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Helping Pittsburghers Kick Their Car Habit

667811866_b4d6de3b9f.jpgA Critical
Mass ride during Pittsburgh’s 2007 Bike Fest. (Photo: lemonad via

Could Pittsburgh become the "green city" of the East Coast?

Reader Cullen Vandora pointed us to an interesting article on
by designer Bob Firth. Firth writes that as the city embarks on a new
comprehensive plan, it could use an "intervention" — a 12-step program
of sorts — aimed at breaking its addiction to cars:

The city of Pittsburgh is kicking off a huge new comprehensive plan
called "PlanPGH." It incorporates
the Move PGH task force, announced in January, to look at improving
transit and walking and biking options dramatically. With Earth Day
fresh in mind, I’m considering just how hard it will be to get more
Pittsburghers out walking and biking.

Firth goes on to list 12 concrete ways that the city could encourage
its citizens to leave their autos behind. Among his proposals: separated
bike lanes, deals for families using transit, more frequent weekend bus
service, a policy of clearing snow from pedestrian and bike routes, and
summer Ciclovía-style events.

Firth would also like to see Pittsburgh promoting the idea that "Life
with a Lot Less Car In It" is "the great city-living pleasure":

When I started working on this piece, I ran into more and more people
who had recently found out what it was like to live with a lot less
driving. One person’s household was down to one car, another had
recently moved into an East End neighborhood. They were a bit nervous at
first; it took some getting used to.

But to their great surprise, in a short time they found using buses
and walking more was an enjoyable way to live. We need to let the secret
out: Life with a lot less car in it is not scary or a sacrifice. It’s a

So, do Firth’s suggestions have a chance of being taken seriously by
city government? Well, there has been a lot of positive change in
Pittsburgh over the last 20 years. As Streetsblog Network member Bike
noted over the weekend, the city was just awarded Bronze status
for bike-friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. Back in
1990, Pittsburgh was ranked one of the three worst cities in the nation
in which to ride a bike.

Big change can happen.

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