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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Healthy Ride Logs More Than 40,000 Trips This Summer

Rebecca Devereaux
90.5 WESA

  From July through September, more than 40,000 trips were made on Healthy Ride bicycles through Pittsburgh’s bike sharing program, an average of about 440 trips per day.

Healthy Ride Executive Director David White said that’s a slight uptick from the June numbers, when 300-400 trips were taken each day. The program launched on May 31 and stations were still being installed through mid-July.

“As we are able to reach out to more neighborhoods and educate more people about the concept of bike share and the possibility of building in some active transportation to their daily lives, (we expected) that those numbers would increase over time, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing,” he said.

White said there was considerable bike share activity Downtown, and that it appears many people are also using the bike share to commute to and from work.

He said stations at the tops of hills, such as on Penn Avenue at 42nd Street, often see more rentals than returns. People might be riding the bikes down the hill into Lawrenceville or Downtown, and then taking a bus or ride share back home.

White said his team made a purposeful decision to create a very low barrier for entry to the program. Users don’t have to fill out a long profile with detailed demographic information, and the first ride can cost as little as $2. He said that sets Pittsburgh’s bike share program apart from many of its European counterparts, which collect demographic information and have a higher up-front cost.

“We (made) a decision to make it … more like another form of transit, where if you’re riding the bus, you don’t have to become a member of the Port Authority, you just take advantage of a bus route,” he said.

White said he was surprised that the data showed some people taking bikes out for several hours and paying the $2 per half hour fee. However, most of the trips were under either 30 minutes or 60 minutes, consistent with Healthy Ride’s pricing structure.

With more bicyclists on the road, safety concerns are heightened, a fact that was driven home on Friday when Susan Hicks, a University of Pittsburgh staff member, was caught in a multi-car collision while waiting at a red light on Forbes Avenue.

White said he was an acquaintance of Hicks, 34, and deeply saddened by her death. He said the city needs to find ways to make streets safer for everyone.

“For buses and trucks and cars and pedestrians and people riding bicycles and people pushing strollers and people on roller skates,” he said. “We need a commitment to making that safer. There are some cities that have made big steps in that direction, and I think Pittsburgh has a lot of room for improvement there.”

The city is currently working on extending the Penn Avenue protected bike line two more blocks to Stanwix Street. The lane is eventually expected to take riders all the way to Point State Park. A protected bike lane is also being installed on East Street in Spring Hill.

Healthy Ride’s ridership data is available on its website. White is encouraging the public to use the data to create visualizations, similar to those created with data from">Chicago’s Divvy bike share and New York City’s Citibike program.