OpenStreetsPGH 2015. Photo by Tracy Certo.

OpenStreetsPGH will kick off its third full year on May 28 with a new route through the South Side and Uptown.

Dubbed “Tunnels to Town,” the route will begin in Market Square and travel east along Forbes Ave. through Uptown, over the Birmingham Bridge and west on East Carson Street to the Tenth Street Bridge, and through the Armstrong Tunnels back to Downtown and Market Square.

OpenStreetsPGH invites members of the public to dance, run, walk and bike through city streets by temporarily closing them off to vehicle traffic. Inspired by the “Ciclovia” movement that began in Bogotá, Colombia, Pittsburgh is one of more than 100 cities in North America to take part in the Open Streets Project.

“It’s about transforming city streets into linear public parks,” says Mike Carroll, event manager at BikePGH.

The three OpenStreetsPGH events of 2017 will take place the final Sundays of May, June and July, respectively, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

June 25 sees the return of the “City of Bridges” route from the West End to the North Side and Downtown, while July 30 will be “Doughboy to Downtown,” which starts in Market Square and travels through the Strip District to Lawrenceville.

Dan Yablonsky of BikePGH speaks to members of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. Brian Conway photo
Dan Yablonsky of BikePGH speaks to members of the South Side Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Brian Conway.

At a recent meeting with South Side business owners to present the new route, Carroll explained how OpenStreets is a family-friendly event that brings in people from all over the area to explore new businesses and locales they might not otherwise notice or patronize.

Some 55,000 people attended the three OpenStreets events in 2016 and BikePGH anticipates even more this year. Carroll says those in attendance represented 120 zip codes, and 87 percent of participants spent money during the event.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the neighborhood,” says Matt Christie, executive chef and owner of Streets on Carson at 1120 E. Carson St., one of the businesses affected by the street closure. He plans to have a DJ outside of his restaurant for the event and hopefully roast a whole pig to sell porchetta sandwiches from the sidewalk.

Ryan Smith, owner of Benny Fierro’s at 1906 E. Carson St., plans to sell breakfast pizza slices and cold brew coffee for early morning participants. “It’s really a great way to get some of the new businesses and staple businesses exposure to people from other neighborhoods,” says Smith. “It’s positive press for a neighborhood that doesn’t always get it.”

Dan Yablonsky, business development manager at BikePGH, credits meetings between South Side Smart Streets and BikePGH Advocacy Director Eric Boerer for helping to secure the new route.

“We wanted to add a new route this year and it just made sense to have it in South Side,” says Yablonsky. “It’s one of the most vibrant business districts in the city.”

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.