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The University of Pittsburgh is BikePGH’s 2021 Organization of the Year. The award from the local nonprofit recognizes the Pittsburgh campus’s major strides in building bike infrastructure, programs and culture.
“BikePGH has consistently worked with the University of Pittsburgh for several years now but they were nominated and selected this year for introducing their students and faculty to bicycling through a variety of initiative across departments, for working towards sustainability and building the kind of community we all want to live in,” said Kéya Joseph, director of events at BikePGH, who presented the award at a ceremony on Nov. 16.
“While we have official sustainability goals and committees relating to increasing active mobility and commuting, this honor also reflects the commitment of Pitt students and employees to hop on a bicycle to get to, from and around campus, regardless of the weather, road conditions or mood,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s director of sustainability.
Sharrard added that transportation is a major contributor to an institution’s ecological impact.
“One’s daily biking decisions make a difference here at Pitt as we work toward carbon neutrality by 2037, but also across the city, helping ensure that campus and city streets reflect our University values, including community, sustainability and inclusion.”
Here are some of the ways Pitt is building a better bike culture.
The Pitt Bike Cave
Since 2016, the Pitt Bike Cave, a student-run, DIY bike shop, has provided students, faculty and staff an inclusive space to repair their bicycles, receive safety and educational materials, participate in workshops and gather as a community. It’s free to use the space and the tools.
Located in the passage between Posvar Hall and David L. Lawrence Hall, the Pitt Bike Cave served more students last year than it had in its five-year history. This year, Bike Cave staff held free helmet and light giveaways, reaching more than 70 students, and collected dozens of donated bikes that were refurbished and sold at affordable prices to students.
Pitt’s smallest pedal-powered fleet vehicle is the RadBurro electric cargo bike which debuted in August 2021. The electric-assist cargo bike (technically a trike) is a low-emissions and low-cost alternative to motor vehicle transport. Currently the Office of Sustainability is exploring how to operationalize the bike as a fleet vehicle. The advantage of using an electric cargo bike for intra-university transport gives the rider more flexibility than a car or box truck when navigating Oakland.
There’s always somewhere to park your bike
Pitt has more than 1,240 bike parking spaces on campus, including indoor and outdoor racks, covered racks, secure bike lockers and bike storage rooms in select residence halls.
This year, additional bike racks were installed in high-demand areas in front of the Hillman Library as part of a campus shuttle stop relocation project and outside of Posvar Hall’s Bouquet Avenue entrance.
Hopping on a bike is easy
Students, faculty and staff on the Pittsburgh campus enjoy unlimited 30-minute rides anywhere in the city via bikes checked out from Healthy Ride, Pittsburgh’s bike-sharing system. In 2020, the Pitt community took more than 14,500 rides on the bikes, and this year Pitt riders have already surpassed 10,000 rides.
A commitment to safety
This summer, four Pitt staff members became certified League Cycling Instructors qualified to teach Smart Cycling classes to students, faculty and staff who are new to urban biking or new to biking in general. Currently, Pitt staff are developing free, open-to-all on-bike educational classes in partnership with BikePGH, Carnegie Mellon University, Chatham University and Pitt Recreation. Parking and Transportation Services also supplies resources, tips and information on Pennsylvania bicycle laws to stay safe alongside motorists and pedestrians.
— Nichole Faina