One of the busier bike commuter neighborhoods in the city—Oakland—is about to see a boost in bike-friendly infrastructure.

Protected bike lanes will be added to the stretch of road that runs parallel to Fifth Ave for many blocks and goes by many names along the way: O’Hara, Bigelow and Bayard.

“The city has been trying to put in bike lanes in Oakland since 1991,” says Eric Boerer, advocacy director of BikePGH. “They’d get approval, but nothing ever happened.”

Schenley Drive bike lane. Courtesy of BikePGH.

But with our culture becoming more bike-friendly and a mayor who backs the complete streets model—an idea that the streets should be accommodate cars, buses, pedestrians and cyclists—the time has come to build a grid of bike lanes.

Last year, Oakland’s first protected bike lane was built on Schenley Drive. Many sharrows—markings that designate a lane shared by both cars and bikes—have also been added in Oakland. More sharrows will be added on and around Atwood and Craig streets.

An example of the sharrows marking. Courtesy BikePGH.

With more than 50,000 students, Oakland was a natural place to see bike lane expansion.

“Students are frequent bike commuters,” said Boerer. They “will often choose the mode of travel that’s most convenient for them. So it’s important to make the choice an easy one for them to ride a bike to class—instead of drive—to help reduce the congestion and parking problems endemic to the neighborhood.”

“This is a route a lot of cyclists use already,” says Kristin Saunders, the city’s bicycle/pedestrian coordinator. “It’s a good east-west road through Oakland.”

Boerer agrees—and cites safety as an issue. “A lot of people are riding—and riding on sidewalks,” he says. “There’s a lot of people new to riding and they don’t feel safe on the streets. If we can make the streets safer, we can get people off the sidewalks.”

The new bike lanes will take traffic off of Forbes and Fifth and complement any BRT infrastructure that might happen, says Saunders. “It’s part of a bigger plan,” she adds.

The city will also be adding a “bike box” at the intersection of Bayard and Craig streets “where there are a lot of cyclists,” says Saunders. “A bike box allows the rider to filter to the front of traffic of an intersection at a red light so the bike can be the first through an intersection. This is especially helpful for new cyclists.”

A bike box. Courtesy of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

“We don’t have any bike boxes in Pittsburgh. They are used all over the world and all over the U.S.,” says Boerer. “Anything we can do to make it easier—and leave that car behind.”

Despite naysayers’ claims that our bike lanes remain unused, the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership released data that Penn Avenue bike lane saw 24,000 bikers in May 2015. Read the report here.

Lauri Gravina

Woods wanderer who was an an editor at New England’s regional magazine, the research director of a Colorado newspaper and a farm hand in Vermont before returning to Pittsburgh to write about and explore her hometown.