Cycling in Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh

Fresh Water Cleveland is running a brilliant story (ha, I wrote it) about the differing bike cultures in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. This was inspired by a personal theory of mine that the health of cities can be measured by the number of miles of bike lanes it has and the number of blogs. Any social scientists want to take that on? (By my informal research, that makes Pittsburgh and St. Louis the healthiest Rust Belt cities.)

The Scene: A maze of decaying streets intermingled with dirt-tinged smokestacks and neglected church steeples.

The Action: A small knot of cyclists set off en masse from a Carnegie-built library in a formerly robust steel town.

Background: Cycling is still a fringe activity in this Rust Belt metropolis, wedged as it is between the trendier East and West coasts. But a small yet committed group of riders shrug off the incredulous stares. Some even commute to work, though few of their employers provide showers and lockers, much less secure bike parking. At least the local transit authority finally has installed bike racks.

Welcome to Pittsburgh circa 2003, when the Post-Gazette published the story “Can Pittsburgh Learn to Love Bikes?”

The cycling community in the Steel City was just beginning to coalesce, a full 13 years after Bicycling Magazine named it one of the country’s 10 worst cities for biking. That unappealing distinction inspired Pittsburgh leaders to reflect upon the few who traveled the burgh’s famous hills and bridges through the sheer force of their own power, leveraged by a simple, classic machine.

“A critical mass of bicyclists — activists or not — is one ingredient that Pittsburgh needs to become the kind of hip place that attracts talented young workers now and in the future,” the Post-Gazette posited almost prophetically in 2003, at a time when even many in the cycling community considered the city a dangerous place to ride.

Fast forward to present day and you’ll find a vastly different bike culture has taken flight. Pittsburgh recently won the honor of being named a Bronze-level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, putting them on par with regional leaders like Columbus and Indianapolis. With support of its mayor, Pittsburgh is aiming even higher, hoping to join cities like Denver, Austin and Minneapolis in the Silver class.

Read the full article at Fresh Water Cleveland


Filed under Good Ideas, Headline, Public Transportation

5 responses to “Cycling in Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh

  1. It’s sort of funny cause the landscape of Pittsburgh, pretty much would limit ridership to people who are very skilled and comfortable on a bike. Cleveland should have a natural advantage here. Also, very sad that many of the best flat areas of the city like the North Side are planned around stadiums, casinos and highways.

    There are actually a number of nuts who live in the city just because of it’s challenging bike geography.

  2. schmange

    Wow. That is what I’m talking about. I’m jealous Cleveland isn’t attracting nuts!

  3. You know what I never understood about the Bike Culture….
    Is why they should have the right of way over automobiles on streets.
    when I lived in the phoenix area bicyclists & motorists share the road with the understanding that bicyclists must obey trafiic laws the same as autos when in the street and the same as pedestrians when on the sidewalk or bike path. Seems responsible & reasonable. Nope Bicyclists came back with : but we would have to stop peddling.

  4. Eldridge Chibbleworth

    Where do cyclists “have the right of way over automobiles on streets?” In a straw man world you’ve concocted?

  5. schmange

    Eldridge: That concept is called Woonerf. As far as I know, they are only in Europe.


Leave a Reply to John Morris Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s