Adaptive POGOH brings new mobility options to the Eliza Furnace Trail | Pittsburgh City Paper

Adaptive POGOH brings new mobility options to the Eliza Furnace Trail

click to enlarge Tricycles and hand-crank bicycles with POGOH stickers sit near a spray-painted shipping container
CP Photo: Colin Williams
Adaptive POGOH bikes sit ready for use during a June 7 press conference
At a festive gathering at the Eliza Furnace trailhead Friday, POGOH, Pittsburgh’s bikeshare nonprofit, announced that the service will be meeting more Pittsburghers where they are — and not just through its planned addition of stations in the coming years.

Rather, POGOH will join the small-but-growing list of bikeshare services that offer adaptive cycles for riders with different mobility needs. For 2024, the Adaptive POGOH pilot will make these available cost-free from a brightly painted shipping container in the trailhead parking lot. The seven new bikes and trikes include a cargo bike, side-by-side tandem tricycle, hand-crank cycle, and recumbent bicycle. Each can be rented for two hour blocks on Wednesdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Sept. 29.

“Physical and mental disabilities should not limit anyone’s ability to use POGOH to safely experience the joys and wonders of Pittsburgh,” POGOH executive director David White said in a press release. “Today we’re making progress to make short bicycle trips possible for people of all ages and abilities.

POGOH staff said Pittsburgh learned a lot from other cities who introduced similar programs in recent years.

“The one that we're modeled after is in Hamilton, Ontario,” POGOH director of marketing and outreach Erin Potts told Pittsburgh City Paper. “They have a very similar program, where they have a shipping container where they store a fleet … And actually a lot of these bikes are the same bikes they use, because they were able to recommend them for us.”

Potts said Pittsburgh also benefited from the lessons Hamilton and U.S. cities including Portland and Detroit learned when introducing their adaptive fleets. “One thing that those systems learned really early on is actually trying to get these at stations isn't the best solution for the folks who want to use these bikes,” Potts said. “They want more of a traditional rental model where there's a person here to help them fit themselves to the bike.”

That’s exactly what POGOH staff will be doing when curious riders visit the Eliza Furnace Trail on Wednesdays and Sundays, whether that involves helping riders learn a new configuration of bike or simply adjust their saddle ahead of an out-and-back.

“A lot of adaptive cycles are really expensive, they’re hard to find, or you have to order them special,” POGOH mechanic Bobby Abramson told City Paper. “We want people to have a free, accessible way to try stuff out and see what works.”

click to enlarge Adaptive POGOH brings new mobility options to the Eliza Furnace Trail
CP Photo: Colin Williams
Pittsburgh city councilmembers stand with leaders from BikePGH, POGOH, and Highmark on June 7
Pending the pilot’s outcomes, POGOH may purchase other adaptive cycles and is hoping to add additional cargo bikes to the fleet at some point in the future. Other organizations offering adaptive cycles include Three Rivers Adaptive Sports and Millvale-based Joy Riders Pittsburgh, which owns bicycles that can attach to wheelchairs for an assisted riding experience along the Allegheny. As the city’s network of lanes and trails grows more interconnected, local leaders are hopeful adaptive cycles will close some of the gaps for riders who don’t use a standard bicycle.

“I always joke that POGOH is kind of the gateway drug to bikes,” said Pittsburgh city councilmember Bob Charland, who said the service had sparked his interest in cycling. Charland said both he and councilmember Barb Warwick were big fans of POGOH for “opening minds” in the city about car-free ways to get around.

“With this adaptive fleet,” Charland told assembled media, “I think this is going to be another great gateway for people to realize there’s a new way to think about mobility.”