Pittsburgh is making safety improvements to one of its oldest and busiest bike lanes, the two-way path on Penn Avenue, Downtown.
The $150,000 project will include paving the street, installing metal bollards and concrete curbs and designating specific loading zones between 11th Street and Point State Park. Paving and pavement markings began Monday, and other aspects will be done on a rolling basis throughout the summer with most of the work done overnight.
Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh, said the group has been pushing for the changes to improve safety in the corridor that opened nearly 10 years ago. When money for the project wasn’t in Mayor Ed Gainey’s preliminary budget last fall, the group sent a letter asking for it to be added.
“It’s a really busy bike lane,” Boerer said. “Like everything, it’s starting to wear out. The pavement needs some attention.”
Additionally, plastic bollards that separate cyclists from motor vehicles don’t provide much safety, he said, and don’t prevent delivery vehicles and other motorists from parking in the bike lanes. That creates more danger for cyclists, who then have to drive in traffic.
“It’s a safety issue. We’re seeing all kinds of people parking there,“ Boerer said. “The plastic bollards are fine [to mark the lanes]. They don’t protect the cyclists from cars.”
When the project is done, the lanes will be separated by metal bollards and precast concrete curbs several inches high.
The city also will establish specific well-marked loading areas for delivery trucks, including establishing two “smart loading zones” where motorists can preregister and pay a fee for short-term parking. Those areas will be near Sixth Street and Penn Avenue and Eighth and Penn.
The city started the smart zone program two years ago so that package delivery trucks and others could have quick access to short-term parking spaces in busy areas like Market Square. A study last year by the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure determined that double parking decreased nearly 30% and the time vehicles spent double parking went down by 40% in areas with smart loading spaces.
Regular loading zones for businesses receiving supplies will be established in areas where there will be enough space for traffic to get past parked vehicles. Those areas will be between Sixth and Stanwix Street; at Katz Plaza at Seventh and Penn; and between Eighth and 11th streets.
Boerer said his agency would like to see similar improvements for busy bike lanes in Oakland, where some lanes are on streets with heavy fast-moving traffic.