Advocates celebrate city funding for Penn Avenue bike lane upgrades

click to enlarge Advocates celebrate city funding for Penn Avenue bike lane upgrades
CP Photo: Ryan Deto
A car parked in the protected bike lane on Penn Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh
Bike advocates say city funds earmarked for Downtown bike lane upgrades will give riders needed protection from illegally parked vehicles.

Bike lanes have been safeguarding pedal traffic along 10 blocks of Penn Avenue since 2014, but advocates say they are being increasingly compromised by drivers who simply ignore them. In response, the city has allotted $150,000 in next year's capital budget to replace the flexible dividing poles with solid concrete bollards.

City Council approved the budget Monday.

BikePGH, the group pushing the project, credits their success to a new app that allows cyclists to record bike lane infringements and report them directly to Pittsburgh's 311 system.

Armin Samii, creator of Dashcam for your Bike, says more than 500 illegally parked cars have been reported since the app launched in September.

“Every user who made a report through our in-app One Tap 311 tool helped illustrate the constant danger created when drivers illegally park in the Penn Avenue bike lane,” Samii says. “Through our partnership with Pittsburgh, we believe we’ve found a new way to help cities around the country collect better, more accurate 311 data. This is the first step in transforming how cities identify problem areas and make precise investments.”

In October, Samii reported a police car parked along the Penn Avenue bike lane and recorded his interaction with the responsible officer, who insulted him and refused to move it.

Eric Boerer, advocacy director at BikePGH, says the app has helped illustrate the danger illegally parked cars pose to cyclists.

“The relentless activism of the Dashcam for your Bike app users were undoubtedly a major factor in amplifying BikePGH’s push to fix the Penn Ave bike lanes, resulting in Mayor Gainey adding this improvement to next year’s budget," Boerer says.