Steve Bland ushered in major improvements for bikes during his tenure at the Port Authority
Last Friday, February 1, the Board of Directors of the Port Authority voted to dismiss Mr. Bland effective immediately. That day the bike community lost a friend in a high place, who in working to make the Port Authority more bike friendly, helped legitimize bicycling to the Pittsburgh community at large.
In 2008, when then Port Authority CEO Steve Bland gave out his email address during a press conference, announcing a new era for bicycling in Pittsburgh, and encouraged cyclists to contact him with any problems they were having with their service, we knew that we were dealing with a whole new Port Authority.
Only two years into the job, Mr. Bland recognized the importance of encouraging multi-modal travel and integrating bicycling into the transit system. Prior to the press event mentioned above, Bland had already committed to ensuring that all new buses purchased by the agency would include a bike rack. At the press conference, he noted that although progress had been made, only two-thirds of the buses had bike racks, and that this was “one-third too few.”
His team then implemented a short-term, stop gap policy allowing folding bikes on board all buses, light rail (T) cars, and the Monongahela Incline at all times, until every bus had a bike rack.
By 2010, after working closely with BikePGH, the Port Authority announced that 100% of buses would have bike racks by the end of 2011. Less than a year later, this promise was fulfilled.
All told, this project took 10 years to complete. The simple fact is, until Bland took the helm of the Port Authority bikes were simply not a high priority.
At the press event to celebrate this effort, the Port Authority surprised everyone present (even us) when they announced unrestricted access for all types of bikes on the Port Authority’s light rail system, or “T,” at all times in either direction, where there used to be peak restrictions.
Bland changed the culture among Port Authority management by being more receptive to the needs of bicyclists, and supporting our work. His team has helped by providing everything from silent auction packages at our BikeFest celebration to taking out full page ads in the City Paper for our Car Free Fridays events.
Mr. Bland and his operations team insisted on change amongst the Port Authority operators as well by instituting more bike sensitivity and education into their trainings.
Steve made tremendous strides in making the Port Authority bike-friendly, and his leadership was certainly a big factor in their receiving the “Organization of the Year” award at our annual membership meeting in 2011. However, there is more work to be done. We hope that whoever is chosen to fill his shoes will continue to reach out to the bicycling community, and strive to make the Port Authority a national model in bicycle friendliness.
See our Bikes on Transit page to find out all you need to know about combining your bike with Pittsburgh’s transit options, and make use of the access we all now take for granted.
Not a member of BikePGH? Join today! We need you to add your voice! Bike Pittsburgh works to protect cyclist’s rights and promote the vision of making Pittsburgh a safer and more enjoyable place to live and to ride. For more info, check out: www.bike-pgh.org/membership