WPXI TV Channel 11 News in Pittsburgh aired a short segment Tuesday questioning the value of the new protected bike lanes on Penn Avenue connecting Downtown to the Strip District.
The piece depicts reporter Joe Arena talking while riding the bike lane without a helmet – a positive advertisement for cycling (not sarcasm) – and was mostly fun to watch. Aside from the expected mass media biases exerted through omission, emphasis, and so-called “objectivity”, I want to highlight a couple points.
The piece cited a one-time count of “15 riders [in] one hour”. If the volume of cyclists using these particular bike lanes is a measure of value, then an isolated segment of highway should be held to the same standard. This happened in regard to one portion of the disconnected Mon-Fayette Expressway – costing nearly $2 billion – which carried 300 vehicles in one hour (a pittance for a 4-lane highway).
The Penn Avenue lanes will one day be part of a city-wide network of protected bike lanes. (See Bike Pittsburgh’s vision.) Only with the full network in place can we use bicycle counts to fairly judge the value of the currently isolated section on Penn Avenue.
It has been pointed out that greater media attention says a great deal about the progress made by the Pittsburgh bike and pedestrian communities. Redesign of our streets in order to enable safe and convenient non-motorized transportation is now an issue of broad interest, and a big enough deal to argue about on television – for better or worse.
Although reading the comment sections on related news articles can be maddening, those who want to perpetuate the oppressive status quo on city streets are losing the argument – square foot of pavement by square foot of pavement.
Update: My claim that the reporter riding without a helmet is a positive advertisement for cycling is not sarcasm. I believe people find bicycling more attractive, and perceive it to be more safe, if they see people riding comfortably without helmets.