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Pittsburgh Bike Share Program Launch Delayed Until Spring 2015

Flickr user WBEZ/Robin Amer

It’s been more than a year since former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced Pittsburgh’s bike share program, with a proposed launch date of spring or summer 2014.

Spring has come and gone and summer is upon us, so where are the bikes?

Bart Yavorosky, executive director of Pittsburgh Bike Share, said it’s been a matter of bureaucracy keeping up with technology.

The initial plan required that the bid process for purchasing the bicycles be run through PennDOT, and specified “third generation” bike share technology, with the user interface on the bicycle parking stations.

“The fourth generation technology that’s coming out moves that intelligence onto the bike,” Yavorosky said. “There are a lot of advantages to that, but the biggest … is that it’s much cheaper.”

Because the winning bid for manufacture of the bicycles and docks employed the newer, fourth generation technology, Pittsburgh Bike Share could not accept the bid until the plan was revamped through PennDOT, which added a couple of months onto the process.

“If we continue to move on trying to launch as quickly as possible, we would have been pushed into late October for a launch,” Yavorosky said. “It just wouldn’t have made sense to launch in late October and then subsequently close down the system in mid-November.”

Yavorosky said Pittsburgh weather necessitates closing the system during the winter, which pushes the launch date into 2015.

He said even though the bike share program is delayed, it’s still receiving considerable political support from Mayor Bill Peduto and financial support from the local foundation community. An additional $1.6 million grant comes from the Federal Highway Administration.

Yavorosky said bike sharing solves the chicken and egg problem of building bicycle infrastructure in urban areas.

“It’s very difficult to have public officials motivated to invest in public infrastructure to support cycling when there isn’t a critical mass of cyclists, but it’s very difficult to get a critical mass of cyclists if you don’t have infrastructure that enables cycling and makes people feel safe,” Yavorosky said.

Yavorosky said the bike share program also provides solutions for people whose preferred mode of transportation may not bring them all the way to their destination.

“Bike sharing is for those types of trips that it might be too far too walk, or too short or too inconvenient to take a taxi … or public transportation,” Yavorosky said. “So this is really about increasing mobility options.”

Yavorosky expects the program to launch with 50 docking stations and 500 bicycles in the spring of 2015, and said they are planning to announce the program’s corporate sponsor this fall.