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Pittsburgh’s Bike-Share Program Will Add Electric Bikes

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

A $750,000 grant to Pittsburgh’s bike-share system, Healthy Ride, will allow the organization to begin a multi-year overhaul of its system. The investment from The Heinz Endowments, announced Tuesday, will be used to help electrify the fleet of bikes.

Since Healthy Ride launched in 2015, the service has grown to include 625 bikes over more than 100 stations, and during the pandemic even more people took to using the system. But widespread adoption has always faced a pretty formidable challenge: Pittsburgh’s many, many hills.

Healthy Ride’s executive director David White said the organization plans to buy electric bikes that boost the rider’s own effort.

“That just feels sort of like you have a superpower when you’re going up hills,” he said. “This is a great way to add a bicycle trip into your day,” when it may have otherwise seemed prohibitive. For instance, if someone didn’t want to arrive to work sweaty, or haul 30 pounds of groceries under their own steam.

Matt Barron, sustainability senior program officer for The Heinz Endowments, said in a release that electric-assist bikes will help make biking a feasible choice for people of all abilities and ages.

“We know that physical mobility is a leading indicator of economic mobility,” he said.

White said the goal is to replace roughly 325 regular bikes with electric assist bikes. In addition to local support, the effort received about $1.4 million in federal funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.

However, the timeline for implementation is unclear. The pandemic disrupted the global supply chain for lots of things, “but it’s profoundly affected cars and automobiles and trucks and bicycles,” said White.

Meanwhile, Healthy Ride is working with the city to build out mobility hubs, stations throughout the city where people can access bikes, e-bikes, car share, and buses.

Having more options in one place makes moving around better for everyone, White said, but it will require an overhaul of the digital infrastructure as well as the physical. Right now, each transit mode has its own app and Healthy Ride wants to make the process of moving between them easy and convenient.

Tuesday’s funding announcement from The Heinz Endowments also included $3 million to help non-profit arts venues in the region, and another $10 million to community development projects.

A $1.75 million grant will help revitalizethe New Granada Theater in the Hill District, which drew jazz legends and residents to the neighborhood during its heyday.

Another grant of roughly the same size is dedicated to Hazelwood Green for transportation and housing initiatives. Smaller grants were made to affordable housing and blight reduction projects run by the City of Bridges Community Land Trust and the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at