Ride on: How safe is Pittsburgh for bicyclists?
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 00:09
Colin Albright was stabbed last Wednesday in a speculated case of road rage.
“I was completely horrified when I heard about it. It could have been anyone one of us,” said Eric Boerer, advocacy director for Bike Pittsburgh. “[There’s] truly something wrong with that person. I don’t even know if there is a precedent to deal with something like this.”
While Albright’s altercation may be an isolated one, Pittsburgh has seen its share of accidents with cyclists.
A broken leg and windshield were the result of one collision between a motorist and Boerer, just days away from the New Year.
“I’m just trying to get somewhere and it’s like a war zone. It shouldn’t have happened to me,” Boerer said.
Boerer was crossing an Oakland street on Dec. 29th, 2003, when his New Year’s plans took a painful turn, as a car hit him and his bike
“He stopped. My body broke his windshield. He had nowhere to go,” Boerer said.
Boerer underwent a half year of recovery, getting around with crutches for the first four months and then moving on to a boot and cane.
According to Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation, there have been 272 crashes involving bicycles from Jan. 1, 2007, to Dec. 31, 2011, with one fatality. The most crashes registered in one year was 60, 22% percent of total crashes during that span, in 2009, with the lowest number, 41, 15 percent of those crashes, coming in 2010.
A lot of crashes aren’t reported or are hit and runs. There are also certain things that trigger a report and bicycle accidents are “severely underestimated,” Boerer said. “Someone has to go to the hospital or a car has to be towed,” Boerer said
Junior Physics major Robert Brooke bikes to campus from 18th Street and takes a defensive approach when commuting.
“I always ride like people aren’t paying attention. It’s how you have to ride,” Brooke said. “You just can’t worry about it.”
Boerer said that Pittsburgh has the “most the incredible and extensive trails systems in the county,” but there is need for change.
“[There are] tons of improvements that could be made, nowhere near where we should be or could be. A lot of room to grow,” Boerer said.
Boerer would like to see physical separation between the car and bike lane and also thinks two areas in particular that could use improvements are Downtown and Oakland.
“For such a high concentration of students, it’s incredible to me of how little bike infrastructure there is in Oakland,” Boerer said. “We kinda feel that university areas should be at the forefront of sustainable transportation, and its other neighborhoods that are at the forefront.”
Although still not completely biker-friendly, Boerer believes Pittsburgh has improved drastically in the past years.
“It’s gotten a lot better than it was 10, 15 years ago,” Boerer said. “It’s like night and day compared to back then.”
Seth Christensen, a philosophy graduate student, bikes to campus from Squirrel Hill. He is originally from Denver and says that the West Coast is more aware of its bike community.
“[Pittsburgh is] not really as bike friendly as cities out West,” Christensen said. “I don’t think they [drivers] look out for bikers [here].”
Brooke, though, isn’t worried about another altercation like Albright’s, happening to him.
“It’s not the crazy guy with the knife I’m worried about,” Brooke said. “It’s the guy with the sedan.”