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With ‘Neighborways’ And Forthcoming Bike Plan, City Aims To Make Cycling Safer, Easier And More Fun

Margaret J. Krauss
90.5 WESA
Crews are building a cyclist- and pedestrian-only path under the Birmingham Bridge to connect to Wharton Street on either side and provide a safer east-west connection.

It’s called a "neighborway," fitting for a city famous for Fred Rogers and his neighborhood.

The city’s bike infrastructure needs to support people of all ages and abilities, and the neighborway is a new way to do that, said Kristin Saunders, principal transportation planner for the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure.

Neighborways will be designed and implemented on "existing, low-traffic [streets], where people already feel pretty comfortable," said Saunders. “We’re looking for a way to make that better, where bikes are prioritized.”

That could be accomplished in a number of ways, from clear route signage that makes navigation easier, to raised crosswalks that slow cars and make pedestrians more visible, too. 

The term "neighborway" was coined by a Lousiville city councilor in 2014, according to bike advocacy group PeopleForBikes. "Bicycle boulevards" in Berkeley, Calif. and "neighborhood greenways" in Portland, Ore. serve similar purposes, and such efforts to prioritize bike and pedestrian traffic are becoming more common across the country.

Pittsburgh's first neighborway will be a bike and pedestrian only path under the Birmingham Bridge to connect the two sections of Wharton Street on the South Side. It is currently under construction. The city’s forthcoming bike plan is also still under construction, and will be released for public feedback next year.

Currently, the draft plan proposes places where officials think bike routes are needed, but does not include specific projects. City officials want more people to make short trips by bike, so the plan takes a holistic vision of a future network, said Saunders.

Safety and accessibility are paramount and “we want everyone to live within the bike network and to have access to the bike network.”

Projects will be prioritized to increase ridership, to fill gaps in the existing network, and to reach important community facilities such as schools and community centers. Places with significant numbers of bicycle crashes will also be given special consideration.

Despite its breadth, planners also want the plan to be feasible. Pittsburgh has strong winters and challenging topography that includes bridges and narrow streets, said Saunders.

“We have a lot of areas in the city where everybody has to use the same space,” she said. And if a commercial district needs on-street parking on a narrow road, a bike route may not be feasible, and another alignment could be better.

In addition to infrastructure, the bike plan will propose programs to educate people about biking in the city.