In a unanimous preliminary vote, Pittsburgh City Council agreed to move forward with a proposed amendment to City Code that would officially allow the use of bicycles within Pittsburgh City Parks. Wednesday’ vote recommends Bill 2016-0035 be considered for final approval at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 2nd. Should this bill pass, Mayor Peduto must then sign the amendment into law.
City Code currently restricts bicycles to paved roads within City Parks. Despite the fact that this ordinance has not been enforced for some time, this vote is an important turning point for all cyclists who recreate in City Parks.
City Councilperson Corey O’Connor sponsored Bill 2016-0035 after Point Breeze resident Eryn Hughes brought the issue to his attention. “With this legislation we are working to create better, clearer policies for the many residents who make use of our park system,” said Councilman O’Connor.
Hughes has donated hundreds of hours since 2009 working to facilitate this change to City Code as an intern with the City of Pittsburgh, through work with the Open Space PGH planning commission and other efforts. “I am inspired by City Council’s mobilization to bring this issue to vote, and efficiency in communicating the intent with their legal review. I hope that all stakeholders (present, future, continuing to be identified) will see how this benefits all users and we can move forward in alliance for sustainable mountain biking.” said Hughes.
Bike Pittsburgh Advocacy Director Eric Boerer spoke in support of the proposed amendment, citing the positive impact this change could have on Pittsburgh’s standing as a Bicycle Friendly Community as designated by The League of American Bicyclists. Pittsburgh is currently ranked at the Bronze level on the scale of Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. The city’s official adoption of cycling in City Parks may help Pittsburgh jump up to Silver-level status. Due to the current nature of this City Code, Park assets could not be included for evaluation in the Bicycle Friendly Community evaluation. The Bike Friendly Community program is a great way for Pittsburgh to gain national recognition as a city that is accepting of bicycling. When people are looking at factors and choosing a place to move to, or stay, safe biking and walking tops their list,” said Boerer. Boerer posted an excellent blog about this vote on the Bike Pittsburgh website.
Trail Pittsburgh Board Member and Vice President of the Executive Committee Justin Steiner voiced Trail Pittsburgh’s support for the proposed amendment, citing the immense community value of the multi-use trails within Pittsburgh’s City Parks and the importance of including cyclists in these recreational opportunities. “The recreational trails within Pittsburgh’s City Parks are a tremendous asset for city residents and I’m very excited to see City Council recognize the value of solidifying cyclist’s access to these trails,’ said Steiner.
This amendment closely follows the recommendations of the Open Space PGH plan p. 100 Chapter 6 Section 2.6 B to “Update City Ordinance language excluding bicycles from non-paved trails to support the development of mountain biking trails” and validates the recommendation by the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy encouraging visitors and residents to mountain bike responsibly within City Parks.
Trail Pittsburgh is the local Chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association, with the mission to create, enhance, and preserve great trail experiences in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Trail Pittsburgh has organized more than 33,000 hours of volunteer maintenance on singletrack trails since 2001 within park systems in the greater Pittsburgh region, including City Parks. In total, Trail Pittsburgh represents more than 390 dues paying members in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.