Northside Bicycle Summit raises key questions about citywide mobility
The focus: How to improve the day-to-day experience of all Pittsburghers.
Story and photos by Ashlee Green
Photo: Karina Ricks, director of the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure, says her staff is working to reduce the clash between drivers and bicyclists.
The Northside Bicycle Summit – Connections, hosted by Walk Ride Northside and held on Thursday, Dec. 12 on the Carnegie Science Center’s Science Stage, brought keynote speakers from Pittsburgh and Allegheny County together to discuss more than just issues related to bicyclists; The focus was how to improve mobility for everyone.
“When I’m in Europe, there’s a whole different view about how people move around,” said former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy.
According to Murphy, who led efforts in the 1990s to develop Pittsburgh’s 25-mile riverfront trail network, the city is still working with a zoning code developed in the 1930s. The focus then, he said, was separating the spaces where you work from the spaces where you play and run errands, which often required a car. Now, it’s different: People want to move freely between all of these activities without having to drive.
Murphy, who has served as the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) senior resident fellow since 2006, said his duties for ULI often involve traveling. He’s evaluated the urban revitalization efforts in around 40 cities, and what’s “astounding” now, he said, is how cities are valuing open space. He referenced The High Line in New York City, which is an elevated public park built on an abandoned rail line—the first of its kind in the U.S.
The popularity of the High Line, said Murphy, led to other developments, such as The Hudson Yards, which is now the largest real estate development project in U.S. history.
Described by Walk Ride Northside Chairperson Nick Ross as the “unsung hero of Pittsburgh’s trail system,” Darla Cravotta, director of community relations and special projects for Allegheny County, spoke next. She named railroads as one of the greatest challenge to local trail development.
“I’m going to keep talking about it because 2020 is the year of the railroad,” said Cravotta.
Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh, used a slideshow to detail milestones in Pittsburgh’s transition to a more bike friendly city, and Karina Ricks, director of the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI), closed the summit by explaining how bicycling is just one facet of mobility. She said her staff is working to reduce the divide that often exists between bicyclists and drivers and to find mobility solutions that improve everyone’s day-to-day experience.
“Talking about equity… means nothing if we’re not able to address some of these issues.”
Walk Ride Pittsburgh meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. at Penn Brewery in Troy Hill.