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Pittsburgh bike share completes 100th station and has plans for 75 more in 2019

Bob Bauder
| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2018, 5:33 p.m.
One of Pittsburgh’s 100 bike share stations at the corner of Grant Street and Forbes Avenue, Downtown.
One of Pittsburgh’s 100 bike share stations at the corner of Grant Street and Forbes Avenue, Downtown.

Pittsburgh’s Healthy Ride bike share program completed its 100th station Thursday and has plans to add 75 in 2019, including several electric bikes to help riders navigate Pittsburgh’s hilly geography, the executive director said.

David White, who heads Healthy Ride, said the nonprofit since July has doubled its total number of stations with the completion of one at Penn Avenue and Winebiddle Street in Garfield.

“We think that short bicycle trips should be available for everyone,” White said. “Our goal is to get to a point where you can find a Healthy Ride bike station within a couple blocks of wherever you are.”

The joint venture between the city and Healthy Ride launched in May 2015 with 50 stations and 500 bikes in 12 areas, including Downtown, the East End, Oakland, the North Side and the South Side. Healthy Ride has now expanded into Homewood, Larimer, and Squirrel Hill and added stations in neighborhoods where they currently exist. When the expansion is completed in 2019, the system will include 700 bikes.

A $200 state transportation grant helped fund the project.

Pittsburgh City Council is set to vote next week on allocating $118,000 toward the purchase of bikes and equipment in 2019. It would be the first city funding for the bike share, White said.

The Federal Highway Administration provided initial funding of $1.6 million for equipment purchases and start-up costs. Healthy Ride operations are funded through rider fees and sponsorships from charitable foundations.

White said he plans to purchase several electric bikes for a test program in 2019.

“They would have a small electric motor that would make it much more convenient for people to tackle some of Pittsburgh’s hills,” he said.

Healthy Ride since 2015 has provided nearly 250,000 short trips in Pittsburgh, but ridership dropped by 27 percent from 2015-17 during the busiest months of July, August and September, according to data listed on its website. The organization logged 38,007 rides during the third quarter of 2015 and 27,707 in the third quarter of 2017.

White attributed a 20 percent increase in rides - 33,266 during this year’s third quarter - to the expansion.

“Demand has increased,” he said. “I really think that with the original station network we were not able to serve a lot of the trips that people wanted to take. The stations were spread out too far so it was not convenient for a lot of people. I think we missed a lot of opportunities…”

He said stations are also smaller for convenience. They average six to eight docks, down from the previous average of 19. Riders can dock a bike even when a station is full by wrapping the cable lock around the front wheel and entering docking information into the bike’s computer.

“They can just lock the bike up right next to the station and leave it,” White said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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