Guest Blog Post: The Fastest Way to Get to and from Downtown is by Bicycle

Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and words of the below guest blog post do not necessarily represent or express those of BikePGH. They are solely those of the author. 

Getting through The Strip is a challenge

Guest Blog Post by Nancy Levine, Member, Highland Park/East Liberty Bike/Ped Committee

I have been commuting to work by bicycle for 44 years. Until 3 years ago, I put my bicycle away in the winter and got to work by car. Three years ago, I gave my car to my son, bought snow tires for my bicycle and made the commitment to bike all year.

A lot has changed in Pittsburgh in the past 10 years. I rarely get trash thrown at me out of car windows. Rarely have car drivers yell out of their windows at me, “pay your taxes or get off the road.”

I am rarely knocked off my bike by the wind created by PAT buses that pass me within 12 inches of my handlebars. Now, I am buffered from traffic by bike lanes for three quarters of my commute. Now, I have fellow bike commuters to wave at. It is not so lonely out there anymore.

The Fastest Way to Get Around

I live in Highland Park and have discovered that the fastest way to get to and from Downtown is by bicycle.  The 71A and B take about 45 minutes and make 58 stops plus the additional time to walk to my destination. Without traffic, it is about 20 minutes by car, but another 20 minutes to deal with parking and then more time to walk to my destination.

With traffic, it can take 20 minutes to just get across Downtown by car. It takes about 30 minutes on bicycle-door to door. Parking is free and abundant. The bike lanes on Penn Ave. are amazing.

Getting through The Strip to the Penn Ave bike lanes is the challenge. Liberty Avenue is impossible, with cars speeding in 4 narrow lanes. Penn Avenue only works in one direction. With cars, bikes and pedestrians competing for a chaotic roadway, it is not safe either.  Smallman Street is littered with potholes, crumbling shoulders and bad lighting.

So we take to the alleys. At night, returning from downtown, we ride through the alleys like shadows, forced to take the least unsafe of all the unsafe options.

I remain optimistic, that we will eventually win safe passage through The Strip, as we have won safe passage on Negley, Beechwood and Penn Avenues and through Oakland. I have recently been inspired by the energy of my fellow cyclists who are coming to public meetings to rally for a place at the table, or should I say, a safe place on the road.

A friend of mine sent me a video clip of a 92 year-old woman who commutes to work by bicycle every day. I want to be like her when I grow up!

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