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BikeFest includes many routes to fun — even Pokemon

| Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, 8:18 p.m.
Cyclists cross railroad tracks from Riverfront Park in PedalPGH, the region’s largest ride and the concluding event for Bike Pittsburgh’s BikeFest celebration Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Cyclists cross railroad tracks from Riverfront Park in PedalPGH, the region’s largest ride and the concluding event for Bike Pittsburgh’s BikeFest celebration Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014.

From a kickoff dance party to the area's biggest organized ride, BikeFest takes bicycling down many roads.

“BikeFest always has been at the front of bike culture in Pittsburgh,” says Mike Carroll, director of events for BikePGH, sponsor of the bicycling celebration.

The celebration of all things bicycling is Aug. 19 through Aug. 28, with an average of five events daily ranging from rides to lunch get-togethers.

BikeFest opens with a party the evening of Aug. 19 at the Ace Hotel in East Liberty and culminates with Pedal Pittsburgh. That day of rides on Aug. 28 features a variety of trips throughout the city along with a lunch and party afterward at the South Shore Riverfront Park.

But in the week-plus in between, area bike fans will have a chance to go on an Aug. 20 ride that touches all of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, have a bike-oriented visit to the Lawrenceville farmers market the same day or even play Pokemon Go — at midnight Aug. 24.

“We really want to take a look at the social aspect of bicycling,” Carroll says.

Such is the reason for the Pokemon Go ride, he explains. The ride will start in Friendship Park. It is reaching out to people who are connected to the game and, perhaps, introducing them to riding.

In many ways, the event reflects the nature of BikePGH, a group that fosters appreciation for the activity, as well as advocates for bicycling-related improvements.

BikeFest offers activities for a range of riders — and even for those only considering riding, Carroll says. With more than 50 events spread over 10 days, it offers rides that can be challenging, such as the Aug. 21 Tour de Red Belt, which loops from Downtown to the Gibsonia-Richland area.

But, Carroll says, there also will be an Aug. 20 ride called “12 Bridges, Three Rivers, 21 Miles,” which is an obviously shorter trip that has its own aims.

“You kind of zig-zag around the rivers,” he says. “It's a really fun trip.”

All of it is aimed at a bike culture in an area that is always changing, Carroll says.

Several decades ago, he says, bicycling was either an activity for the young or a sport that was taken to heart seriously by adults. Now, there are bike commuters, riders who never go on roads because of the variety of trails in the area and those who cruise around their neighborhoods simply because it is fun.

Chris Beech, owner of Thick Bikes in the South Side, thinks Healthy Ride, the Pittsburgh bike-sharing program, has brought many people back to cycling.

“It is so inexpensive,” he says, “and you can go for a bike ride without making a commitment. Then, you suddenly realize how much fun it is again.”

He says he has seen the market changing greatly, with riders buying a great variety of bikes.

“People aren't just going out for a bike ride anymore,” he says. “They are going out for an adventure, camping and staying overnight. They are buying bikes that let them do that.”

Carroll say BikeFest is built around introducing people to bicycling in general, taking them to trails they have never ridden or presenting a two-wheeled challenge.

“Bicycling can open a lot of possibilities,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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