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Helping Pittsburghers Kick Their Car Habit

8:08 AM PDT on May 3, 2010

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

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

Reader Cullen Vandora pointed us to an interesting article on Pittsburgh’s
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 morepeople who had recently found out what it was like to live with a lotless driving. One person’s household was down to one car, another hadrecently moved into an East End neighborhood. They were a bit nervousat first; it took some getting used to.

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

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 PGH
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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