Editorial: Bike lanes pose serious concerns for fluid Pittsburgh traffic flow

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said that Pittsburgh has a great bike trail network that works its way into Downtown but that “you can’t go through Downtown on your bike in a dedicated capacity.” As of yesterday, that might change.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced on Tuesday that he hopes to have the lane installed before the Pro Bike Pro Walk Pro Place conference in Pittsburgh this September.

The announcement is welcoming, albeit unsettling. While bicycle lanes prove to be very useful for commuters, especially in a commuter-heavy area such as Downtown, it might only increase the physical congestion on already-congested streets. To combat this, there has to be a dialogue about where the lanes would decrease congestion on streets while still promoting efficient modes of travel within the city.

The lack of solidified plans is worrisome for a variety of reasons. The only proposed place thus far has been an installation of a lane on Smithfield Street, which runs between Liberty Avenue and Fort Pitt Boulevard. It seems like a relatively feasible street on which to install such a lane, but traffic is still prevalent there, and the potential for further congestion is likely.

Alternatively, plans to install lanes for cyclists should consider smaller, less occupied streets in Downtown with a majority of foot traffic as opposed to automobile or bus traffic. Such streets include those that weave in between local businesses and office buildings, are beside parking garages and most notably, are parallel to more congested streets.

Installing lanes on those streets could make lane integrations more expedient. Furthermore, it promotes alternative forms of travel and could reduce pedestrian and automobile traffic on streets such as Grant Street, Forbes Avenue and Liberty Avenue, among other high-traffic areas. This would give cyclists the ability to travel through several parts of Downtown, averting the prevalent danger of cycling through highly congested sections of the city.

Proposals such as this are a short-term fix to the much-needed comprehensive review of traffic, which will take much longer than a few months to combat. It is important to note that the proposals of Peduto’s team, while a short-term fix to alleviating congestion, do not have the luxury of failing. Once implemented, these proposals will prompt thousands of commuters and residents to adjust to less street space, which is to be expected. But not creating efficient enough lanes could cause even more problems for Downtown travelers.

Hence, in the short term, when finding solutions to enhance a more fluid traffic system, Downtown should seriously consider creating bike spaces in smaller streets that see less traffic. This seems to increase the ability for bicyclists to travel around the city, all while reducing danger and congestion on busier streets.

In the long term, talks for exponentially enhancing Pittsburgh’s metro system should be considered, but we won’t hold our breath. So, come September, we hope to see more bike routes through Downtown. Until then, happy biking.

 

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