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Journey to Pittsburgh to Walk & Bike

During a recent 48 hour Streetfilms swing thru Steel City, we learned that like many other metro areas across the country, Pittsburgh has a growing movement for better bicycling and more livable streets. Among the coolest things you'll see in this seven minute Streetfilm travelogue...

- A newly renovated, pedestrianized Market Square, where two cross streets were eliminated to create a better people place.  New York's Project for Public Spaces helped consult on the project.

- We got to hang at an am commuter breakfast with the advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh, and talk to cyclists about what they like about their city, and what could use some improvement.

- Adjacent to the Century Building is a unique private-public partnership using retro-fitted shipping containers for a secure bicycle parking project.  For just $100/year you can safely park your bike indoors.  A recent citywide law made it mandatory to provide bike parking in new buildings (or those being renovated.)

- The Over the Bar Cafe, a unique bicycle-themed restaurant serving great food and drink, and a frequent meeting place for rides and advocacy events. The walls are filled with cycling memorabilia and murals adorn the walls and is usually packed with riders and non-riders alike.



Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [00:16] Hey everybody, welcome to Pittsburgh.  I’m walking over the Andy Warhol Bridge, one of hundreds of bridges here in Pittsburgh.  I decided to come here for a few days to see what’s going on in the liveable streets world.  One of the more pleasant things I discovered was that people love to walk. 


Chrs Sandvig:  [00:33] The beauty of Pittsburgh is that its heritage is in walking and streetcars.  And what that means is that all of our bridges, many of which are, you know, approaching a hundred years or even older, have nice wide walkways along them that accommodate bicycling as well as pedestrians. 


Lolly Walsh:  [00:51] Pittsburgh has I think 446 bridges, which is pretty amazing.  You can always stop and look at the view and get pretty swoony about all the different things you can see. 


Speaker:  [01:02] A lot of the infrastructure was built before cars became dominant, so there’s still, you know… all the bridges still have sidewalks which a publicly built bridge hasn’t had a sidewalk on it since about 1970.



Lolly Walsh:  [01:24] I’m Lolly Walsh with Bike Pittsburgh and we decided to put together a little breakfast for people who are riding to work today, and we decided to do this for Bike Pittsburgh members so we can show our appreciation for their support for our work and also have the opportunity to talk to some people.


Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [01:41] What do you enjoy about riding in Pittsburgh?


Speaker:  [01:43] The hills and the little neighbourhoods are amazing, and when you get on a bike and do it, it just notches that up.  I mean there’s so many little houses on slopes of hills.


Speaker:  [01:53] You get to look at everything and really pay attention to the buildings and I feel like it’s so easy to cover this city on a bike.


Speaker:  [02:01] It’s fast, you never have to worry about parking.  I, you know, I can make it to work just a little bit slower than what it would take to drive in traffic.


Speaker:  [02:11] I don’t end up at work all cranky after sitting in traffic for 45 or 50 minutes.


Clarence Eckerson Jr.:  [02:16] Are there some things that you think could be improved that could make…?


Speaker:  [02:19] Absolutely.  The potholes are awful.  Sometimes you spend too much time looking down at the road, you’re not even paying attention to the cars around you. 


Speaker:  [02:28] Unfortunately people seem to be rather ignorant of bicycle laws around here and they’re not very respectful of cyclists.


Speaker:  [02:34] There are like five lanes on Fifth, so why can’t we make one of them like a shared bus/bike lane or something like that. 


Chrs Sandvig:  [02:42] Greater accessibility I think to what we often call is the last mile and being able to have that connection at work to have your bike safely stored.  But also having resources that you can use when you get to Downtown.  We have a lot of trails that come through our neighbourhoods and converge on our golden triangle, but then that last connection is always the challenge.  So there’s a lot of discussion about that.



Sara Walfoort:  [03:11] We are in Downtown Pittsburgh.  We are adjacent to the Century Building in the heart of Downtown.  This is a brand new bike parking facility that was put in as part of a public/private partnership.  Downtown Pittsburgh just recently adopted bike parking ordinances, zoning ordinances for the first time.  So any new or retrofit area used building will have to provide bike parking.  This is a really interesting concept because first of all the outdoor parking is located in an area that’s obscured from the street.  So you get fewer idle fingers, you know, on your bikes.  It’s not located at a transit stop, that sort of thing, where a lot of people are loitering.  This is our bicycle commuter centre.  These are old shipping containers that have been retrofit for this purpose.  It is a public/private partnership.  You’ll see our commute Info logo, that’s our local regional ride sharing programme.  So let’s go inside.  So there’s room for 13 bikes in each facility.  The lease rate is $100 for the year.  For me that’s a great investment and protecting my property.  Because as you see I’ve got a bike computer, a light, my water bottle, my helmet, you know, it’s probably $100 worth of equipment right there. 



Patricia S Burk:  [04:21] Welcome to Market Square in Downtown Pittsburgh.  This is the newly reconstructed public space, a $5 million project, public/private partnership.  We brought in Project for Public Spaces from New York and they helped us to do some experimentation here, see how people actually use this space before we took pen to paper to design it.  And we did so and we found that people loved outdoor dining here in Market Square.  They also wanted the space to be more for events.  They wanted it to be level, more of a European piazza.  We have two WiFi receivers here, we have moveable tables and chairs with umbrellas.  It’s a nice space.  We do do some events here.  So Forbes Avenue here came all the way through this space and connected to the major street of Liberty.  This street, Market Street, did come all the way through but it ended at this side of the circle.  You can see that the cars go around this space very, very quietly and slowly, the block sound really slows them down. 



Scott Bricker:  [05:31] We decided to take this organisation in the direction of getting better and better bike infrastructure in the city, educating motorists, educating our elected Officials.  We are about 1500 members strong right now.  We actually are pretty unique in that we helped pay for the bike lane engineering, sharrow engineering for the city.  We also provide bike racks to the city. 


Chrs Sandvig:  [05:56] We grew over 200% in the past decade in terms of our ridership, I think fourth highest growth in the country.


Lolly Walsh:  [06:03] There’s a really close knit community here in Pittsburgh.  A lot of it seems to come through Bike Pittsburgh’s message board which is free and open to the public.  It’s very inclusive and people are on it all the time.



Lolly Walsh:  [06:21] We have the Over The Bar Bicycle Café where all of the decorations are bicycle themes.  They support our advocacy that they give donations and discounts to members.


Kevin Hughes:  [06:31] The bar is a bicycle theme café which has [unintelligible 06.34] Pittsburgh.  Our main part of our business is definitely the cyclist community during the week.  We have a lot of cyclists that work here, basically if you work here you ride a bike.


Allison Sage:  [06:44] My mum’s a cyclist and her boyfriend and that’s how I actually came here first cos they brought me over food.  I come here for the people and the service.  The employees are great and they have great beers and everyone’s very welcoming and it’s always a very fun time.  And the food’s awesome.   


Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://www.pachickster.blogspot.com Tricia

    Great video, thanks for representing our fair city well Clarence!

  • http://antiphonfilms.tumblr.com/ Hart Noecker

    Great to finally see Pittsburgh get some much deserved exposure on Streetfilms!  Really takes the name Bridgetown away from Portland.

  • Regina Anderson

    Great video that shows Pittsburgh's commuter history, our strengths and areas for improvement. I love that we solve so many of our city problems with public/private partnerships. Go Pittsburgh!

  • Gordon Bugby

    Loved the movie, it was as good as a trip back where I used to live, and biked a little.

  • Pitt is It!

    I went to school at Pitt back in the 80s. Wow, things are a changin'!

  • http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/ Andy B from Jersey

    Another great video Clarence! I see some familiar faces in there as well (besides your ugly mug ;)).

    Surprised you didn't do a small bit about the great folks at Dirt Rag/Bicycle Times. I feel that they have had a major influence on bicycle culture here in the US particularly now that they've got Bicycle Times up and running. I'm also curious how they might have influenced the scene in PGH directly.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Meighan Seigel

    I just started biking in the late summer of 2010 and live in the 'burgh. Thank you for this great film that shows all of the reasons that I have embraced and enjoyed biking so much.

  • BG

    Another great film, Clarence! I visited Pittsburgh recently and fell in love -- mark my words, 19th-century industrial cities like PGH are the future. That sprawling postwar Sunbelt model is not working out. As people realize that they don't want to spend their whole lives in cars, places like this will get more and more popular.

  • Bruce Hodson

    Cool to see the bridges my father worked on prior to WWII highlighted in the first part of the film.  

    My wife and I left SW PA 14ish years ago and wish for all the world we could figure a way back.  I miss what I consider the single most live-able city I've ever been in.

  • http://scorcher.org/ Jym Dyer

    =v= The riverfront trails are truly amazing. This time last year it was so cold that parts of the river froze over, and I would bike down to check it out.

    Yeah, Dirt Rag/Bicycle Times/Urban Velo deserves some attention. Also, all the bike culture that's sprung up in the East End -- everything from Kranick's Bikes to the Free Ride to Critical Mass to community gardens tended with cargo bikes -- merits a film of its own.

  • Patti

    Excellent ... who knew??? Add boating to the mix and we've got a real winner here!!!

  • http://scorcher.org/ Jym Dyer

    @Patti - There are two places to rent kayaks right on the North Shore Trail!

  • http://www.californiawalks.org Wendy Alfsen

    Although the info is great, the title Journey...to Walk & Bike is misleading as the only work/photo about walking is in the title. Listing under pedestrian heading doesn't apply either. Please retitle such articles accurately Journey.... to Bike.

    Or include equal time on the walking experience and improvements and developments on the Journey -- walking does happen in Pittsburgh too!

  • http://www.wholesale-order.com Replica Handbag

    Another great video Clarence! I see some familiar faces in there as well. Nice Post, thanks. I also like walking very much, safe and
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