Thank You BikePGH!
It’s been nearly 12 years. What an amazing journey. I’m thankful to have been involved since the beginning. For those of you who don’t know me I’m Lou Fineberg, BikePGH’s Business Program Director. Along with Scott Bricker and David Hoffman I helped start the organization back in 2002. In 2014 I’ll be starting a new job. I can’t wait to share what I’m working on once the project is ready to launch.
In the mean time I just wanted to take a moment to thank our members, volunteers, Board of Directors, business partners, sponsors, the foundation community, and local government for enabling BikePGH to have a meaningful impact on the region. Your support continues to be the most important factor and inspiration in the organization’s success! I have to mention the Sprout Fund in particular because without their early seed grants nearly all the projects I helped start at BikePGH wouldn’t have happened. There were moments it felt like I was a Sprout contractor.
When we started BikePGH the concept actually confused people. More often than not we were referred to as Pedal Pittsburgh, the event we now host that’s been around 9 years longer than us. Pittsburgh’s storied hills, adverse weather, and narrow roads, often in conditions you would expect in the developing world made people wonder if we were serious, and some still do. But the tide has clearly changed, and it’s only just begun. My sense then and it still is today if we can make Pittsburgh among the best bike friendly cities in the world then any city can make it happen. Sure there’s places with steeper hills, worse roads, and more miserable weather, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a city this big that ranks so high in each category. Pittsburgh is to bike friendliness what New York is to entertainment. If you can make it here . . . and we’re all proving that you can! It’s no small accomplishment to have a bike advocacy organization with 6 full time employees and over 2500 members in a city this size. It’s a reflection of what people in Pittsburgh value.
BikePGH’s growth has been fun to experience. Scott’s emergence as a local celebrity is an indication to me the region is moving in the right direction. The “polite pest” as former Port Authority head Steve Bland called him has managed to not only insert himself on behalf of bike advocacy in so many important conversations about transportation and place making regionally and nationally, but he often starts them. I remember those early meet n’ greets and BikeFests that we celebrated at Free Ride. Still emerging from the yolk of his punk rock roots Scott had to be coerced to address a crowd. Now he’s a staple on public radio and works a room like a Vegas crooner. I can’t say punk rock without my mind immediately turning to Mr. Erok. That excellent blend of punk and anarchist who is endowed with the 6th sense of knowing when something isn’t quite right. This sensibility is vital to bike advocacy. Erok has it in spades. He logs and retrieves road injustices and bike parking gaps in his head like a machine and calls upon them at will for public meetings, community groups, and crafting bike maps. Fortunately his work hasn’t gone unnoticed. City council declared an Erok Day several years ago.
After a few years it was good to finally balance the staff with several female hires. Becca, Jane, and Lolly all brought a much needed women’s perspective to BikePGH. In contrast to aforementioned punk rockers Becca also helped balance things with her taste for Phish and the Grateful Dead. Whereas I kept my hippy roots concealed, Becca takes the punks head on, not only with music, but with puns. She finds any prospect of a pun simply irresistible no matter how bad or silly. It’s been a treat to watch her weave a love of crafts into outreach programs like I <3 My Bike and Women’s Zine Night. Becca and Jane make an incredible team. I’ll never forget when I first met Jane. I was in a pinch to get a weekend event covered and Jane the super volunteer appeared. Her enthusiasm and excitement to table for BikePGH was unmatched by anyone . . . ever! She continues to bring that to her job every day. Most recently Mike Carroll has come on board to run events for us. He took Seth Gernot’s place who did such a great job at raising initial support for PedalPGH and Open Streets. Mike has been brilliant in the transition. I remember this past Spring it was late Saturday night and I agreed to meet him Downtown with my truck to return event bike parking to the office. He’d been working the event all day. When I arrived I was tired and ready to go to bed. Mike’s energy was contagious. Before I could blink the racks were loaded and I was back at the office. I learned that Mike’s concept of a long day started at about 18 hours. That’s the mindset one needs to thrive coordinating events. Finally it’s good to know that Dan Yablonsky will be taking the reigns on the Bike Friendly Employer program and continuing his great work rallying Pittsburgh in the epic Rust Belt battle during the National Bike Challenge.
It’s fascinating to think back that it all started when David Hoffman was the victim of a hit and run at Penn & Negley in 2002. His instinct and early adoption of the internet prompted him to have a website up an running almost immediately after Brian O’Neill published a story about the incident. David’s early commitment to the organization was invaluable and without it bike advocacy in Pittsburgh would likely be a fraction of what it is today. His efforts brought together many of the people still on the front lines doing the work.
If you’re still reading, thanks for sticking with me. It’s been fun to reminisce and think of all the wonderful people that have supported BikePGH and the excellent people with whom I’ve had a pleasure to share the job. The organization is ripe for continued growth and success. The team is in place to make it happen. The next four years are critical. It’s well known the incoming mayor wants to hit the ground running, but we can’t know what local politics will bring in four years. Please join BikePGH in striking while the proverbial iron is hot. Become a member, volunteer, sponsor, or ALL of the above!
Lastly if you’re so inclined I’ll leave you with a video link to those early days. It was our second Meet n’ Greet in 2004. We were making an appeal to get people more involved. David and I were taking turns trying to get people excited about the organization. I learned that night the word infrastructure is not good to use when you’re trying to get people excited about something. Fortunately, Dave Joubert the guy who took the video, was able to condense the highlights. It still runs about 7 minutes, but if you’re interested at all in BikePGH history you might find it fun.
I’ll be in town. If you ever want to contact me I won’t be hard to find. Facebook, LinkedIn, or next time you’re at BikePGH just ask Where’s Lou? Happy New Year, everyone!
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.bikepgh.org/membership
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