Open Streets Pittsburgh is Back in Full For the First Time Since COVID-19 Struck
The event, which shuts down city streets to cars and other traffic, is run by BikePGH.
Open Streets Pittsburgh is making its first full return since 2019 — and a few notable changes are in store.
Open Streets Pittsburgh is an event run by BikePGH that shuts down city streets to set up a car-free community event, free of charge. The event runs on the last weekends of May, June and July, with the first event taking place on May 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The route changes each month; May’s route spans two miles from Downtown to the South Side.
So, what does one do with a 2-mile stretch of road without any cars? The answer depends on the attendee. BikePGH designs Open Streets to be accessible and enjoyable whether attendees are walking, biking, skating, in-line skating or using any other form of self-powered vehicles. Local businesses welcome attendees to peruse their wares, while activity hubs can be found along the route and offer a variety of free activities, including exercise classes.
The purpose of the event is to encourage Pittsburghers to reimagine their city streets as a place that puts citizens, not cars, first.
“The aim is really to be a demonstrative event, to show people what a space could look like, or how things could feel, if so much of their streetscape was not dedicated to motor vehicles,” says Keya Joseph, director of events at BikePGH.
The coronavirus pandemic has kept BikePGH from holding a proper Open Streets since 2019. The last Open Streets was a mini event that relied on using an area of the city that could be shut off in case the event hit maximum occupancy under local and federal guidelines for the pandemic.
Joseph states that the pandemic has not diminished enthusiasm for Open Streets.
“Interest in our Facebook events and on social media has been huge as always. People have been asking us for the past two years, ‘When is Open Streets coming back?’”
Joseph adds that she is hoping to see a crowd of 50,000 across the three events.
For this year’s event, BikePGH is making several changes for health and safety. Hand sanitizer and masks will be available at every activity hub. The layout of the event also has been changed to avoid congestion at activity hubs and to reduce traffic. Another change to Open Streets is that it will be run purely on sustainable energy for the first time after BikePGH worked with Zero Fossil, an eco-friendly energy company that uses biofuel and solar power.
Zero Fossil and several other organizations dedicated to sustainable energy and car-alternative transportation — such as Green Mountain Energy, Port Authority and POGOH Bikeshare — will also be represented at the event.
If you plan to go to Open Streets, “bring sunscreen,” Joseph says, “and if it’s a sunny day, make sure to have a water bottle you can fill up [and] comfortable shoes.”
Also, if you plan on going into any businesses, bring a bike lock. Joseph says bike racks will be provided at the event’s activity hubs.
Masks may be required by local businesses, so attendees should bring one of their own or grab one at an activity hub.
Open Streets Pittsburgh will happen on May 29, June 26 and July 30. The full schedule of what businesses are participating will be available this week on the Open Streets website, where you can also find the routes for each event.