ProWalk ProBike ProPlace in Pittsburgh PA

Did you ever think you’d get jealous from looking at pictures from someone’s trip to… Pittsburgh? Kerry Hamilton, HASTe’s Community Programs manager, might manage just that – but she can’t take all of the credit.

Above are a few snaps from Kerry’s time exploring Steeltown during this year’s ProWalk ProBike ProPlace conference – not too shabby! Find out how Pittsburgh reinvented itself as a bike-, pedestrian- and people-friendly city after the break.

words: Kerry Hamilton

images: shamelessly stolen from the internet for fair use

So how does a Steel City become a Bike City? Many ProWalk ProBike attendees from across North America asked the same question – that was until they arrived in Pittsburg and saw the transformation with their own eyes and wheels. With over 1,000 attendees for this years 18th ProWalk ProBike Pro Place conference, it’s clear the growing movement of walking and cycling is transforming cities for the better, with advocates, politicians, and city staff celebrating the explosion of pop-up cycle tracks, walk to school events and public space markets across North America.

HASTe had the privilege of attending this years conference coupling history with inspiration. Here’s a bit of what we learnt, and where North America is headed.

Steel Town:

By the 1860s Pittsburg was a leading American industrial city, known as the gateway to the West. It’s factories created most of the steel and iron that built up the West Coast and the American Civil War. Remnants of this era can still be seen in the historic character of their city buildings and by the sheer amount of steel bridges connecting the downtown at almost every street (Picture 5 more Bridges on each side of Downtown Vancouver!).

Smoky Town:

Rich in industrial productivity, Pittsburg was also known as the Smoky City with smog sometimes so thick that streetlights burned during the day. In 1945 urban revitalization projects for smoke control were pioneered making environment and health a priority way before air pollution and climate change were hot topics.

Bike Town:

Following increasing foreign trade competition and the 1981 recession. Pittsburg’s steel factories collapsed leaving many unemployed and suburbia-bound. Efforts are now in place to revitalize Pittsburg’s Downtown once again; but this time, the steel is on two wheels and reduces smog rather than creating it.

Pittsburg’s revitalization plans focus on attracting people back to the downtown, creating a City where people want to eat, work and live. Their Mayor Bill Peduto recognizes that creating places where people can walk, bike and be is a crucial way to achieve this transformation and is striving for Pittsburg to become one of the toli>10 bicycling cities in North America (currently #21).

Today in Pittsburg, you can buy local produce downtown and have lunch on plaza patios at Market Square, bike to a NFL Steelers Game along their multi-use water front pathway system, or even ride over one of the many steel bridges in your own separated bike lane. There’s still lots of work to be done, but Pittsburg has shown us that even a steel focused, smog burdened city can make a walking & cycling transformation possible.

Walk & Bike to School Inspiration:

Here are just some interesting walking and cycling to school resources and links HASTe picked up from this year’s conference:

Finally, Pittsburgh was the site of some BIG NEWS for cycling, walking and public space advocates and aficionados in Vancouver and British Columbia… but you’ll have to check back soon if you want the full scoop.

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