A demonstration of how parked cars can protect bicycle lanes and their users may be a sign of things to come in Pittsburgh and other communities along the region’s three rivers.
Local lawmakers and bike advocates will hold a demonstration Sunday in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood to teach residents about parking-protected bike lanes.
The proposed configuration positions the bike lane between parked cars and the curb, using the parking lane to shield cyclists from traffic. It’s a setup that advocates say keeps both cyclists and drivers safe as they share the road.
If details of such a plan can be worked out, including changing state law to allow for such a configuration, communities like Aspinwall, Brackenridge, Sharpsburg and Tarentum could use bike lanes to help connect residents to river trails, said state Sen. Lindsey Williams, D-West View.
A nearly $1 million bike-pedestrian trail project underway in Harrison, for example, would connect the township’s Natrona neighborhood through the business district in Natrona Heights. It would also link the township with a section of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail that runs through Brackenridge and Tarentum.
Bike lanes also could keep cyclists who ride on busy roads safe, Williams said, referencing an incident Aug. 29 when an O’Hara man was killed after he was struck by two vans while riding his bike along Freeport Road in Harmar.
“This happens,” Williams said. “The safer we can make it for people to enjoy, I think the better we are.”
The demonstration will take place from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on North Euclid Avenue, between Station Street and Broad Street. Anyone interested in riding along is asked to meet at the Kingsley Association parking lot, 6435 Frankstown Ave., at 1 p.m.
“It helps preserve a lot of parking, but it also provides for that separation from that fast moving traffic,” said Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh.
Cities like Baltimore, Chicago and New York already have parking-protected bike lanes.
Pittsburgh has about 60 miles of bike lanes, according to figures provided by the city.
But only some stretches — like sections of Penn Avenue in Downtown or along Schenley Drive Extension in Oakland — are protected by plastic barriers.
Projects to install parking-protected bike lanes are on hold until the state Legislature passes a bill that would alter the state vehicle code to allow parking farther from the curb.
State law requires cars to be parked within 12 inches of a curb.
“We need to make sure that infrastructure is in place, so that people can get to and from and through these neighborhoods safely and efficiently,” said state Rep. Sara Innamorato, D-Lawrenceville, who co-sponsored a bill to make those changes.
That bill, H.B. 792, passed nearly unanimously in the House and now sits in the Senate Transportation Committee.
If the bill passes, it would not mandate any form of bike lanes. Rather, it would provide municipalities throughout the county with another option to keep cyclists, pedestrians or people using mobility aids, like wheelchairs or scooters, safe while also keeping them out of the way of drivers, Innamorato said.
“This is something that’s still going to come through your local municipality, where you’ll have the option to weigh in and talk to your elected officials,” said Williams.
Both Innamorato and Williams will participate in the demonstration Sunday.