Pittsburgh spends $11,701 for police to patrol bike lane, mostly on overtime pay
Pittsburgh spent more than $10,000 on police to protect the new $120,000 Penn Avenue bike lane from the Strip District to Downtown, records show.
The city paid $11,701 to 48 officers to stand in shifts for a total of 313 hours at intersections along Penn Avenue between 6th and 11th streets from Sept. 6 to Sept. 12, according to records Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler provided.
Most of the money — $7,970 — went to officers working overtime.
“The mayor wanted to make sure that since this was a new initiative, that our officers were there to educate the public to the changes in the driving patterns,” Toler said. “If we couldn't cover a corner with an on-duty person, the only other option was to bring someone in on overtime.”
Scott Bricker, executive director of advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh, said he's grateful the city acknowledged early on that problems might occur as commuters adjust to the shift to a one-way street for vehicles.
“We saw a few photos and tweets of cars going into the bike lane that first day,” Bricker said. “We're glad the cops (were) here. Drivers and cyclists can learn to share the roads; it just takes time.”
The city spent $120,000, including money for contractors and material suppliers, to install the bike lane that replaced the eastbound lane of Penn Avenue from Sixth to 16th streets. It is painted for bicyclists to travel in both directions, with posts creating a physical barrier to vehicular traffic.
“It's a hazard,” said Heather Wilson, 24, of Lawrenceville. “I don't think it's really helping, I still see bikes in the street, especially in the Strip. It's terrible.”
Wilson said the money spent on police officers “was a waste. Signs would've been better and a lot cheaper.”
But Bill McConnell, 41, of Ambridge said the bike lanes haven't affected his commute to work Downtown. He likes to see people using alternative forms of transportation. He drives, and rides a bus.
“Eleven thousand dollars doesn't seem like a whole lot in the grand scheme of things,” McConnell said of the amount paid for police protection. “I've been pleasantly surprised with how much it's been used. I see bikers all the time.”
Mayoral spokesman Tim McNulty said a traffic study completed in advance of construction predicted little impact on Penn Avenue traffic. He said the city is creating a website to convey updates about the lanes.
“As long as we're talking about investments in the bike lanes, it is well established that they are proven economic generators in the cities that have them,” McNulty wrote in an email, citing studies collected by PeopleForBikes.
No injuries or major incidents occurred in the bike lane during the week, Toler said. Officers issued four moving violations, two parking citations and 52 warnings. “There was confusion,” she said.
The Penn Avenue lane is the third protected bike lane installed as part of the city's participation in the PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project. Workers installed lanes on Saline Street between Greenfield Avenue and Swinburne Street in Greenfield and in Schenley Park.
Staff writer Megan Harris contributed to this report. Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or firstname.lastname@example.org.