Bikes ‘n’ Brews, Pittsburgh Edition?

So Bike Cleveland in a couple weeks are having their Bikes N’ Brews event–basically they give you a punch card and you go visit a bunch of local breweries, and when you get back to the afterparty you get a sample from each brewery you managed to visit. It’s something like $25 and 20 miles (if you hit three) or 40 miles (if you hit all five besides the start/end brewery).  (And, again, the drinking’s supposed to happen at the end, to be clear…)

It’s kinda unlikely i’ll be able to make it up to Cleveland on Oct. 8, so i started thinking about a Pittsburgh version. Pittsburgh seems to have several more breweries than Cleveland–and the ones in town are significantly closer together, appropriately as Pittsburgh is smaller but significantly more dense than Cleveland, while the outlying ones are much further apart.  So you can get four breweries in less than two miles, but it’ll take you over 55 miles to hit all nine stops on this epic Pittsburgh Breweries tour (which is in fact missing a few, because Google Maps can only handle ten stops on a route, and I haven’t made an actual route for this yet).  Much like Cleveland’s, this event would showcase some of Pittsburgh’s long-time-favourite and it’s newest bits of bike-friendly infrastructure–and some of its areas most in need of improvement.

If anyone’s interested in making an actual event out of this–especially if you’re affiliated with one of Pittsburgh’s many breweries….–get in touch….

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Since Wendy Bell won’t say it, I will: here’s how to actually contribute to Danny Chew’s recovery

Since Wendy Bell deleted several other people’s comments on her video soliciting prayers for herself^WDanny Chew, I didn’t expect mine to last long, either.  Here it is, now that it has “disappeared” from Facebook:

Danny Chew is an avowed atheist who would find your prayers laughable, but your omission of the link to actually contribute something tangible to his recovery is offensive even to those who do believe.

Since Wendy Bell has gone so far as to delete comments that included the link, here it is again: https://www.youcaring.com/danny-chew-640082

Letter: Oakland’s dangerous streets demand attention, a champion

This was written to be a letter-to-the-editor in early September, 2016, but was never sent. As of fall, 2017, I no longer work at Pitt or live in Pittsburgh, but remain deeply concerned not only about the safety of Pitt’s surrounding roads, but the lack of communication from the University about what they’re (presumably) trying to do about it.

I work for a small non-profit affiliated with Pitt–an international professional association for academics–which has been based in Bellefield Hall since 2010.  I’m also a 2007 Pitt graduate with a BA in Linguistics.  As a student and a staff member, I’ve spent nearly nine of the last thirteen years on campus in Oakland.  At various points, I’ve primarily driven, biked, or taken a bus to Oakland; in the last several years I’ve increased my riding and now bike to work nearly daily.  Public transit is my second choice, and through several moves since 2011 I have consciously chosen to live near a direct bus line to Oakland.

As a Pitt alum and staff member of an affiliated organization on campus, I have been and continued to be appalled at the University’s response–or lack thereof–to the death of one of its own last fall and the continuing terrorizing of its students, staff, and faculty on a daily if not hourly basis.  According to one Post-Gazette article last fall, after the death of Susan Hicks in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning, the only comment from Pitt spokesman John Fedele was that ‘the university has bike racks throughout the campus, encourages car-pooling and stresses pedestrian safety to students beginning with their freshman orientation’.  None of which does a thing to protect their personnel from reckless, speeding drivers.  At least CMU’s students and staff are getting trees between them and Forbes’ flying vehicles…

Except during special events, Bellefield is usually two lanes, and with no speed or crosswalk enforcement, many drivers speed and few yield to the hundreds of students and staff that cross the road to and from Bellefield Hall each day.  I can’t so much as walk to lunch without nearly getting hit by a car directly in front of my office.  Every day, I watch people trot, jog, and outright run across the street because drivers refuse to yield despite the painted crosswalk and cross-here signs.

As this week’s crash indicates, speeds on the roads that ring the University of Pittsburgh are dangerously high–if anything, the constant congestion which slows drivers and reduces PennDOT’s holy Level of Service is a good thing; it’s awfully difficult to flip a sedan at twenty miles an hour, and any person hit by a car is orders of magnitude more likely to survive at low vehicle speeds.

As Linda Bailey, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (an organization of which Pittsburgh is a Member City), wrote this week,

“With 80% of the U.S. population living in urban areas, we should be building streets and designing cities that work for everyone, including those traveling on foot, on bike, or via transit.… In particular, arterial streets [such as Forbes Ave in Pittsburgh], which represent less than 10% of roadways but are the site of 49% of fatalities, should be prioritized as places where we can quickly make the biggest safety gains….All levels of government must do better. Elected officials should be champions for safe street designs.”

Where is our champion?

As Noel Mickelberry, Executive Director of Oregon Walks, wrote this week,

“None of these crashes look like one another. Yet each crash reminds us that a true change to the status quo on our streets is required to provide solutions. Each person injured or killed on our roadways demands attention and action from our city’s leadership and from everyone traveling through our streets.”

Where is the attention and action from our city’s leadership in Pittsburgh?  The mayor Friday urged us to wait for Port Authority to make a decision on BRT, but as even Port Authority’s own representative acknowledged at Wednesday’s meeting, that decision has been delayed repeatedly.

How much longer must we wait?  How many more students must be terrorized before Port Authority manages to get its act in gear?  How many more community members must die before we act?

We’ve spent sixty years tossing up our hands and ceding public space to public menaces. It’s time to take our roads back for all users.

Dr. Heinrich Koppers, a German inventor, developed a process to distill and capture the by-products of coal combustion…. Dr. Koppers developed his new process in Germany, and he was brought to the United States in 1908 by US Steel to build by-product coke oven for its use.  As war clouds gathered, Dr Koppers became anxious about mounting anti-German sentiment, the possibility of war, and the seizure of his patents and operations.

Following the German attack on Belgium, the demand for the by-products of Dr Koppers’ ovens skyrocketed. “With the advent of war came the realization that the striking power of a nation in modern warfare is largely determined by it supply of coke.…Altogether the company played a most important part in the successful prosecution of the world conflict.”

In 1915, the Mellons moved in, reorganized, and effectively secured control of the company, leaving the inventor with a 20% share. When the United States declared war on Germany, the Koppers Company, undoubtedly motivated by the deepest patriotic sentiment, notified Attorney General Palmer of the German inventor’s stake-holding, whereby his share was confiscated and sold at auction to the sole bidder — the Mellon interests.

— McCollester, The Point of Pittsburgh, citing David Koskoff’s The Mellons: Chronicle of America’s Richest Family and Frank Harper’s Pittsburgh of today: Its resources and people.

Locally-owned home goods store in Pittsburgh?

At the moment I need clothes hangers, but in general, where in Pittsburgh do you go to buy small items for your home that isn’t a major national chain store?

My only requirement is that it be somewhere I can reasonably reach by bike from Oakland. My default pretty much since it opened has been the Target in East Liberty*, but if there’s an alternative I’m not thinking of I’d love to hear about it…

 

* to be clear, I am perfectly happy to shop at Target; I absolutely am not boycotting them. But as a general rule I prefer to support local business when possible, and got to wondering if it is in this case…

In order for low-income housing to be acceptable to the general public in the US, the buildings must look poor and smell poor. Even a cheap grade of deodorant must be used in the insecticide for the control of cockroaches in this housing. The poor must be kept in their place and made to grovel.…When a window is broken or some equipment requires replacement, the length of time before repairs are carried out serves as a type of penitence for being poor, and also proves to the general public that people on welfare destroy property.…Middle-class Americans want the welfare recipient to wear a scarlet “P” on his chest.

I once heard a bright young architect lecture that it is possible to design housing that will cause crime, divorce, and family strife. Little does he know that many housing authorities and private companies are already in this business.

—Robert Snetsinger, Diary of a Mad Planner.

Once again, not much has changed in 40 years….

Comments on Port Authority’s Fare System Proposal

Port Authority is considering overhauling their fare system.  If you missed the two public hearings, in late February and today, you can submit your comments online, by email to farepolicy@portauthority.org, or by mail to Port Authority, Attn: Fare Policy Proposal, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh PA 15222, until the end of March.

My comments:

  • I favour the reducing of fares as much as possible. However, as I’m sure you’re aware, certain long distance (especially suburban commuter) routes cost significantly more to operate, and it is substantially unfair to those who live in and near the City to be forced to once again subsidize exurban riders. I am also concerned about the impact of eliminating the Downtown free-fare zone on the elderly, disabled, and others who use it to bridge the gap between one side of Downtown and the other.Consider, for one, the rider who takes a bus in from lower Greenfield Avenue, planning to transfer to, say, the 12 to McKnight Road. Without the free-fare zone, they are faced with either a double transfer or a long walk from Allies or Fourth Avenue to Liberty and Seventh. With it, a rider who doesn’t feel like making the walk doesn’t have to worry about whether they can pay for the transfer or whether the farebox will accurately credit multiple transfers against their card.

    I would much rather see the zone system recalibrated so that it has less impact on lower-income communities such as McKeesport and Clairton while not further privileging suburban commuters.

  • I am generally opposed to a surcharge for using cash, as those who are using cash are often either infrequent riders or those who can least afford (in terms of money or time) the outlay to acquire a special farecard. However, I do recognize that it does cost extra for PAT to process and handle cash, and so I am not strongly opposed to a minimal cash surcharge that allows the system to recoup that cost.
  • I am strongly opposed to a fee to acquire a farecard, especially in concert with a cash surcharge. If there must be a fee to recover the cost of stocking vending machines, it again should be as little as possible, and not charged at in-person service centers, groceries and other sales agents, etc. (Additionally, there should be many more such sales agents–Giant Eagle is still not as ubiquitous as they’d like to think they are…–and either the hours of the Downtown Service Center should be massively increased or it should be possible to handle farecard problems at other locations or remotely.  I know of too many people who’ve had problems with their farecards but because they don’t work Downtown or don’t work a standard 9-to-5 (or both) can’t get to the DSC to resolve the problem without making special arrangements.)
  • I am especially opposed to any fee to transfer lines, especially if there is any movement toward more trunk-and-feeder systems. Transfer fees disincentivize riding, especially along feeders; even a trip from the Hill to the Strip can require multiple routes, and if it costs yet more to ride just because there isn’t a single vehicle that makes the trip, it will further encourage driving for trips that shouldn’t need it.  (Or, as Jarrett Walker puts it, Charging for connections is insane.)
  • Regarding light-rail proof-of-payment, I strongly endorse PPT’s concerns about enforcement. Especially in light of the multiple recent violent incidents involving PAT Police and related agencies, PAT must tread very, very carefully when considering expanded policing on and around its system.
  • Not only am I strongly in favour of the day-pass idea, it should be automatic.  Rather than forcing someone to purchase a day-pass special, if a card user uses their card more than some number X (2? 3?) times in a day, further rides should be free.  If someone realizes on their way home from work that they need to stop at the grocery store, they shouldn’t have to worry about how much more they’ll need to pay in bus fare–it should just work.  Similarly for weekly, monthly, and especially annual passes; individuals should not be denied the benefit of being able to pay for 11 monthly passes and get the 12th free just because they don’t have nearly $1,100 in the bank at one time… if you buy eleven monthly passes in a row, the twelfth should just be free, whether or not you paid for them all at once.