Against the startling and devastating backdrop that a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle every 34 hours in Pittsburgh on average, family and friends of Austin Fike — a bike rider killed in Brookline in 2019 — will ride the streets of the neighborhood on Sunday to honor his memory and call on the city to commit to a goal of zero traffic fatalities.
As part of the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims when hundreds of events are held across the globe, Pittsburgh bikers are urging city officials to formally adopt “Vision Zero” as a policy, which would set a target date of 2035 to completely eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.
Sunday’s ride in Brookline will commemorate the life of Fike, a 22-year-old who left behind a young son, a girlfriend, two parents and a sister who “loved him dearly,” said event organizer and local safe streets advocate Connor Mulvaney.
“Going on this ride in his memory helps to keep this advocacy community aware and gives us something to continue to work toward,” Mulvaney said, “and celebrate his life.”
He said he doesn’t want any other family to go through what Fike’s family has gone through and that there are ways to reverse the worrying trend of traffic and road violence.
America is one of the most dangerous industrialized countries for traffic violence, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said, and Allegheny County is not exempt.
From 2018 to 2022, the county has recorded 275 reported pedestrian injuries, 68 pedestrian deaths, 33 bicyclist injuries and six cyclists killed as a result of roadway related crashes, according to PennDOT. Bike Pittsburgh, a prominent safety and activist group, says a bicyclist is involved in a crash in Pittsburgh every six days on average.
Seth Bush, an advocacy manager for BikePGH, called it a “crisis” but one that is completely fixable. Cities have the tools and know-how to fix streets, which ultimately means slowing down cars, Bush said.
If cars are going slower, there’s less of a chance they crash into a pedestrian or biker — and if they do, it decreases the chance of there being a serious injury or death, he noted. But he fears that the U.S. has fallen into a culture that prioritizes speed over safety — where “we need to go fast.”
“That’s unsafe, bottom line,” Bush said. “We know that when cars move faster, they kill people, especially the elderly, disabled and young people and especially vulnerable road users like people on bikes.”
“It’s a paradigm shift that we need to really look seriously at, as a society and city, as to, ‘Where are our priorities?’ And, ‘Are we willing to choose safety and people’s lives over speed?’” he added.
Mulvaney said the intersection where Fike was killed is well known in Brookline for being “particularly speedy.” It’s super wide and has high volumes of traffic, he said, and it could be made safer in numerous ways. For one, the city could put down planters to calm traffic when cars are turning off Pioneer Avenue, he said.
Bush said Pittsburgh has an opportunity to be a truly walkable city, not just for those who want to bike and walk for pleasure but for those who need to go to the grocery store or to work or school. He lauded Mayor Ed Gainey for making this a priority in his budget address to City Council earlier this week.
In his address, the mayor said the city has “seen too many of our residents lose their lives in traffic-related accidents.”
“All these deaths are preventable — and this is why we are committing to a vision of zero traffic-related fatalities so that we can have all the tools we need to keep our residents safe,” Gainey said.
Gainey’s budget calls for a 136% increase in traffic calming funding and adds two new positions in city government to manage those projects.
“Traffic calming is our residents’ most requested service,” Gainey said. “We’re shifting resources to support additional speed bumps, lane reductions, two-way conversions, and other measures to make our streets safe for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.”
Bush, who applauded the city’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure for some of its efforts so far, said he hopes the city will soon set a target date for zero traffic fatalities and release a comprehensive plan.
The memorial bike ride for Fike will start at 10 a.m. on Sunday at the intersection of Brookline Boulevard and Pioneer Avenue. After a vigil, riders will go on a short loop down Brookline onto Queensboro Avenue, then back up Berkshire Avenue onto Pioneer, organizers say. A map and other details can be found on the event’s Facebook page.