing and Eliza Furnace Trail.
Riverlife would make improvements on the west side, to better connect the landing and trail. The project could cost $5.5 million, Riverlife spokesman Stephan Bontrager said.
Bontrager said the nonprofit plans to finish design work and seek bids from contractors late this year, though it's unknown when the work might start.
Until then, Boxx said, “Visitors to the city who don't feel comfortable riding in traffic might have to get off their bikes and walk a few blocks. It's not the worst problem,” she said, since the Golden Triangle is compact.
Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Redistricting provides faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw
- Fox Chapel Area superintendent seeks rapport with students
- Ex-Sandusky lawyer investigated in divorce case
- Assessment appeals draw Mt. Lebanon residents’ ire
- Newsmaker: Dr. Kyle Soltys
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to hold annual public meeting March 26
- Allegheny County Democrats endorse several incumbents in primary
- Western Pennsylvania organizations team to find housing for vets
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Donor name to be stripped from Penn Hills library