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With More Pittsburghers Riding, BikeFest is Bigger Than Ever

With more people riding bikes in Pittsburgh, it seems only natural that the 9th annual BikeFest is longer than ever.

BikeFest, which begins Friday, is a fundraiser celebrating all things bicycling to create a more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly city.

Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh, said a strong bicycle community will make the city more attractive to visitors.

“People are looking to live in places and to visit places that are easy to get around by foot and by bike,” Bricker said, “and that’s what we’re really concentrating on for this year’s BikeFest”

This year’s festival is two days longer than last year, and the festivities begin Friday at 8 p.m. with a party at the Pittsburgh Opera.

The celebration will be followed by days of rides, music, food and other events.

On Saturday, the “Lots of Green” bike tour will take riders through the city’s parks and gardens. The “Troubled Streams Tour” on Sunday will take cyclists through the East End to explore the hidden streams and watersheds in the area. On Aug. 17, riders can experience all the city has to offer on the 75-mile “Every Pittsburgh Neighborhood Ride.”

A full calendar of events can be found online.

Bricker said rider and pedestrian safety will play a big role in this year’s festival.

“Part of why we’re doing BikeFest and why we host this is to introduce more and more new bicyclists to our mission and to help educate them on how best to ride safely,” Bricker said.

The festival concludes Aug. 25 as Pedal PGH, the largest bicycle ride in the city, celebrates its 20th birthday with three bike rides: five to 12 miles for beginners, 25 miles for intermediate bicyclists and 62 miles for bicycling veterans.

Three thousand people are expected to take part in Pedal PGH, compared to last year’s 2,700 bicyclists.

According to the U.S. Census, 0.4 percent of Pittsburghers chose bicycles as their main mode of transportation in 2000. Ten years later, that number jumped to 1.6 percent.

Pittsburgh has the fifth highest concentration of people who either commute by bike or foot in the nation, according to Bike Pittsburgh.

Bricker said the city changes when you’re riding a bike.

“It’s so much easier to notice things,” Bricker said. “Things aren’t speeding by and you’re not just trying to get from point A to point B as quick as possible. You get to smell the roses while you’re getting around, and I think you see things from a slightly different perspective.”

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."