Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bike Corrals and the Southside of Pittsburgh

Bike Corral at OTB
The other day while I was out riding I decided that a bit of food was in order. (I know what you’re thinking but I don’t always go to OTB for food.) I wanted to get some miles of riding in as well so I tooled on over to the Southside Jimmy Johns, got off my bike and found that I had no place to lock up my bike. not that the bike racks outside of Jimmy John’s were full, but that there were no racks outside of Jimmy John’s

I was just a little surprised. 

Jimmy John’s does employ cyclists as delivery people. Several of my friends deliver for Jimmy John’s and even more of the delivery people are regulars at the local cycling hangout. I had to wonder just why the lack of bike parking. If nothing else a place for the delivery people to secure their bikes.  I took my drink and sandwich and sat facing the front windows so I could keep an eye on my bike. The longer I sat there the more bothered I got about the lack of parking. So I did what anyone would do. 

I fired up my phone and hit facebook. I send Jimmy John’s the following message:

No bike parking outside your South Side pittsburgh shop. Why? South Side is cycling Mecca in pittsburgh. You can do better than this.

To which I got a quick response.

Jimmy John’s
I don't know, but I do love bikers and bikers love Jimmy John's! Thanks for the feedback Terry

On the inside I knew that bike parking has not been a high priority in Pittsburgh, and I was willing to accept that we need to strive for more but accept what we can get. That was until the car that was parked in front of the store pulled away leaving an open Parking space. 

Just the size of a bike corral. 

I’m betting the people in the store could hear the gears turning as I visualized a bike corral in place of the open parking slot.. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. The bike trail on the south side is broken up (in my mind) into three parts. The first part is the station Square portion of the trail that runs from the Duquesne Incline past the hounds field, station square and behind the cement factory. The Second part runs from S4th street (just past the terminal properties) thru riverfront Park and down to Hot Metal Bridge. The Third part of the trail runs from Hot Metal bridge to Sandcastle Waterpark in the Waterfont in Homestead.

Station Square has some bike parking and the Waterfront has to many problems to go into in this article. 

Right now I'm focused on the Southside and the southside trail. I am defining the southside as east carson st from s10th to Hot metal Street, and the southside trail as the section of the trail from s4th street to Hot metal St. First a little information about the trail. Exits and Entrances to the trail are limited to 4th 9th 18th and 26th streets. So it seems that it would be advantageous to have bike corrals at the start of the Southside (Near 10th st.) in the middle of the Southside (Near 18th st) and at the end of the Southside (Near 26th st) 

Now back to what started this all Jimmy Johns in located at 1717 East Carson St. the nearest bike corral is up between 25th and 26th. So that means they are located almost next to where the bike trail empties onto to carson. So in my mind this would be a perfect place to locate a Bike Corral. This got me wondering just how does one go about getting a Bike Corral placed on the street. So again I fired up my phone and went to Email instead of Facebook and asked the people at Bike PGH. Eric at bikePGH outlined the different plans 

1. Free bike rack from City Request Program. - This may take awhile.  Since the meter removal, the City has been using all of their racks on the districts that lost meters. The program is on a bit of a hold, but they could still apply, it might just take a long awhile.

2. Purchase bike rack, install yourself.  - They can get this done really quick. Long story short: It's a $25 permit, the city checks out the site to make sure it's not in the way and ADA compliant, then you buy and install yourself.  all info is located on our site, including the forms to download: 

3. Corral: There's a permit application, as well as getting the permission of the neighbors on your block, but I haven't figured out how they are supposed to "formally" get the approval. If it could work out, it will be free. HOWEVER, it will no doubt take a long time, especially considering the Southside has a corral, with a second already on the way.  They gotta spread the love to other neighborhoods first.  

On City owned streets, ie Highland Ave Mad Mex.  There's a corral request form, which one technically needs to get from the Bike/Ped Coordinator, but I can send it to them as well.  They need to get their neighbors on board, because the last thing the city wants is complaints, and they are supposed to demonstrate that there is a need, as well as showing that there are no viable off-street options (like if they have their own parking lot, for instance). They then have to sign a maintenance agreement stating that they will help keep the corral free of trash and snow, and notify the city if there is an abandoned bike or if the corral is struck by a car or something.  The City then creates a work order, and eventually it gets installed.

If the street is owned by PennDOT, like E.Carson st there is one more step.  The city will need to apply for what's called a Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP), which adds at least a month to the process.  This will most likely be done by the City, but it also means that PennDOT will need to review the site and the plans. They also want to be able to remove it if need be, say for some major plowing effort or repaving or something.

I will always be a fan of Bike Corrals over Bike Racks on the sidewalk for several reasons. 

First, off bikes don’t belong on the sidewalk. Cyclists have to constantly fight for acceptance on the roads. I’m not saying that having to lock your bike up on the sidewalk is a step backwards but I do feel like it is a solid step sideways.  

Second, if we want to increase the number of people cycling on the roads (and we all know that more cyclists on the roads means safer roads for everyone) then we need provide the infrastructure that the General Population will be able to use. 

Third, I think it would be better to concentrate the bike corrals to a neighborhood like the Southside instead of “Spreading the Love around to different neighborhoods. Maybe I’m wrong but I believe that by putting 3-4 bike corrals equally spaced out along carson from 12th to 26th you will begin to see what kind of impact this has on the neighborhood as a whole. We could use that kind of data to find out what works and what doesn’t. This will help other neighborhoods create these cycling friendly areas with minimal impact and maximum effect. 

Simply put I want people to cycle because it is simpler and easier to ride to the southside, park your bike and shop then jump back on your bike ride the 6 blocks and lock your bike up there and shop some more because it is easier than it would be to get in the car, fight traffic, find a parking spot, and then only shop in that small section of the southside because you don’t want to have get back in the car, fight traffic and look for another parking spot eight blocks away.  

If you want people to start riding bikes then you have to do three things. Make riding a bike easier, cheaper, and more convenient than a car. I don’t believe that Bike Corrals are some kind of magic bullet that is going to change the inherent car culture in Pittsburgh but I think it will be a large step in the right direction.


  1. I'd pay a little closer attention to the politics of Jimmy John's as a company before encouraging people to shop there.

  2. I don't care about anyone's politics. if you read through this blog you will find very little (hopefully none) political leanings or mentions. I don't talk about endorse or even care to mention anything about politics. I think cycling is for everyone no matter who or what you believe in.

    I go to Jimmy John's for the following reasons

    1. I like their sandwiches
    2. My friends work there

    end of list.

    If I were to look close I am sure I could find something wrong with every shop and every person, except you of course.... (insert sarcastic smile here.)