Pittsburgh sets aside capital money for cycling as part of 10-year plan

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, 11:15 p.m.

Pittsburgh budgeted more this year — $1.65 million — than the past five years combined to expand bicycle infrastructure, including protected lanes Downtown and in the North Side, Greenfield and Homewood.

The $76.6 million capital budget sets aside more money for biking than park reconstruction, recreation and senior center improvements and playground rehabilitation.

“We haven't cut any of those budgets in order to do this,” Mayor Bill Peduto said. “We're taking care of what's needed on the infrastructure that's already there. We're actually spending more.”

The figure is about $24 million more than the $52.6 million capital budget for 2014. The city floated a $50 million bond in August for capital improvements, with half the money earmarked for 2015 capital improvements and the other half for 2016 projects.

Peduto said the city upped spending on cycling as part of a 10-year plan to establish a network of bike lanes through neighborhoods.

But lanes haven't been a hit with some drivers and city businesses.

“I wish they'd take some of that money they're putting into the bike lanes and use it to pave some more streets,” said Jimmy Sunseri, 63, owner along with brother Nino of Jimmy and Nino's specialty foods in the Strip District. “In all honesty, I think they're a danger to motorists as well as the bikers.”

The city intends to extend a protected bike lane along Penn Avenue to Stanwix Street and into Point State Park. Plans call for lanes on Fort Pitt Boulevard or the Boulevard of the Allies to connect the Eliza Furnace Trail with Point State Park; expanding a lane in Schenley Park; and adding lanes on Allegheny Commons in the North Side and Lincoln Avenue in Homewood.

“I don't see the need for a bike lane in Homewood,” said William Anderson, 43, a Homewood resident and auto body shop owner. “They should use that money to clean up some of these vacant lots or for after-school programs for children.”

Pittsburgh set aside capital money for bike racks, pavement markings, signs, street lights at bike docking stations and signals.

The mayor said critics of bike lanes, who complain they are little used, should be patient.

“Once we have an entire system, more people will feel safer to be able to use it. But it's going to take 10 years to get there,” Peduto said.

Kristin Saunders, Pittsburgh's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said change will happen quickly once the Pittsburgh Bike Share program is up and running. Set to begin in April, the bike share will provide rentals for commuters, residents and city visitors.

“To the extent that we have more bike lanes, that will be instrumental in creating ridership,” said Bart Yavorosky, executive director of Pittsburgh Bike Share.

The nonprofit will maintain and operate 50 docking stations around the city with 500 bikes to start and up to 2,000 bikes eventually.

Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, said the organization has advocated for protected bike lanes to make Pittsburgh safer for cyclists.

“In every single city that we've looked at that has made these investments, the crash rates go down, and there is an enormous bump in usage,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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