Transit

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

City reveals preliminary plans for new bike infrastructure Downtown

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 11:40 AM

Attention Downtown bikers: By summer next year, a more biker-friendly Golden Triangle takes another step toward completion.

City officials discussed new bike routes with community members Monday night. According to Pittsburgh Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Kristin Saunders, the city is currently gathering data and community input for the construction of bike infrastructure that would travel along either Boulevard of the Allies or Fort Pitt Boulevard and connect with the Eliza Furnace Trail (“Jail Trail”) at Grant Street.

Map of existing and proposed bike-infrastructure routes for Downtown. Lines in orange and red are planned and do not show the specific future alignments. - IMAGE COURTESY KRISTIN SAUNDERS
  • Image courtesy Kristin Saunders
  • Map of existing and proposed bike-infrastructure routes for Downtown. Lines in orange and red are planned and do not show the specific future alignments.
Construction is currently slated for August 2016 and the new infrastructure would also connect to the Penn Avenue bike lane, thus completing two sides of a biker’s "golden triangle" (see image). The third side of the triangle would place bike infrastructure somewhere in the vicinity of Smithfield Street, running north-south, and is slated for completion in 2017 or 2018.

Envision Downtown director Sean Luther has been working to compile data of bikers Downtown. While he notes that the success of the Penn Avenue lane (see maps showing popularity of Penn Avenue's bike-share rides here), he says additional data has shown demand from other areas too. Luther notes that counts taken at the Smithfield Street Bridge and Sixth Street Bridge both tally more than 100 cyclists per hour during rush hour.

And Saunders says these numbers could grow if the city creates even better bike infrastructure. She cites a survey from Portland, Ore., that says 60 percent of those surveyed said they are interested in riding bikes in the cities but are concerned about their safety.

“If you provide safer connections to bike infrastructure, more people will bike,” says Saunders.

And that is what the city hopes to do with their new Downtown bike infrastructure projects.

According to Saunders, initially the city was strongly considering bike lanes for Fort Pitt Boulevard, but after suggestions from key stakeholders, Boulevard of the Allies was thrown into the mix. 

At a Dec. 11 public meeting, cyclists and other attendees seemed to form a consensus that the Boulevard of the Allies route could be a better fit than the Fort Pitt route. Local organizations and businesses voiced disapproval of the Fort Pitt route due to parking challenges, and a few biking advocates who initially thought Fort Pitt was the stronger option said they were swayed toward Boulevard of the Allies by meeting’s end.

“It was interesting to hear that some people thought Fort Pitt was better, then say that they changed their mind during the meeting,” says Saunders. “That is rare, but that is why we [hold public meetings].”

Eric Boerer, of BikePGH, says he is also leaning toward supporting the Boulevard of the Allies route. He says the route benefits from being more of a straight shot, and it travels through a business district and past Point Park University.

However, he says the bicycle-advocacy group’s support depends on the final design of the bike infrastructure, which has a few options including a double-protected lane (like Penn Avenue) or two separate unprotected lanes.

Also on the docket for 2016, nonprofit Riverlife's Mon Wharf Switchback project will provide bike riders a car-free path from the Great Allegheny Passage entrance at the southern end of Grant Street to the Point that travels along the Mon River. A switchback allows cyclists to ride up a moderate slope that doubles back (see image below), so they can reach elevated areas (such as the Smithfield Street Bridge depicted here) in a relatively short length.

Rendering of Mon Wharf Switchback, which would connect Smithfield Street Bridge path with Mon Wharf trail to Point State Park. - IMAGE COURTESY OF WWW.RIVERLIFEPGH.ORG/
  • Image courtesy of www.riverlifepgh.org/
  • Rendering of Mon Wharf Switchback, which would connect Smithfield Street Bridge path with Mon Wharf trail to Point State Park.

Boerer adds that the these connections are important to the area’s bike tourism, too. The Great Allegheny Passage is part of a car-free trail that runs more than 335 miles from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., and is a growing tourism draw. Boerer says finishing these projects is important to making the last section of the trail better for riders, which helps draw tourists who want to ride to the Point, and also helps boosts all bike projects in the city.

“It is so important to have all of these connections,” says Boerer. “If we want all of this to be successful, we need to continually expand upon it.” 

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Free unlimited bike-share rides tomorrow throughout Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 at 11:53 AM

If you haven't noticed the unseasonably warm temperatures this December, you are probably overworked or a general hater of the outdoors. But for those who are soaking in all the beautiful days of this normally chilly winter month, Pittsburgh's bike-share Healthy Ride wants to celebrate with you this Saturday.

Healthy Ride stations like these are offering free rides from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Healthy Ride stations like these are offering free rides from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow (Dec. 12), all stations are offering unlimited free rides. You still have to register with Healthy Ride, but for those already registered, simply rent a bike between those hours and it will be free of charge. A promotional code is not required, but to register a debit or credit card is required.

“While Healthy Ride members can ride all year long regardless of the weather conditions, this warm December weekend is a perfect time to encourage people to get out there and take a ride,” says Pittsburgh Bike Share director David White in a press release. “It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend. I hope our members get out and enjoy it.” (Saturday's forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the upper 60s).

There are currently around 50 stations scattered throughout the city, with large clusters congregated in Downtown, Oakland and Shadyside. For more info on where the most people ride and when, check out these cool maps City Paper wrote about here. (The stations in Strip District and near trails along the Allegheny River are some of the most popular, so you might want to get to those early.)

To register for Pittsburgh Bike Share, visit www.healthyridepgh.com, download the mobile app “nextbike,” or call 412-535-5189.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

CMU student creates cool maps of Pittsburgh bike-share stats

Posted By on Wed, Dec 9, 2015 at 1:44 PM

Sure, the idea of riding bikes in December's sub-40 degree temperatures is not appealing for most. But maybe these maps and graphs will motivate you.

Mark Patterson, a Carnegie Mellon graduate student studying social and decision sciences, took one massive data file and turned it into maps and graphs that detail different aspects of Pittsburgh's bike-share system, Healthy Ride. In the bike-share’s opening three months, from June through August, Pittsburghers and tourists took about 40,000 rides combined, but Patterson wanted to see the intricacies.

“Ultimately it works great on both sides,” says Patterson. “We get a fun opportunity to explore, and they get a chance for more insight.”

Mapping the late-night rides of Pittsburgh - IMAGE COURTESY OF MARK PATTERSON
  • Image courtesy of Mark Patterson
  • Mapping the late-night rides of Pittsburgh
Patterson was intrigued by how far people rode (more than enough miles to circumnavigate the world), who rode late at night (see above), and how riders dealt with hills. For example, for every 26 riders who coasted downhill from Shadyside to Lawrenceville, only one rider braved the 200-foot-tall hill on the way back, according to Patterson.

“I live in Shadyside,” says Patterson, “and the bike ride down to Lawrenceville is great coasting, but the way back is not for the faint of heart.”

Patterson says that most of the data verifies what many already guessed — like how the majority of pick-ups are Downtown. But he notes there are some surprises.

When he first started to collect data on riders who pick up bikes from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m., he thought the South Side, with its bar scene, would have the highest percentage. However after compiling the data, the station at Maryland and Ellsworth avenues had 16 percent of its rides occur late at night. Patterson says Shadyside may have the best nightlife, at least among bikers.

And Patterson is not the only one. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission also went crazy with the bike-share data. On the Healthy Ride website, the SPC posted a spider-web map of riders' routes, station by station. From this map we can see that the most popular routes are clustered along the Allegheny River and that Lawrenceville, already the headquarters of BikePGH and Healthy Ride, might have some additional proof that it is the city's unofficial biking capital.

To check out more bike-share maps, graphs and stats visit Patterson's twitter page and Healthy Ride's website

Pittsburgh's most popular Healthy Ride routes in dark blue. - IMAGE COURTESY HEALTHYRIDEPGH.COM
  • Image courtesy healthyridepgh.com
  • Pittsburgh's most popular Healthy Ride routes in dark blue.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Eleven new public-art bike racks unveiled in Pittsburgh Cultural District

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 at 10:16 AM

Myra Falisz posing with her public-art bike rack, "Time-traveling Mike." - PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN DETO
  • Photo courtesy of Ryan Deto
  • Myra Falisz posing with her public-art bike rack, "Time-traveling Mike."
A decade ago, there were no public bike racks in the city of Pittsburgh, according to Eric Boerer of BikePGH. In fact, Boerer says, it took two days of debate just to install twelve of the signature three rivers racks in the city.

Oh how far we have come.

On Nov. 24, Pittsburgh’s Cultural Trust unveiled eleven new bike racks in Downtown’s cultural district. And each rack is a unique public art installation created by a different artist.

“Even something as utilitarian as a bike rack, can function as public art,” says Cultural Trust President Kevin McMahon.

This is the second year the trust has sponsored a public-art bike rack program (last year’s created five bike racks, including one that looks like a miniature 16th Street Bridge). Now Downtown’s art and entertainment district is home to 15 public-art bike racks.

Boerer applauds the trust’s “creative approach” to a modern transportation issue and says the racks are a “perfect balance of form and function."

Wood Street Galleries curator Murray Horne says that four of the racks used stainless steel as their primary material and are maintenance free. The racks were funded thanks to $125,000 from the Colcom Foundation, an environmentally focused nonprofit.

This announcement comes on the heels of Allegheny County gutting the revenue of its public art law, which CP wrote about here.

Cultural Trust vice president Nick Gigante says he was glad to work with Colcom toward their goal of creating more beautification projects. He is also glad that the bike racks can be enjoyed and used every day of the year.

“Part of why we did this was to mark [the cultural district] as a preeminent entertainment and art destination,” says Gigante.

Myra Falisz created the bike rack titled “Time-Travelling Mike” said she was influenced from french author Jules Verne and the culture of the late 1800s. She adds that her art works perfectly as a bike rack because it was inspired by a time frame when bikes became a very popular mode of transportation.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Suburban residents fill Port Authority meeting to max capacity, demanding bus service additions

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 4:23 PM

After a short rally on a cold morning near the Wood Street T station, more than 30 workers spoke to the Port Authority board, expressing their desire for bus service extensions to the North Hills, Penn Hills and Garfield. This is the second consecutive meeting that saw a large number of residents requesting service directly to the seven board members present.

Protesters outside Wood Street T station demanding service additions to North Hills, Garfield, and Penn Hills. - PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN DETO
  • Photo courtesy of Ryan Deto
  • Protesters outside Wood Street T station demanding service additions to North Hills, Garfield, and Penn Hills.
“We are out here to ensure that every community in our area gets the bus service that they deserve” said Molly Nichols of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, an advocacy group, during the rally.

Those communities requesting service are the North Hills, Garfield and Penn Hills.

David Barkovich, Dean of Academic Affairs at North Hills High School, spoke with two high school students, who said they need a bus to get to the Northland Public Library in McCandless and the CCAC North Campus, which a quarter of North Hills High students attend after graduating.

“I believe the heart of our community is education,” said Barkovich. “And right now there is a deficit to get people to the education resources at CCAC and Northland library.”

North HIlls High, Northland and CCAC all sit on Perry Highway, which has little to no sidewalks and no current bus route.

Garfield resident Kevin Martin said his community needs weekend service because the communities at the top of North Aiken Avenue are stranded on Saturdays and Sundays. (The 89 PAT bus route that services the hilly region of Garfield only runs on weekdays.)

“On the weekends, we cannot get off this hill,” says Martin. “We are trying to get to church or to the store, it is very difficult.”

According to a Pittsburghers for Public Transit press release, “Penn Hills residents are asking for midday service along the route of the P17, near Mt Carmel Road. The few trips during rush hour are not meeting the needs of the community.”

PAT spokesperson Jim Ritchie said that public comments submitted via email, telephone, or letter will be accepted through November and then the service suggestions will be evaluated by the board through an equity score process, which CP wrote about here. According to PAT staff, more than 600 request have been submitted as of last week. Barkovich hand delivered an additional 117 at the meeting.

Ritchie said that while there is a formula now in place to evaluate service requests, personal anecdotes by residents “certainly are a factor” because people speaking are “bringing to life the requests.” He also noted, that the more requests a certain route gets, the more weight it will have.

But, according to Ritchie, just because they came in person, does not mean that they “jump to the front of the line” in terms of service requests. Ritchie admitted that the authority will have a tough decision to determine where to make service changes.

Before the flurry of statements by residents, PAT CEO Ellen McLean thanked the residents for speaking at the meeting, but said “any and all service changes are dependent on resources.”

Service change request for the next fiscal year will be taken through November. Any request submitted after that time, will be considered for the following fiscal year of 2017-2018, according to Ritchie.

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Friday, November 13, 2015

Bike PGH discusses 2016 focus areas and starts crowdfunding campaign

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2015 at 10:48 AM

This week Bike PGH launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund its organization for next year, with an emphasis on safer streets. This launch comes the same week that the bicycling and pedestrian advocacy organization is pushing greater driver accountability in car/bike crashes as a way to increase public safety in the region’s streets.

Morners attending the vigil of Susan Hicks, who died in October after being crushed in between two cars on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BIKE PGH
  • Photo courtesy of Bike PGH
  • Morners attending the vigil of Susan Hicks, who died in October after being crushed in between two cars on Forbes Avenue in Oakland.
Jane Kaminski of Bike PGH says that money donated will feed into all of the organization's programming, but there is a special emphasis on “getting people to feel more comfortable biking.”

She says that Bike PGH’s main focus areas for next year are as follow:
  • Finish the city’s Complete Streets Policy (Mayor Bill Peduto issued an executive order in April calling for streets to be designed with pedestrians, cyclists, public transit and cars in mind).
  • Connecting the Penn Avenue protected lane to Point State Park (it was recently extended a block to Stanwix Street, but still has one and half blocks before reaching the park).
  • Expanding the OpenStreets festival events to new neighborhoods.
  • Continuing work on increasing safety on Oakland streets.
  • Further developing our education program, including the City Cycling program for adults and the Positive Spin program for youths.
Bike PGH is crowdfunding through GlobalGiving.org, which can be viewed here, and all donations $10 and over include incentives that show where the gathered funds can specifically go. For example, $25 will provide a student with a bicycle helmet and $100 dollars pays for an hour instruction session for an adult taking Bike PGH’s city cycling class.

And in addition to their crowdfunding initiative, Bike PGH will launch further donation campaigns and will feature stories of Pittsburghers who have been positively affected by their work starting Dec. 1. These campaigns are all part of the organization's yearly drive to raise general funds for the upcoming year.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Riverfront bike/ped trail to reopen to the Strip District

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 1:30 PM

Very soon, bikers and pedestrians will be able to enjoy a car-free ride or walk from the point all the way into the heart of the Strip District.

As announced by Bike Pittsburgh last week, the section of the riverfront trail from 11th Street to 21st Street will reopen some time before the end of October after being closed for more than two years.

Fence blocking the entrance to the trail along the Allegheny River at 11th Street. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BIKEPGH.ORG
  • Photo courtesy of bikepgh.org
  • Fence blocking the entrance to the trail along the Allegheny River at 11th Street.
“The big deal is that it has been closed for over two years, and the completion date kept getting pushed back,” says Eric Boerer of Bike Pittsburgh. “This time it seems legit.”

There is currently a route for cars for riders to pedal from Downtown and all the way to the shops and restaurants in the Strip District: Riders can take the Penn Avenue protected bike lane to 16th street, but then have to dismount and walk on the sidewalk to reach all the action a few blocks down.

Because of the termination of the Penn Avenue bike lane at 16th Street, Boerer and several riders have told CP they turn down 15th Street before the protected lanes ends, and traverse down Smallman Street, which is full of cars backing out of parking spaces in the section from 16th street to 21st street.

“It gives them another option,” says Boerer of the trail reopening. “There are a lot of people who just want to stay along the riverfront and not ride with cars. This provides a better and safer connection for them.”

Boerer adds that this announcement also creates a bettter transition for those wishing to continue up the Allegheny River to Lawrenceville. Since trail ends at 21st Street and exits directly onto the Railroad Street, which has little action from automobiles, a more efficient corridor for bikers through the Strip is now available.

According to Boerer, concerned citizens started to light a fire under city officials after they grew frustrated with repeatedly being told that the trail would reopen month after month.

Numerous tweets were directed at Mayor Bill Peduto, Council Member Deb Gross and other city officials over the last few months asking when the trail will be reopened.

Spokesperson for the Mayor’s office Tim McNulty wrote in an email to CP that the Department of Public Works confirmed that the trail should be reopened by the end of October, if not sooner.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Two 'transit deserts' get bus service back

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Darnell Jones, of Groveton, speaks at a rally celebrating the renewed bus service to his community. - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • Darnell Jones, of Groveton, speaks at a rally celebrating the renewed bus service to his community.
Bus riders from Baldwin, in the South Hills, and Groveton, in the West End, celebrated today Downtown as bus service returned to their communities.

”We got our bus,” Darnell Jones, of Groveton, cried out at the rally at Sixth Avenue and Wood Street. “We don’t have to walk two miles anymore.”

Jones rode the 20 bus route, which now extends out to Groveton, to Downtown with other community supporters and advocates from Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT).

The 44 route also extended its service into Baldwin and now reaches many stops throughout north Baldwin, eliminating the two-mile-plus walk many residents took to reach Brownsville Road.

“I would have to walk miles to catch the bus in Carrick, and then a lot of times, it would be [full] by then,” says Ray Mickiewicz, long-time Baldwin resident and former bus driver.

Both ceremonial rides on the 44 and the 20 were full on their respective journeys. “It was very exciting,” says Nick Coles, a volunteer with PPT who rode the 44 bus. “It was like a growing party, as we went along and more and more people kept hopping on the bus.”

PPT volunteer Laura Wiens spoke to the crowd of 30 about the fight to get service back. She says the advocacy group has been working with residents and Port Authority officials for over a year to reach the “transit deserts” of Baldwin and Groveton. In 2011, the 50 bus route was cut, leaving north Baldwin residents without a bus route for more than four years. (Since 2001, the Port Authority has cut more than 600 jobs and lost more than 130 bus routes.)

But with the passage of the 2013 state Act 89, a comprehensive transportation bill, and the success of the Allegheny County drink tax, the Port Authority is receiving a more steady revenue stream. In late June, it voted to extend routes to serve Baldwin and Groveton.

Wiens expressed jubilation over the extended routes but says the battle is not over and that PPT has new concerns with the Port Authority’s current proposal to raise fares.

“We are not going to stand for fare increases. We already have the second-highest fares in the country,” says Wiens.

Only New York City has higher bus and subways fares at $2.75. Port Authority fares are currently $2.50 for a one-way ride.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bike Pittsburgh to put on special bike parking design event

Posted By on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 at 9:12 AM

East Liberty bike garage - PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • Photo by Ryan Deto
  • East Liberty bike garage
As the city grows increasingly dense and increasingly bike savvy, one less exciting bike component is bound to come up: bike parking.

“Parking bikes is the least sexy part of biking,” says Dan Yablonsky of Bike PGH, “but [better implementation] is going to make parking easier, which makes riding more attractive.”

On Sept. 4, bike, transit and development groups from around the city will meet to teach a course on how to implement bike parking into new and existing projects. Bike garages have become increasingly trendy in cities as of late, with East Liberty getting one as part of the new East Liberty Transit Center.

Yablonsky says there are still many questions associated with parking and the storage of bikes: What is the zoning associated with bike parking? What permits are needed to get bike racks installed? What design should be used now that more and more bike parking spaces are needed?

Experts in civic involvement, affordable housing, cycling advocacy and design will be speaking at the event to answer these bike-parking-related questions.

“A lot of architects want to know how to include bike parking in the design,” says Yablonsky. “And with all the construction that is happening right now, this is a great opportunity for us to teach them.”

Yablonsky adds that Dero Bike Racks will also attend the event and give attendees the chance to get their hands on some the latest bike rack technology. (Dero installed spring-leaded double-decker bike racks used in the new East Liberty garage.)

Yablonsky says that discussions like this are a first for the city and are being brought up because of the city’s revived density issues and the huge increase in Pittsburgh bike ridership. According to the event’s website, Pittsburgh has had the largest increase in bike commuters in the nation since 2000: more than 400 percent.

“I love that the city has gotten to a place where well designed [bike-related] products are necessary to save space,” says Yablonsky.

More information about the event can be found here.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

CORRECTION: Cyclist injured by driver in hit-and-run incident in East Liberty, car matching description reportedly found

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2015 at 1:23 PM

Piece of side-view mirror recovered from crash - PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON FERRANTE
  • Photo courtesy of Jason Ferrante
  • Piece of side-view mirror recovered from crash
A 16-year-old male cyclist was hit by a driver of a blue BMW on Aug. 2 around 7:20 p.m., according to a close friend of the victim.

Pittsburgh Police say they have witnesses who say the cyclist ran a red light.

Jason Ferrante, of East Liberty and a friend of the victim, who arrived on the scene 15 minutes after the collision, says that witnesses believed the car was speeding and potentially driving as fast as 50 mph. According to witnesses, the car continued down East Liberty Boulevard at a good speed after the collision.

Ferrante says a piece of what appears to be the plastic covering of the right side-view mirror was dislodged from the car and recovered by a witness. Ferrante is now in possession of the piece of the mirror and says he will turn it into the police later today.

Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike PGH, has been working with authorities to help identify the driver of the car and told City Paper that a blue BMW matching witnesses descriptions (broken right side side-view mirror, with missing plastic cover, and cracked windshield on the right side) has been found by police.

The cyclist, whose name has not been released, was taken to UPMC Presbyterian and is in stable condition, says Public Safety spokesperson Sonya Toler. “He is doing alright, he has some broken bones, but he is okay,” says Ferrante.

Ferrante says that the cyclist was wearing salmon colored shorts and a white t-shirt and borrowed a friend’s bike to take a “spur of the moment” ride; it was not known if the rider was wearing a helmet. He was heading south on North Highland and started through the intersection when the car, heading west on East Liberty Boulevard, sped in front of him, causing the collision.

“It is a coward-like act to hit a someone and then run,” says Ferrante. 

North Highland Avenue has marked sharrows — markings on the street to designate shared lanes for bicycles and cars — on the road and East Liberty Boulevard has designated bike lanes, but Bricker says that the intersection could use better design to ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. Bricker adds that the last time it was designed was 2007, before the city began considering cyclists and pedestrians more heavily.

“I am not saying it caused the crash, but the intersection is designed so cars can go fast,” Bricker says. 

And while Bricker is appalled at how the crash occurred with a car allegedly speeding, he is pleased with the response from those in the bike community.

Bricker says that more than 15,000 people saw their post on Facebook, and that input from followers helped to identify the vehicle.

“One of the ways we are really successful is getting the word out to enough people,” says Bricker.

Editor's note: This piece was updated at 4:35 p.m. An earlier version did not include information from a Pittsburgh Police press release, which was sent after the initial posting.

Also, in an earlier version of this story, Jason Ferrante — a friend of the injured cyclist — said he believed the cyclist was hit after he went through a green light. However, after being shown enhanced video of the accident by police, Ferrante said he believes the light was red when the cyclist went through.

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