North Hills Cycling and Pedestrian advocates share goals, challenges
Advocates from six communities presented their challenges and goals related to improving pedestrian and cyclist mobility during the 2018 North Hills Communities Bike/Ped Summit.
Approximately 35 government officials, police officers and activists attended the inaugural April 9 meeting; the event was invitation-only due to the Millvale Moose: Center for Community Vibrancy's size limitations.
The following are highlights:
Allegheny Bike/Ped Corridor Committee
• For the last two years, the borough's summer Open Streets festival — which involves closing part of Main Street to motor traffic and filling it with vendors, entertainers and activities encouraging physical fitness — has both put a positive spin on cycling and the borough, said Brittany Reno, Sharpsburg councilwoman and Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization executive director. The event is slated to occur again June 2.
• Reno sponsored a complete streets resolution that Sharpsburg Council unanimously passed in 2017. According to the resolution, “complete streets” are safe and convenient for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, public transportation users and motor vehicle drivers of all ages and all abilities.”
• Representing Aspinwall, John Stephen said that Councilman Mark Ellermeyer, who was in attendance, introduced a resolution to designate Freeport Road in Aspinwall as a bike corridor.
• Stephen said the organization is looking forward to working with Friends of the Riverfront and Allegheny County on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail expansion. “A license to cross the PWSA (Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority) treatment works would be a fantastic connection with O'Hara and Blawnox,” he added.
Etna and EtPeds
• Etna has sidewalks on most pedestrian throughways, but they are falling into disrepair and not all of them are ADA compliant, said Thomas Hill Jr., representing the borough on Manager Mary Ellen Ramage's behalf and EtPeds.
“We are dealing with issues for transportation. Not everyone in Etna owns a car. There is currently only one doctor's office, dentist. There is no grocery store or market.”
• Etna is moving forward on its Riverfront Park and working with PennDOT on engineering and design plans. Construction should commence by the end of this summer or early fall, with a proposed 2019 opening.
• Mobility is one of six emphasis points found within the borough's EcoDistrict Plan focusing on sustainability.
• Twenty percent of residents don't have vehicles, and bus lines don't cross the 40th Street Bridge. Millvale has a 26-percent individual poverty rate and a 48-percent youth poverty rate, according to Zaheen Hussain, New Sun Rising sustainability director and Millvale sustainability coordinator.
• Millvale has sharrows — or lane markings denoting shared bicycle and motor vehicle access — as well as signs stating that cyclists have the right to use full car lanes. He said this designation is especially important given the borough's narrow roads.
• Millvale Community Library hired a wheelchair-bound man to analyze every intersection to make recommendations on improvements to sidewalks and intersections. “Who knows sidewalks better than someone who's riding them in wheelchairs?” Hussain said. “That speaks to our will and desire to listen to our community members.”
• Katherine Schuler, Millvale Bicycle/Pedestrian Committee chairwoman, said, looking forward, the group aims to set expectations for drivers on cyclist-heavy roadways. Potential ideas include adding crosswalks, stop signs and speed tables, similar to longer speed bumps.
• Shaler police Chief Bryan Kelly said that cyclists need to obey traffic laws in the same manner as drivers. Millvale police Chief Tim Komoroski agreed and said that officers will cite cyclists, just like motor vehicle drivers, for drunken driving.
Walk Bike Ross
• Walk Bike Ross member Joe Brandt said that his organization's call for greater pedestrian safety was magnified with the April 4 death of former professional wrestler and WWE Hall of Famer “Luscious” Johnny Valiant, whose real name was Thomas M. Sullivan. He was trying to cross McKnight near Siebert Road when a car struck and killed him.
“If you've ever tried to ride a bike on McKnight Road or even worse, walk on McKnight Road, it is a complete zoo at times,” Brandt said.
• Walk Bike Ross falls under the township's auspices. In July 2016, Ross received $33,000 in funding from the Active Allegheny Grant Program. The organization has a goal of using the funds for planning a bicycling corridor that would connect Babcock Boulevard with the Allegheny River communities.
The organization has held two public meetings regarding the idea. The next step, Brandt said, is to present the idea to the township.
Walk Bike Shaler
• “You (the attendees' municipalities) have sidewalks and if they are deteriorating in places, you still have them,” said Walk Bike Shaler representative and summit organizer Chris Chirdon. “We don't have them, and we are trying to push the idea that hey, it will not only benefit people for mobility, for equity, but for community. I often say that walking down side roads I run into people, but I would like to walk into a shop and see people on the way.”
On the other hand, Shaler Manager Tim Rogers said that the Shaler government sees the challenge of adding a sidewalk to a property and asking a homeowner to maintain it.
“We see ourselves as a suburban community, so we aren't too crazy about throwing sidewalks in.”
• In November 2017, Chirdon outlined his group's goals of collaborating with the township on a complete streets plan for Mt. Royal Boulevard.
• The Shaler North Hills Library is scheduled to receive new bike racks.
• Walk Bike Shaler secured funding from the Shaler Area Rotary Club to make and distribute yard signs throughout the community instructing drivers to maintain four feet from pedestrians and cyclists. The group will offer visibility vests to pedestrians in the future.
• Rogers said Shaler is working on a grant with PennDOT and Friends of the Riverfront to extend the Riverfront Park from Millvale through Shaler to Etna.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.