Proposed advisory board on bike lane infrastructure in Pittsburgh close to final passage

Author: Alanna Koll/Wednesday, February 15, 2017/Categories: Pittsburgh

Legislation to create an advisory board on bike lane infrastructure is one step closer to final passage in the City of Pittsburgh. 

In order to address the rising trend of increased bike lanes across the city, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, sponsor of the legislation, hopes the advisory board will allow biking stakeholders, the administration, and residents to work together to decide where the popular mode of transportation should and shouldn't be constructed. 

“As we increase the bike lanes across the city of Pittsburgh, I think we need to make sure that we are engaging more with the public,” said the Councilwoman. “Basically we just want to make sure that this represents a diverse group of people so that we are addressing all of the needs of the community.”

Thirteen representatives from different areas of the city will make up the board, including representatives from bicycle advocacy organizations, the parking authority, department of City Planning and the City County Task Force on Disabilities. 

A representative from the Bureau of Police was added to the list since the original legislation was introduced a month ago, to give insight into traffic patterns and restrictions. Two representatives from the business community were included as well. 

The board will then be tasked with establishing draft policies and procedures for installing bike lane infrastructure and to review proposed plans- a process that has not been in place since the inception of bike lanes in the city, said Councilwoman Kail-Smith. 

“City Planning has some engagement with others but there is nothing in writing saying these are the policies and procedures you have to follow prior to installing a bike lane,” she said when the legislation was first introduced. “That’s what this is doing.” 

The Councilwoman noted that the lack of public process and an established set of policies for creating the lanes was brought to her attention when businesses along Fort Pitt Boulevard came forward and said they were not asked for input when the city decided to build a bike lane on their busy downtown street.

Fred Goldsmith, owner of Monview Holding, LLC, said his business on Fort Pitt  would “essentially be suffocated by the proposed bike lanes,” and is concerned whether or not the task force does enough to be inclusive to all.

“I’m concerned whether or not it provides sufficient voice to building owners such as myself, businesses, and tenants so that they are not watered down by people who already speak for the city in their official capacities,” he said at a recent City Council meeting. 

Councilwoman Kail-Smith noted that since the legislation was first introduced last month, she has taken into consideration a lot of feedback from different groups to try to make the advisory board as efficient as it can be.

“We took a lot of feedback from a lot of people….we tried to take a little bit from the business community, a little bit from the public and a little bit from bike advocates,” she said. "Right now we have a temporary infrastructure costing millions of dollars that really should have been thought out better. Going forward I hope we’re more inclusive in what we create.”

The proposed board will be tasked with coordinating a public hearing 45 days, as opposed to the 90 days previously listed, before the installation of any bike lane and City Council must be briefed on any lane 45 days- 120 days previously listed- before its installation, as well. 

The legislation was voted out of the Finance and Law Committee and could be voted on finally as early as next Tuesday.