New bike lanes Downtown. Photo courtesy of BikePGH.

At long last, the 150-mile Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) now goes all the way from Maryland to the Point, as a final piece of bicycle track nears completion Downtown. A crucial gap has been filled in the GAP.

“The GAP trail (the Eliza Furnace and South Side Trails) serves as the backbone of the city’s bike network, allowing people from neighborhoods and communities fairly far from Downtown to commute in on a flat, safe trail,” says Eric Boerer of BikePGH. “But many people don’t feel comfortable riding (Downtown) with traffic.”

The new project includes street upgrades and a two-way dedicated bicycle track that runs on Stanwix Street from Third Avenue to Penn Avenue and down Penn Avenue and Liberty Avenue to the intersection of Commonwealth Place, connecting the existing bicycle lanes to Point State Park.

New bicycle infrastructure Downtown. Photo courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh.

“First and foremost, it connects the trail system to the heart of Downtown, making it that much safer and easier to commute by bike and access the thousands of job opportunities in the area,” says Boerer. “Next, it completes an on-street connection from the popular GAP trail, which connects all the way from Washington, D.C. into Downtown’s great food and cultural offerings.”

Due to the narrow streets, they had to get innovative. That includes a bike lane behind a bus stop on Liberty Ave, a contraflow bike lane on Third Avenue, and a shared bus-bike lane on Smithfield Street, among elements, explains Boerer. “While not installed yet, there will also be some bike-specific signals at a few intersections,” he adds.

The trail includes new signage and pavement markings, as well as a sidewalk extension bus platform. The bicycle track runs over two raised bus platforms, so bus riders can safely access buses without vehicles obstructing the bike track.

The city estimates that there are about 1,100 people who commute to work Downtown by bike each day.

“I take a little bit of heat — you may not have heard that before — about bikes,” said Mayor Bill Peduto, at a press conference on Monday. “It’s more about building our streets for everyone. It’s more about understanding that there are those that don’t have a car … When we talk about complete streets, we talk about a complete city. We talk about building a city that is accessible for everyone.”

New bicycle connection on the GAP (dotted yellow line) trail.

The project began in 2015. The finishing touches, which include traffic signals and electrical work, will be completed in November. The total construction cost is $758,746.

It’s hoped that momentum from this will carry on to Pittsburgh’s new plan for citywide bicycle connectivity.

“The City’s Department of Mobility and Infrastructure is currently working with BikePGH and Healthy Ride on an ambitious drive to implement the city’s brand new Bike(+) Plan,” says Boerer. “This initiative, called MoveForwardPGH, is seeking to rapidly close gaps and create a seamless bike network so that all Pittsburghers can get around and access daily needs without having to own or use a car. There are a bunch of projects in the works, and you can see them on the MoveForwardPGH website.”

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife, Shaunna, and 10-year old son.