These Downtown bike lanes could close a major trail GAP

Talk about it Wednesday at a public meeting.

Proposed new lanes in purple

Proposed new lanes in purple

Courtesy Pittsburgh Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator Office / Department of City Planning
Sarah Anne Hughes

In the ground near the fountain in Point State Park, there’s a medallion. It identifies the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers into the Ohio and serves as the end of the Great Allegheny Passage.

But there’s a missing link for cyclists between the marker and the rail trail itself, through busy Downtown streets populated primarily by vehicles. It’s a gap bike advocates have long wanted the city to close. They’re moving closer to that goal.

The city will hold a public meeting Wednesday on the addition of bike lanes on three streets Downtown to create a dedicated passage between Grant Street and Point State Park. Pittsburgh City Council has approved spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for the project, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported last month.

And, yes, some people are already mad because PARKING. 

What’s proposed

There are two main components to the changes proposed by the city.

The first is adding a buffered, two-way bike lane on Fort Pitt Boulevard starting at Grant Street, where the Eliza Furnace (or Jail) Trail section of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail abruptly ends. The Great Allegheny Passage connects and merges with the Three Rivers Heritage Trail at the Hot Metal Bridge.

That lane would end at Stanwix Street, which would in turn get traditional separated bike lanes that move with the flow of traffic.

The other proposed change would extend what already exists on Penn Avenue, from Stanwix to 16th Street: a two-way protected cycle track. The new lanes on Penn would run from Stanwix to Point State Park.

Here’s where the Penn Avenue bike lane starts currently Downtown.

Penn Avenue popularity

On PARKing Day in September, Bike Pittsburgh installed a temporary version of a Penn Avenue extension lane to Point State Park. That group, along with the Western Pennsylvanian Conservancy, The Cultural Trust and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, also closed a small section of the street to traffic and set up a park.

Envision Downtown compared pedestrian activity and cyclist use in that area on PARKing Day versus on an average day (in this case, Oct. 6, 2016). The results will not shock you.


How popular are the lanes that already exist on Penn Avenue?

Since April 2015, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has had three counters on Penn Avenue — in the 600, 900 and 1200 blocks. A trip is counted when a cyclist rides over one of the rubber tubes on the street.

Below is a chart that shows average and maximum use of the bike lanes, using information from the counters (which is updated daily here). Note: May 29 and June 26 were Open Streets days.

Penn Avenue Bike Trips, April 14, 2016 to Dec. 12, 2016

600 block900 block1200 block
Weekday average420413638
Weekly average2,9552,9014,109
Monthly average12,92812,69317,978
Max traffic, daySunday, June 26 (1,870)Sunday, May 29 (2,017)Sunday, June 26 (2,103)
Max traffic, weekWeek of June 6 (4,631)Week of June 6 (6,052)Week of May 26 (6,759)
Max traffic, monthJune 2016 (17,678)July 2016 (18,456)June 2016 (25,276)

Want to talk?

The meeting starts Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. It’s scheduled to take place at Point Park University’s Thayer Hall (201 Wood St.) inside the JVH Auditorium.

Presentation materials will not be made available before the meeting, per Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Saunders.

If you aren’t able to make the meeting, you can always get into an intellectually stimulating conversation about bike infrastructure in the Post-Gazette‘s comments section. Your choice.