Summit presented bevy of plans to make region safer for bikes, pedestrians
Advocates from six communities presented their challenges and goals related to improving pedestrian and cyclist access and mobility during the second annual North Hills Communities Bike/Ped Summit.
Walk Bike Shaler and the Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization hosted the March 20 meeting at Etna’s Fugh Memorial Social Hall. The Triboro Ecodistrict, composed of Etna, Millvale and Sharpsburg, sponsored the event.
The following are highlights:
• In September 2018, Sharpsburg held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its Main & Canal Walking Route, a 1.83-mile sidewalk path designed in collaboration with the American Heart Association and PA WalkWorks, a partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
• Brittany Reno, Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization executive director, said the borough is working on an Ecodistrict community vision plan encompassing issues like food, water, air quality, equity and mobility.
• Reno said Sharpsburg is using a state grant to redesign a streetscape, starting with Guyasuta Square. As the borough receives additional funding, they will work on adding crosswalks, bike racks and sidewalks to other intersections.
• Sharpsburg’s Open Streets festival — which involves closing part of Main Street to motor traffic and filling it with vendors, entertainers and activities encouraging physical fitness — is slated for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 1.
• Mark Ellermeyer, former Aspinwall councilman and current Allegheny Bike/Ped Corridor Committee member, spoke about improving Freeport Road’s safety.
“It’s not to put in bike lanes on Freeport Road. It’s to make walking along Freeport Road safer, crossing Freeport Road safer for people going to the Riverfront Park, for people going to the bus,” said Ellermeyer who applied for an Active Allegheny Grant to identify the road’s deficiencies.
• Aspinwall is rebuilding its Brilliant Avenue and Freeport Road intersection to make it safer, Ellermeyer said. He expects the addition of traffic calming elements.
• Riverfront 47 is a property that would stretch 1.5 miles from Aspinwall to Sharpsburg along the Allegheny River. The land will connect the Three Rivers Heritage Trail to points in Etna and O’Hara.
“It is not coming unless we do something radical,” Fox Chapel resident Susan Crookston said.
She proposed that the Aspinwall Riverfront Park or other developers purchase a 3-mile internal trail to unlink it from Riverfront 47 and develop it on its own. Aspinwall Riverfront Park has received $1 million from the Colcom Foundation and developer Steve Mosites for the plan.
The property that they hope to purchase is under agreement at $300,000 per acre, according to Crookston. They will receive a more than $1 million discount that Mosites is putting forward, matched by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
“One of the things that is in our sales agreement is that if we are successful, we will put in this trail within two years,” Crookston said.
Etna Pedestrian Alliance
• Etna will break ground on its Riverfront Park on June 3.
• In a 2018 survey, 21 respondents stated that their greatest concern was pedestrian safety, specifically, public transportation, accessibility to services, and road and sidewalk conditions, said Thomas Hill Jr., of the Etna Pedestrian Alliance.
• The group’s first initiative is the “Safe GCB” campaign, which will connect Grant and Crescent avenues and Butler Street in Etna’s central business district.
• Etna also is working on mobility through the Ecodistrict planning process.
Millvale Borough Bike and Pedestrian Committee
• Millvale passed its Complete Streets resolution in August focusing on providing “safe and convenient roads for all users.
• Joseph McLaughlin, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail’s North Shore segment’s trail steward, said that it’s important to be inclusive of pedestrians and cyclists when planning.
“It’s easy to ignore stuff on pedestrian safety. I think we’re all pedestrians at some point, but we’re not all necessarily bicyclists. So, we have moved some in that direction.”
Walk // Bike Ross
• Siebert Road, which intersects McKnight at the big intersection, will be getting sidewalks. In fact, by 2021, the east side of McKnight and Siebert will have a sidewalk on a side yet to be determined.
• The organization hopes to add sharrows — painted lane markers denoting that the drivers should share the road with cyclists and pedestrians — to Babcock, Walk // Bike Ross committee member Ken Werner said.
• Ken Werner thinks the organization is going to spend this year working on Short Line Hollow Park’s trails and installing a couple of bridges.
• Ross commissioners approved plans March 18 to allow Simon Properties, Ross Park Mall, to redevelop the area housing the former Sears. Previously, the commissioners had delayed a vote, because some wanted the company to address the lack of pedestrian access to the mall from McKnight Road.
Walk Bike Shaler
• Chris Chirdon, Walk Bike Shaler founder and Shaler planning commission member, said he is openly using his positions to advocate for new businesses and development opportunities to implement pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. For example, he secured a commitment from the Sheetz coming to Route 8 to install bike racks. Furthermore, if a property abutting the Sheetz installs a sidewalk, the Sheetz must also install a sidewalk at its own cost.
• Chirdon noted that the township’s business district is slightly suffering, but that adding pedestrian- and cycling-friendly infrastructure could attract more visitors.
From a safety standpoint, he displayed a photo of a man in a walker crossing a busy road in front of a car.
“It’s just a matter of time before something awful happens that we don’t want to have happen.”