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How Great Bike Infrastructure Encourages More Riders: A First-Hand Account

 Recently, Elaine Kramer from our office took a vacation to Montreal and Quebec, Canada.  Her experience with using the local bike infrastructure has changed her views on riding bikes in town.  This is her story:

I don’t like to ride bikes.

I don’t like the discomfort of seats and helmets, and I don’t like exercise that works only the leg muscles and makes my knees and arthritic hands ache. I don’t like hills and I don’t like the prospect of being on streets with cars and trucks.

I deeply enjoy nearly every other form of recreation, whether on water or land, winter or summer, indoor or out. Just don’t make me ride bikes.

My husband rides bikes. Loves to. Has a good bike. Knows all the trails. Texts me photos of pretty places he sees. Tries to lure me in.

Not only him, but people at work too. They all like bikes. Commute, ride to meetings, and enjoy combining exercise with transportation with a chance to be outdoors.

I’m surrounded by these people.

On vacation last month, my husband and I went to Quebec, Canada. He brought his bike; I brought my fishing gear, hiking shoes and a bag of books.

In Montreal, our first destination, we asked the host at our bed & breakfast her suggestion of how to spend the day. “See the city by bike! We have beautiful trails and cycle-tracks.” My husband’s eyes said, “I really, really want to.” “Sounds great,” I piped up, in an utter but enthusiastic lie.

We set out, he on his bike and I on a credible loaner from the B&B. We rode along the St. Lawrence River through a linear park. The trail was a two-way paved surface with yellow markings down the center. A separate crushed stone footpath wove alongside.

With the river on our left, the trail passed every conceivable park feature and element, all in full use. To our right, neighborhood cross-streets with their own bike lanes spit additional riders onto the trail.

People rode 30 mph or 5, but everyone was respectful. There were scores of people on motorized scooters sharing the trail, along with the occasional motor-assisted bike. With public bike stations throughout the city and along the trails, anyone could grab a bike and take a ride.

After a picnic lunch, we turned toward home base along a scenic canal, the park continuing. We passed miles of newly constructed apartments and businesses built to front the trail. Heading toward the city center, we passed several bike service stations as well as cafes, industries and office buildings all providing bike racks and direct trail access.

To reach the B&B, we had to leave the trail to meander on city streets. Our route was marked with bike “sharrows” and signs, and vehicles passed us with ample room to spare. The road was ours as well as theirs, and everyone acted like they knew that.

We made it back to our room, a little wind burned, but happy and relaxed from the scenery and exercise. I calculated the route was just over 20 miles.

Later in the vacation, we arrived in Quebec City with no specific plans. “What do you want to do first?” he asked.

“Let’s rent me a bike,” I said. “They have six trails marked out on this map.”

It is amazing how having great bike infrastructure can encourage someone who hated riding bikes to become more comfortable, excited even, to ride around town.

A Grass Roots Success Story – East Ohio St Ped/Bike Improvements

East Ohio Concept Plan 3-03-15 cropIn late 2014, the Northside Leadership Conference Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee learned PennDOT District 11-0 was in the final design process for improvements to the section of East Ohio Street between East Street and Chestnut Street. This corridor has one of the highest rates of vehicular/pedestrian accidents in PennDOT District 11-0, a three-county area.

Representatives of the North Side committee asked to review the PennDOT plans, and realized there was an opportunity to include pedestrian and bicycle improvements in the design. Nick Ross, chair of the committee said, “Everyone is a pedestrian at some point during their trip, and many also ride bicycles. We need to be thinking beyond car rides, and incorporating healthy transportation choices into our daily routine.” Abe Stucky, the Leadership Conference’s community organizer, then mobilized and coordinated the committee’s efforts with PennDOT, the City of Pittsburgh Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator Kristin Saunders, City Transportation Engineer Amanda Broadwater, and representatives of BikePGH.

At that point Pashek Associates, a landscape architecture and community planning firm with its office adjacent to the project area, offered assistance. John Buerkle, president of Pashek Associates and a member of the committee, and Sara Thompson, a Pashek Associates principal, reviewed and evaluated PennDOT’s proposed improvements. Then, with input from Stucky and the above organizations, they prepared a plan demonstrating how best practices for bicycle and pedestrian facilities (from the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials and the National Association of City Transportation Officials) could be incorporated into the plan.

East-Ohio-Concept-Plan-3-03-15-webCheryl Moon-Sirianni, PennDOT District 11-0 Assistant District Executive for design, said, “Pashek’s design made a convincing argument for the improvements, as they took into consideration PennDOT’s goals and objectives for the vehicular improvements and worked within the constraints of the physical environment to incorporate these pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements along the corridor.”

On March 4th, PennDOT held a public meeting to unveil the final design for the East Ohio Street Improvements project. Citizens attending the meeting supported the proposed pedestrian and bicycle improvements.

Nick Ross said, “Our proposal was a long shot. We approached PennDOT at the 11th hour in their design process. They had every reason to say we came too late into the process, and therefore our proposed improvements could not be implemented. However, PennDOT recognized the improvements would improve the safety of the pedestrian and bicycling environment, and was committed to incorporating those improvements into their design.”

John Buerkle said Pashek Associates, located along East Ohio Street since the 1990s, was pleased to donate work for this endeavor. “We want to give back to the neighborhood through our design work, and we truly believe these improvements will not only improve safety for pedestrian and bicyclists, but also will have a positive impact on the East Ohio Street business district.”

He added that the improvements are a small piece of a larger plan for bike-pedestrian corridors. The North Side committee is working toward an overall pedestrian and bicycle master plan for the neighborhood. Immediate goals include extending bike lanes along East Street to the northern neighborhoods and Riverview Park, and working with the city and county to extend bike lanes along Chestnut Street and the 16th Bridge to connect to the protected bike lane along Penn Avenue through the Downtown/Lawrenceville corridor.

The East Ohio Street improvements will be constructed over the next two years, beginning this summer and concluding in fall 2016.

Mike Kotyk Moving On…

Mike_Kotyk-Trib2013Please help us celebrate Mike Kotyk’s new endeavor!  Our good friend and valued coworker Mike is leaving Pashek Associates to focus his time and effort on the Over the Bar (OTB) Bicycle Cafés.  As many of you know, several years ago Mike opened OTB Bicycle Café on the Southside.  Given his success with the first restaurant, he opened a second, OTB North Park, located in Allegheny County’s historic North Park Boathouse.  Balancing time with two wonderful children, his wife Erin, a full-time job at Pashek Associates and two restaurants has been a tremendous challenge.  Therefore, he has decided to focus entirely on his family and the restaurants.  Mike’s last day with Pashek Associates is December 23rd.

Mike has been with us for more than ten years. During that time, many of you had the great pleasure to collaborate with Mike on greenway, trail and pedestrian & bicycle projects.  As an avid bicyclist, Mike always worked with our clients to develop creative solutions for expanding pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the communities where we have worked.  Also during his tenure, his unparalleled GIS mapping skills have literally placed us “on the map.”  We have received comments from many of our clients calling our maps the “best they have ever seen.”

Mike also played an important role in Pashek Associates’ becoming a Bicycle Friendly Employer & Bicycle Friendly Businesses, and encouraging our staff to bicycle more as part of our daily routine.  As you may have noticed in our blog posts, we have certainly embraced the bicycling culture.

Please join us in wishing Mike the best of luck with his restaurants.  We look forward to visiting OTB Bicycle Cafés within our region and potentially throughout the U.S in the not too distant future.

Meanwhile, back at Pashek Associates, we will continue to provide high quality GIS mapping to our clients and a commitment to integrate all modes of transportation within our work.

Best Wishes Mike!

1,000 Miles Biked in 2014!

bike-ride-sunriseThis morning, Matt Shaffer and Jim Pashek rode into work today from Etna, logging in just a little more than the nine miles we needed to total 1,000 commuter miles on our bikes in 2014. The sun rise this morning was spectacular as Matt traversed along the Allegheny River toward the Northside. The temperature at 27 degrees, was a little chilly this morning and Jim’s finger tips and Matt’s toes were cold the entire way in this morning. Jim will be asking for warmer bike gloves for the holidays.

There are so many wonderful reasons why I ride to work as often as the weather and my schedule permits. Probably the most important is the exercise this old body gets. But each trip has so many wonderful experiences. This morning I enjoyed riding the edges of frozen puddles, listening to the crack of the ice under my tires. As I write this blog, I can’t help but think back to those many warm rides this year, the people watching on the trail, the wonderful smells and sounds, cheering on the high school kids practicing in their sculls, and the play of light on the river landscape.

We are fortunate to have visionary leaders like Friends of the Riverfront, the County and City planners and now Bike Pittsburgh as they advocated the return of the riverfronts for trail and other recreational uses. We at Pashek Associates are proud of our contribution over the years to the planning of the riverfront trail along the Allegheny River, along the Southside, a gap study of the entire trail system in the City and the design of the mile markers used on the trail. In fact, if you have all of your shopping done, please come out to a presentation in Millvale on Wednesday, December 10 at 6:00pm at the Millvale Community Center about extending the trail from Millvale to the northern reaches of the County along the Allegheny River.

As Planners What Can We do to Accommodate Bicyclists? Part Two

The Secret: It’s all about making bicycling both convenient and comfortable.

In 2008, a paper by Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator for the Portland, Oregon, Office of Transportation, titled “Four Types of Cyclists,” explained the continuum of cyclists as follows:


Geller indicates the separation between these four broad groups is not generally as clear-cut as represented. There is likely quite a bit of blurring between the “enthused,” the “interested,” and those not at all interested, but this has proven to be a reasonable way to understand existing and potential cyclists.

In 1999, a Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities written by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials defined four types of bicycle accommodations: 1.) Shared Roadways, 2.) Signed Shared Roadways, 3.) Bike Lanes and 4.) Shared Use Paths.

Recognizing that these accommodations typically were only improving conditions for Strong and Fearless and the Enthused and Confident cyclists – just 8 percent of the population – planners, transportation officials and many others looked to develop bicycle accommodations that provide an increased level of comfort for everyone else, by looking for solutions beyond that of bicycle lanes. This resulted in new facilities, including Cycle Tracks/Protected Bike Lanes and Bicycle Boulevards. In 2012, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NATCO) formalized these best practices in its Urban Bikeway Design Guide.   The results are now being measured, and they are showing:

  • Decreases in injuries to all street users
  • Decreases in speeding
  • Fewer commercial vacancies
  • Increases in retail sales along the street
  • Increase in users who prefer the new configuration

We have learned that providing bicycle accommodations that are comfortable and convenient have real impacts and benefits to our health, economy and environment. And, as noted in Part One – more and more people are choosing bikes over cars.

So, how does Pashek Associates put new ideas into action? Part Three to follow next week.

As Planners What Can We do to Accommodate Bicyclists? Part One

BicyclingintheUS_4ed37e7bb5be3_w618For quite some time we have heard in the news about the economic, environmental and health benefits of bicycling.

These infographics clearly illustrate those benefits:

What we haven’t heard is why we are even talking about bicycling.

Our society has been car-centric since Henry Ford’s invention of the Model T in 1908, but now our national mindset appears to be changing.

In the 20th century, we geared nearly all development toward car travel. Want more convenience? Sure! Let’s build more two-car garages and large suburban parking lots. Want more efficient routes? Of course! Let’s cut down on starts, stops and red lights, and add more highways.

As we entered the 21st century, we learned that what was good for the car was not necessarily good for our health, our environment and our economy: More sedentary lifestyles fostered skyrocketing obesity rates; carbon emissions from car exhaust exacerbated climate change; and the rise of car-oriented suburban shopping malls hollowed out our once-thriving Main Streets.

There is reason to have great hope for the future, though. Upcoming generations appear to be far less reliant on motor vehicles. Fewer young people are getting a driver’s license. In 1983 about 92 percent of 20- to 24 year olds had one, but in 2011, only 79 percent did. The percentage of 16- to 19 year olds who had licenses fell from 72% to 51% in the same time period.

Young People are Driving Less Today

As a society, we are beginning to realize that that there are more convenient and desirable transportation choices with demonstrated health, environmental and economic benefits. Therefore, many of us are taking a more balanced approach. A recent study by the American Public Transportation Association indicates more Americans used public transportation in 2013 than in any year since 1956. From 1995 to 2013, transit ridership rose 37 percent.

Bike Commuting Growth is Fastest - 2014 American Community Survey State ReportThe 2013 American Community Survey shows a 62 percent increase, since 2000, in bicycle commuting nationwide. Pittsburgh’s increase was a whopping 408 percent, the largest increase of any city in the nation.

So, how can we accommodate bicycling without compromising the efficiency of vehicle travel? Part Two to follow next week.



N. Oakland Proposed Trails: Linking People, Nature, Neighborhoods

Neville-Trail-elevated-trail-renderingThroughout Pittsburgh are wild landscapes that could be terrific places for people to get out in nature. These are the hillsides that we often ignore as we pass by, or that we grumble about because they act as barriers between two nearby places.

What if we consider these wild urban landscapes as amenities instead of annoyances? What if we think about them as convenient places to walk the dog, watch birds or just be outside amidst nature?

Neville-Trail-trailhead-Centre&NevilleThis idea became the final project of Pashek Associates staff member Elaine Kramer in her master of landscape Neville-Trail-trailhead-Centre&Nevillearchitecture program at Chatham University. The  project proposes turning the wild urban hillsides of the North Oakland neighborhood into community assets. This builds on a long-term goal in the Oakland Planning and Development Corp.’s 2025 vision plan. Here are two parts of the plan:

  • The hillside between North Oakland and the Hill District could include a rugged trail that enables walkers to reach the fabulous views at Robert Williams Park, the highest spot in Pittsburgh.
  • The hillside between North Oakland and Lawrenceville could accommodate a multi-use trail leading from Centre Neville-Trail-Melwood-Ave-TrailheadAvenue and Neville Street to Herron Avenue Bridge, creating an important link between neighborhoods and existing trails. Part of this trail would be a tree-top elevated boardwalk.

Here are two links for additional information about the North Oakland wild urban trails proposal:

Post-Gazette news story

Oakland Planning and Development Corp newsletter

Youth Bike Summit 2014: Education and Advocay for a Safer Ride

Youth Bike Summit BrochureThis past weekend, Mike Kotyk from our office attended the 2014 Youth Bike Summit at Parsons New School for Design in New York City on behalf of Bike Pittsburgh

The Youth Bike Summit is an annual three-day national conference that brings together educators, advocates, activists, teenagers, practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and community leaders to engage around youth, bicycles, education, and advocacy. The conference attracts people from different disciplines and backgrounds to network, learn, and explore how the bicycle is a catalyst for positive social change.

Mike attended numerous workshops and presentations that involved learning how different organizations and school districts utilize Safe Routes to School funding to develop and implement Health and Physical Education curriculum focused on pedestrian and bicycle safety and advocacy. Several of these workshops and presentations are available online at:

The Cascade Bicycle Club and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia both have established youth education programs in their local school districts.  Both organizations utilize a “train the trainer” method in teaching school educators how to institute bike safety curriculum for physical education and health classes.  The Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle, Washington actually has a fleet of 300 bicycles with helmets and other props that they provide to 10 schools at a time for a 3 week bicycle safety and education program.  The Philly program uses an off bike approach to teach kids about what to expect on the road.  

In his capacity as a member of the Bike Pittsburgh Board of Directors, Mike is working to assist Bike Pittsburgh in developing an Education, Outreach, & Youth Engagement program.

Some of the organizations that already have exceptional youth bike programs in place include:

Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

Safe Routes Philly

BikeABQ – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Cascade Bicycle Club – Seattle, Washington


Read more about the Youth Bike Summit here: