Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Council Gets Bike/Ped Update

A long list of transportation experts gathered in Pittsburgh City Council chambers today in an effort to look at what the future holds for bikers and pedestrians. Councilman Patrick Dowd called the post agenda meeting and opened by saying that when he moved to Pittsburgh 20 years ago he scrapped his bike because he could not safely navigate the city. He says over the years, that has slowly changed and he now wants to look to the future. Pittsburgh Public Works Dept. Assistant Direct Pat Hassett says ten years ago the focus was on developing riverfront and other biking and hiking trails. He says now it is all about bike lanes and better intersections. But it is not easy, “It all boils down to two things, one is real estate. All the on-road real estate is allocated now. We have to talk about how we reassign that real estate. But it’s also about safety. We cannot be looking at that reassignment without taking a serious look at how safe we are keeping all travelers.” In recent years more bike lanes have popped up throughout the city including one on Forbes Ave heading away from the CMU campus.

Ideas such as opening the busways to bike traffic were discussed and discarded during the meeting. A PAT official noted that the busways were often too narrow for a bike lane, the tight curves at times limit sight distances, bus stops pose difficulties and the speed of the buses make for dangerous conditions. Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker was quick to note that no official study had been made to determine just how much it would take to make the busway safe for bike travel. Councilman Bill Peduto called on better cooperation among the city, the county and municipalities. He says to get the work done it is going to take funding and cooperation from outside of the city limits. An update of the Bike/Pedestrian master plan drafted in 1999 is in the works and is expected to be published by the city within the year.

Others around the table pointed to a need to better track pedestrian and bike accidents in the city. The police department says new computerized incident tracking will help. There was also a call for better education of all parties on how to share the road and how to keep safe. Police Commander Scott Schubert says in Oakland most of the accidents come as students and hospital workers cross in the middle of the road. “The education needs to go to the people who work in hospitals and students saying here’s (sic) cross walks, use them,” says Schubert. Council President Darleen Harris noted that there are some bikers that become a nuisance. Schubert says if bicyclists want parity with cars they need to follow the same laws. At the same time he noted that drivers need to be more attentive to bike riders. Bricker says there are efforts under way to educate both riders and drivers on how to share the road. He quoted an un-named study that found that bike/car accidents are 40-percent less likely to happen on roads with bike lanes.

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