Community members support, critique bike lane proposal at public meeting

By Dale Shoemaker / News Editor

Put Oakland and bike lanes in the same sentence, and some residents are bound to get upset.

At the final project presentation for proposed bike lanes in Oakland, some of the more than 50 attendees were concerned that installing bike lanes along the O’Hara, Bigelow, Bayard Street corridor would eliminate space for street parking. Others said the bike lanes would make driving more dangerous and one man questioned the entirety of the bike lanes plan.

 Led by Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Saunders, the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Public Works is planning to install a Bike Share Street Network Plan that would connect Oakland’s current bike lanes and shared roads to other, existing bike routes. Thursday marked the final public presentation of the plan, where Saunders and other members of the Department took public comments for the second time before the City begins installing the lanes. The Department first released plans for additional bike lanes in Oakland in April and held the first public meetings presenting it in June.

For cyclists, the bike lanes would give them a protected space to ride, but for drivers, the bike lanes could mean less street parking. Saunders presented the details of the plan to attendees on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Oakland Career Center. When in place, the plan will install new bike lanes to connect Forbes Avenue to Schenley Drive, lanes along the O’Hara, Bigelow, Bayard corridor and several shared lanes in South Oakland, including ones on Atwood Street, Meyran Avenue and Louisa Street.

In total, the proposed bike lanes will cover 12 different streets in Oakland and will eliminate 85 parking spaces, a point of contention for those present at the meeting. Another complaint involved the proposed left turn boxes, which would allow cyclists turning left to safely navigate an intersection. By giving cyclists a space to line up in front of cars, the proposed boxes would allow cyclists to get a head start on traffic.

Mary Fletcher, 50, who lives in an apartment building on the corner of Bayard and Craig Streets, opposed putting a bike lane along O’Hara Street in front of Western Psychiatric Hospital.

“You’re encouraging use of a road that is almost primarily used by emergency vehicles. And that’s foolhardy and foolish,” Fletcher said.

In response, Saunders, who took Fletcher’s questions, said there were plans to ensure ambulances were able to access that space. Fletcher, however, was also concerned about the intersection in front of her apartment building, where she crosses the street to get to work every day.

“I’ve lived in Oakland a long time,” Fletcher said. “And trying to put that configuration there at that intersection, it’s going to be a disaster.”

Others at the meeting, like Phil and Abby Kreckel, said they attended to thank Saunders.

According to Abby, she and her husband, who live in North Oakland on Bigelow Boulevard, were overjoyed when the city installed the first bike lanes. She said the bike lanes allow her to take her daughter along with her on bike trips to the grocery store.

“When there’s better infrastructure, we feel safer,” she said.

After her presentation, Saunders explained that she would try to accommodate those who spoke up, like Fletcher, to make the bike lanes positive for everyone.

“Everyone has a stake in the roadway,” she said. “It’s all about finding the best use of the roads.”

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