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OpenStreets Returns To Pittsburgh

For five years running, OpenStreetsPGPH held three monthly events each summer. The series temporarily closed down selected city streets to motorized traffic to give free rein to cyclists, skaters and pedestrians in a festival-like atmosphere. The free Sunday events drew up to 20,000 visitors each, according to organizers, spread over routes that stretched for miles.

In 2020, like so much else, it all came to a halt. This year, it’s back, at least for one month, in a scaled-down form, and in a new neighborhood.

Bike Pittsburgh, the advocacy group that organizes OpenStreets, had hoped to hold monthly OpenStreets events in May, June and July this year, as it had from 2015 to 2019. But planning was delayed by uncertainty over the pandemic, said events director Kéya Joseph.

So this year’s event is just one day, with a single, short route: Sun., July 25, in Hazelwood.

The two-mile loop will trace through Hazelwood Green, the sprawling, mostly still vacant swath of Monongahela River-front land that formerly housed the LTV Coke Works.

Participants can enjoy a familiar array of attractions, including health resources and kids’ activities, plus something new: The Bikes, BBQ and Blues Festival on Hazelwood Green Plaza. The festival, organized by the group Hazelwood Local, includes live music and offerings from local food and beverage vendors.

Bike Pittsburgh created OpenStreets to encourage people to envision city streets as places for safe outdoor recreation, free of cars and trucks. Past routes often linked together multiple business districts: Downtown and Lawrenceville, for instance, or Allegheny West and the West End.

With planning time limited by uncertainty over the pandemic, this year’s model skirts business districts to focus on a route through the 178-acre Hazelwood Green, which is in the early stages of being redeveloped as a mix of commercial, office, and residential space.

“This site has been closed to the public for so long and I think maybe some people have gotten the chance to go over and explore it, but we’re excited to be able to kind of show it off, and there’s really wonderful bike infrastructure over there that’s kind of built in,” said Bike Pittsburgh’s Joseph.

“We’re excited to be able to touch a new neighborhood,” she said.

Open Streets runs 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Health-related attractions range from to health screenings to Zumba and line-dancing classes. Kid-friendly features including an interactive art display and a bike obstacle course. A complete schedule is here.

The Bikes, BBQ and Blues Festival runs 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Performers include local blues favorite Jimmy Adler. Vendors range from barbecue purveyors to local craft breweries. A local shuttle is available from Morningstar Baptist Church. More information is here.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: bodriscoll@wesa.fm
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