Bike share program launches in newly bike-friendly Pittsburgh

June 4, 2015

Historically car-centric Pittsburgh is becoming cyclist-friendly. The city’s bike share program launched its Healthy Ride program on May 31, stocking stations with public-use bikes that will reach and connect 11 of the city’s neighborhoods to encourage exercise, and to reduce both traffic and pollution. While the launch didn’t go quite as smoothly as possible (some of the stations weren’t operating right away and the automated kiosks weren’t working) the city’s bicycle infrastructure has come a long way.

Pittsburgh bike share program

Image from Ian Norman.

“Pittsburgh is officially moving away from a history in which we prioritized cars moving people mostly out of the city, to a future in which we’re helping people move within our city,” David White, executive director of Pittsburgh Bike Share said in a news conference.

Bike use costs $2 per 30-minute increment and the bikes can be returned at any of the self-service kiosks. Each of the kiosks has 20 docking stations; when a biker returns and locks their bike at a docking station, a computer system will register their return. There are also $12 passes available for unlimited 30-minute rides per month and $20 for unlimited 60-minute rides per month.

The bikes are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and open to riders age 18-plus, who must provide their own helmets. The Healthy Ride system will eventually offer 500 bikes available at 50 kiosks. Users can in person at the kiosks, via a smartphone app, or even by calling 412-535-5189.

As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports, just nine years ago biking in the city was considered by some to be a frightening proposition. Megan Shalonis, a resident who these days bikes to work as much as she can, told the newspaper that when she first moved to the city nine years ago, “people were a little hesitant about bikes here at first.” A new focus on the bike share program, plus recently installed bike lanes on Penn Avenue are helping cyclists feel safer.

Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto, who last year studied Copenhagen’s bike infrastructure, is largely behind the push for a cyclist-friendly city. With the city anticipating an increase in population, Peduto’s focus has been on “complete streets,” with especial attention on further developing and promoting the bike share program. Last year, Pittsburgh, which has been ranked as the 11th-highest most bike mode share in the country, hosted a pro-cyclist and pro-pedestrian conference, and, under Peduto, the city also implemented its first protected bike lanes downtown.

“When you talk about bike infrastructure and the investment in capital dollars to build it out, you’re really not talking about bike lanes,” Peduto told NextCity. “What you’re talking about is a multimodal approach to building out your infrastructure.” Part of that comprehensive infrastructure plan is to unify the city’s 25 miles of off-street bike trails with both existing protected bike lanes and to-be-built protected bike lanes, to ensure safe bike travel in the city.

Beyond overcoming the city’s car-centric history, one of the major hurdles is its hilly landscape, bridges and narrow streets. Yet, as Peduto says, “We have all of the detriments to creating a bike system that people could argue… But we’re still doing it, and we’re going to beat every other city.” Learn more about Peduto’s progressive approach to complete streets, bike sharing and other area issues in this profile.

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Category: Infrastructure, municipal

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