Where to Start if You are New to Bicycling in Pittsburgh
A bike ride is a great way to explore the city. In Pittsburgh, you can do it easily even if you don't own a bicycle.
photo by elaina zachos
A city can change depending on the pace at which you’re passing through it. When I’m walking, I notice the details — the way my neighbor cranks open his old, paint-hardened windows, the sidewalk chalkings left by children trying out new jokes, the dirty jeans and beaming face of someone pulling beans from a plot in the community garden.
It’s a different city when I’m driving — checking to see if there’s a Pirates game as I’m bumper-to-bumper through downtown, realizing I’m in a turn-this-way-only lane when I want to go straight, praying that a small wiggly one-way road will lead to a major artery rather than a dead-end hillside.
And biking. “Biking is a pace where you can take in a lot more about a city,” Ngani Ndimbie says. She’s the communication manager at Bike Pittsburgh, which aims to make the city’s streets and communities safe and accessible — and where I’ve come for some advice.
I’ve been eyeing the Healthy Ride bikes [healthyridepgh.com] cropping up in my neighborhood through the public system operated by Pittsburgh Bike Share [pghbikeshare.org]. Now I’m ready to upgrade my rambling strolls to bike adventures around town.
photo by richard cook
Where can I start?
Lawrenceville to PNC Park: Grab a bike on Butler Street, at the 42nd or 37th street locations. Cross the 40th Street Bridge, and loop under to connect to the Three Rivers Heritage Trail in Millvale. It takes you all the way downtown — hook a right onto Federal Street near PNC Park, where there’s a station to drop off the bike. Have a friend in town? No problem. If you’ve registered online with Healthy Ride, you can rent a bike for up to three friends.
Neighborhood exploration: Something to keep in mind about Healthy Ride: You can pay a flat fee of $2 per half-hour, $12 each month for unlimited 30-minute rides or $20 each month for unlimited 60-minute rides. If you’re on a half-hour time budget, you can plot a neighborhood-to-neighborhood ramble like this:
Start in Oakland at the Carnegie Library station. Bike to Bloomfield by heading east on Forbes Avenue, then take a left on South Neville Street, a right on Centre Avenue and a left on South Millvale Avenue. (For bike-friendly roads, pick up a free bike map from Bike Pittsburgh or access it at bikepgh.org.) After you’ve eaten massive amounts of baked Italian goods, grab another bike and head to Bakery Square in Larimer. You can head out via Friendship Avenue until it merges with Baum Boulevard, take a left on South Highland Avenue, a right on Broad Street and another left on East Liberty Boulevard.
Downtown lunch break: If you work downtown, Bike Pittsburgh’s Eric Boerer has a good idea for you: Grab a bike on your lunch break and head to the Strip District to open up a ton of new lunch options. You’ll have a protected lane on Penn Avenue, and, as Ndimbie points out, the front basket is excellent for holding sandwiches you want to bring back for your co-workers.
What to eat this month: figs
September is the perfect month for fresh figs, says Mary Miller, a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian nutritionist with a master of public health degree.
Miller cites Pittsburgh’s Italian-inspired culture of growing figs. “They really reflect Pittsburgh’s heritage as well as being a healthful food,” she says.
With just 30-35 calories each, figs deliver potassium, fiber, calcium, magnesium and iron, as well as vitamins A, E and K, says Miller. Miller says she likes to chop them up and mix them with oatmeal, drizzle honey on them and serve them with cheese, or cut them into wedges and add them to a salad.