Mmmm, Pittsburgh, you are delicious. There are so many great bridges to choose from here, so many beautiful things to see around the city which we just can’t appreciate when driving 25-75 mph over a bridge. You need to (be able to) stop and sit and eat brunch with your neighbors in order to be able to take it in.
I took these pictures last week while a friend was driving. They’re okay, but they leave me dying to stop and see more!
Riding or walking makes it possible to take in the sumptuous view more thoroughly, but the opportunity to sit and relax and talk to people and eat and absorb the city over one of our three rivers isn’t a regular experience of people here.
I think it should be.
This fits in to what I was thinking at 2 o clock in the morning several years ago when I came up with the awkward name of this blog “Re-imagine an Urban Paradise.” After all, what is could be more of an urban paradise than a temporary retreat on one of the bridges, over the rivers? Feeling the gorgeous summer breeze while having the opportunity to have brunch in a magical space?
What Else is Possible?
Repurposing a bridge permanently!
Let’s turn a bridge into a public park.
And extend the public market onto one of the bridges, with outdoor cafes (without door cafes?).
Let’s have all age dance parties every night during warm weather on one side of the bridge.
And show movies over the river!
Let’s have music and art performances.
Let’s have some grass and trees and flowers!
I think at least half of the space should always always comfortable public gathering space that is free and has clean and attractive drinking and bathroom facilities.
What Would You Like to See?
If you could have it your way, what would you do with the space? Imagine any bridge in any city. Then re-imagine it. Suddenly it’s not just for transportation anymore. What else could it be?
Washington, DC, where I cut my teeth on a bicycle, was ranked number 13. I wrote about DC biking culture and infrastructure for Momentum magazine last year, but even in a year, a lot of dramatic improvements have been made.
When I was researching the story for Momentum, I organized a happy hour to get the feel of what average riders and advocates wanted to see changed to make the city better. The top four recommendations kept surfacing again and again:
Impose a congestion/commuter tax on those who drive into the city from Virginia and Maryland. Since the population of Washington nearly doubles to a million during the work week, it is logical that those drivers who benefit from our roads ought to pay for them.
Install cycle tracks (bike lanes) on all arterials and on all future construction.
Initiate a widespread education campaign about the rules of the road, sharing, and how to be both a safe driver and rider; delivered through PSAs, driver education programs and public schools
Complete the trails that are unfinished, repair those in disrepair, and begin construction on all others.
What elements do you consider important in your decision to ride, or to not ride, your bike?
“What many cities in Europe have found out, is that pedestrians and cyclists are better shoppers than those who arrive in automobiles. They are more able to stop on a whim, browse casually…. Many major shopping districts in European cities are car-free, and they thrive.
Active citizens are healthier citizens, and more productive citizens, and the city, as well as companies, pay money to support health care costs for the citizens of a city. An active lifestyle is one of the best preventative medicines, and countries in Europe have done studies that show the monetary benefits of having their workforce healthy and productive due to being regularly active are massive.
We spend hours and hours sitting in our cars, wasting fuel, wasting time, polluting the air. Our streets simply cannot handle the volume of traffic we currently have, and we are expecting growth. Not only can we not afford to tear up our neighborhoods to build bigger roads (from a community point of view), we can much more easily afford to add bicycle infrastructure to our existing roads than build more roads. Portland’s entire 300 mile network of bikeways cost about the same as 1 mile of urban freeway. Granted, some of the stuff in the Portland Bicycle Plan is more expensive that what we have done so far, but it is still minuscule compared to the cost of building and maintaining automobile-only roads.”
Planning a city for public transportation, for bikes and pedestrians is both more space and cost-efficient. In addition to the monetary savings, investing in active transportation provides enormous health benefits, including improved air quality.
Now is the perfect time to start making sound decisions for our neighborhoods and cities.
In this capacity, Elly examined some of the experiences she has had as a rider, a customer, a journalist, and an advocate in the male-dominated cycling world. It’s a touchy subject, certainly: her article generated 194 comments, many positive and affirming, some less so.
Elly notes a recent study by Scientific American which confirms what is obvious to any cyclist, that women are outnumbered in bicycle trips in the U.S. 2:1, or 3:1, in the case of New York City. Women are not just underrepresented on the road, but also in bicycle shops, and advocacy leadership positions. Scientific American suggests that “women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities”, so what do we need to get more women on bikes? Here are a few possibilities off the top of my head.
Women in transportation leadership positions such as Jannete Sadik-Khan, who is changing the face of New York City streets?
Municipal programs such as Portland’s “Women on Bikes” which offers classes on “Riding with hurdles” and maintenance?
Community-based programs like the women and trans night at Pittsburgh’s bike collective Free Ride?
More women in advocacy positions?
More women writing about bicycles as transportation, such as Amy Walker, Mia Kohout, and Tania Lo of the superb magazine Momentum?
More tax breaks?
More subsidies from employers?
Showers in the workplace?
Bicycle safety information required in driver education program?
Bicycle education in elementary school as is standard in many countries in Europe that have much higher rates of women riders?
Education for police officers?
In order to improve our the health of our communities, it is essential that we move away from single passenger car usage by funding transit and bicycle infrastructure, as well as doing whatever possible to get more people riding bicycles.