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Pittsburgh's bikeways, walkways lure businesses and homeowners

| Friday, Aug. 19, 2011

Larry Murdock says too many hours on the Parkway East made him want to hit the trail.

He became part of a growing number of people who see the bike and pedestrian routes networking the city as a reason to move near them.

Taking the bus to work also gave him a good bit of time to read and figure out whether he could make the move to Washington's Landing, just up the Allegheny River from Downtown. "When I figured out we could, that was it," he says.

Liz Keller and her husband, Liam Cooney, passed up moving to Morningside or Polish Hill for a Lawrenceville house because of its close proximity to a trail and easy bike ride to the North Side.

Reed Agnew moved his intellectual-design firm to a spot along a trail in the South Side. The trail has become a part of his firm's "corporate culture."

Bicycling or walking to work, shop or to entertainment venues has become a way of life for those living near trails or bikeways. Before work or after, the trails are frequented with walkers carrying their briefcases to the office or bicyclists with packs bearing a change of clothes.

John Valentine, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and consultant for the Urban Redevelopment Authority, is a resident of Gateway Towers. He says he is on his bike three or four times a week, not only for recreation, but also to run errands.

He found himself making a salmon dinner recently, and found he needed lemons. It was easy to hop on the bike and ride to the Strip District. He sees more riders as the trails and bike lanes around the city become better known and better used.

Besides the trails, the city of Pittsburgh earned recognition as a bike-friendly city by establishing bike lanes and shared routes on more than 35 miles of city streets.

The bike consciousness is part of the pitch to potential renters, says Debbie Roberts, manager at the Cork Factory apartments in the Strip District.

"We tell every tenant about the trails," she says. "It is part of our town."

Frank Bercelli from Amore Management, the firm that handles the Heinz Lofts on the North Side, says the interest in bicycling has grown steadily. It led them to install bike lockers next to the trail -- and, then, to add enough to hold about 100 bikes.

"I don't know if it is part of the decision to move here," he says, "but once people are here, they take advantage of it."

Mark Lancellotti says he moved to Washington's Landing from Franklin Park simply because he liked the homes, but once there, saw the potential of riding to work Downtown right away. He says he didn't even own a bike before moving to the island.

Scott Bricker, executive director of the Bike-PGH advocacy group, says he receives inquiries from people moving into the area about bike routes to various areas.

The bike route was the major part of Murdock's decision. He was working for Union Railroad and living near his office in Monroeville. When the work site changed to the Strip District, he suddenly was part of rush hour -- and didn't like it.

He and his wife, Jeanne, were familiar with Washington's Landing and the trail that creates an easy trip to the Strip. They decided that was the place to move.

During the winter, Murdock walked to work rather than tempt slippery streets with skinny tires.

Murdock has been retired for 1 1/2 years, but still is on the trail, riding to the North Side to go grocery shopping, banking or to the library.

Liz Keller and Liam Cooney made up their minds about where to live in much the same way. A house in Lawrenceville gave them an easy route to the North Side, where he is the head of Kayak Pittsburgh under the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and she works at the Mattress Factory.

"It's easy. It takes 30 minutes," she says. "The Lawrenceville trail is also a place where we can go for a walk with our daughter, Olive, and our dog."

That trail ends rather abruptly around 35th Street along the river, but she says it is easy to go to Smallman Street or the bike lane along Penn Avenue to make the trip to work.

Reed Agnew is principal of Thought Form, a firm that designs presentations for the Web and other media. When he went looking for new office space eight years ago, a riverside space next to the Pittsburgh Steelers training facility on the South Side seemed attractive.

He has several employees who bicycle to work. Walks on trail have become part of work breaks and places to discuss ideas. Several bikes are kept at the office for staffers needing them or simply wanting to go for a ride.

Agnew says he "didn't know how good it could be."

Happy trails

Besides about 35 miles of bikes lanes and shared bike-motor routes throughout Pittsburgh, riverside trails also provide recreational and commuting routes.

• The Three Rivers Heritage Trail flanks both sides of the Allegheny River, running to 24th Street on the Downtown side and to Millvale on the north side.

• It runs along the Monongahela from Station Square to the Glenwood Bridge.

• A portion of the trail also runs from the North Shore along the Ohio River to the Alcosan works below Brighton Heights.

• The Eliza Furnace Trail runs along the north side of the Monongahela from Downtown to near Hazelwood, although there is a detour for road work near Bates Street.

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