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After weekend launch, bike share comes to Pittsburgh

By Alexis Mazzeo and Dale Shoemaker / The Pitt News Staff

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Beneath the reflective peaks of the PPG Place Building Downtown in Market Square, Pittsburgh Bike Share launched its new Healthy Ride program Sunday morning.

Roughly 50 people, including David White, executive director of Pittsburgh Bike Share, gathered in the square for a bicycle ride around Downtown. The program includes 50 stations connecting 11 Pittsburgh neighborhoods, including Oakland and Shadyside, each equipped with an abundance of baby blue and silver bicycles ready for renting and riding.

The program launched at the Open Streets Pittsburgh event, which Bike Share helped organize, Open Streets spokesperson Ngani Ndimbie said. Since former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced the bike share program in 2013, she said, the Open Streets and Bike Share have been closely tied.

Ndimbie said its relationship with Bike Share is mutually supportive because both advocate for neighborhoods to become more physically active.

“It’s going to be a phenomenal way to experience Pittsburgh and be a part of something new and bold,” Ndimbie said.

The Healthy Ride bikes are available to rent at the 50 stations, 24 hours a day, all year long, according to White, the director. The bikes will be available for people to rent and return at any station dock. Riders can register at either a Bike Share kiosk or the mobile app, which is hosted through NextBike, a German company that manufactures the bikes. Riders can also use a monthly membership card to rent the bikes. Memberships cost $12 monthly for unlimited 30 minute rides and $20 monthly for unlimited 60 minute rides.

To start, Pittsburgh Bike Share received $1.6 million from a federal highway grant and additional funding from multiple corporate sponsors, White said.

But Pittsburgh’s Bike Share program has not launched without setbacks, particularly with online payments.

A week before its launch, several Reddit users, on both the r/Pitt and r/Pittsburgh pages, posted complaints that Healthy Ride’s website, healthyridepgh.com, was accepting credit card payments for membership on an unsecure server. White acknowledged that he received several complaints but said Bike Share was working to fix the issues.

White confirmed that there were no breaches in security and no payment information had been stolen. He said they did have security measures in place before the complaints.

“We have now taken additional steps with the front end of the website to ensure the integrity of customer information,” he said.

Sara Khalil, a Bike Share field service representative, said since the program’s launch, people of all ages have been renting bikes, and the community seems excited to start riding. The allure of bike share, White said, is in its versatility.

“It’s a great way to see a new city. You get to go to a new city, jump on a bike, and expand the reach of where you would get to go if you were … on a bus tour or locked up in a car,” White said.

Some pedestrians, though, including retired Oakland resident and member of Oakwatch Hanson Kappelman, are more cautionary about the bike share program.

“Bicycling is a healthy thing to do, if it’s [done] respectfully and knowledgeably,” Kappelman said. “But if cyclists aren’t educated in the rules of the road and how to behave, then we’re all in trouble,” Kappelman said.

But Bike Share is for everyone, White said, including non-cyclists.

Kieran Moyle, a field service representative for Bike Share Pittsburgh, said the program is an opportunity to expose more locals to biking.

“It has the opportunity to bring up these issues with new riders who are not as experienced,” Moyle said. “I think it’s all a matter of education.”

Amanda Burke, one of Healthy Ride’s first customers, who was at the Open Streets event Sunday, said biking is a more communal way of transportation.

“I think I’ll visit more stores and shops. You will see more as you ride a bike, as opposed to driving, when you just pass things by,” Burke said.

With the support of riders like Burke and Bike Share’s corporate sponsors, such as Walnut Capital, White said he hopes to expand Healthy Ride to all of Pittsburgh in the next year or two.

“I think we are poised to offer a transportation solution to some of the neighborhoods that have been traditionally underserved by transit, some that have had mobility challenges,” he said.

For White, cycling is personal. Like other people, he said, he remembers the first time he rode a bicycle, and how, after he got over his initial fear, he felt invincible.

“On that first ride I felt a sense of empowerment — I was able to go somewhere on my own,” White said. “And that sense of movement, the sense of freedom that comes with being able to jump on a bicycle and move never really wore off with me.”

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After weekend launch, bike share comes to Pittsburgh