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Mass Citations Greet Mass CyclistsEdit

'Source: City Paper, Writer: VIOLET LAW, April 2006

Members of Critical Mass, a loosely organized group of urban-cycling advocates, have lodged a complaint about the conduct of one city police officer who stopped and cited four members during the group’s large monthly ride.

On the evening of March 31, when a cavalcade of some 50 cyclists headed east down Penn Avenue past the Zone 5 police station in East Liberty, a cruiser with flashing lights lurched into their midst, according to four witness statements submitted to the Citizen Police Review Board on April 5. After a few cyclists maneuvered out of the cruiser’s way, the statements say, the officer accelerated and blocked the entire procession at the intersection of Penn and Negley avenues.

“The officer was heading back to the station and came across the bikes in the middle of the streets,” says Zone 5 Commander Linda Barone. Barone believes the four cyclists were cited because they were blocking the streets.

The group, however, believes not only that the citations were unjustified, but that the officer who issued them didn’t conduct himself in a professional manner.

According to the cyclists’ statements, the officer, who balked at several requests for his name, began to yell and grab cyclists by the arm and order them to dismount and disperse. Four cyclists who didn’t immediately leave were issued a citation for disorderly conduct. So was one teen-ager who was not part of the cycling group but happened to be walking by.

The citations were “totally random,” says Jessi Berkelhammer, who led the monthly ride that evening. “It could’ve been anyone.”

In fact, the first of the four cyclists cited, Leeana Ninness, says that when the officer detained her, she had already parked her bike and was standing on the sidewalk guarding her cyclist friend’s belongings.

Berkelhammer surmises that the officer, identified on citations as Eugene Hlavac, might have been upset when the tail end of the group ran a red light in order to catch up. “It disrupts traffic less for the group to stay together,” says Berkelhammer. Although the front of the group always waits for the green light at any intersection, she adds, sometimes trailing bikes will hit a red.

Critical Mass, whose goal is to promote urban cycling, has a presence in cities worldwide. Since the group’s rebirth in Pittsburgh in 2001, Berkelhammer and a few others have led Critical Mass rides from the Carnegie Library in Oakland on the last Friday of each month. Attendance has grown from four riders to more than 200 during last year’s Bike Fest.

The group’s activities have sometimes been a lightning rod. In New York City, for example, a confrontation between the riders and New York Police Department during the 2004 Republican National Convention resulted in mayhem and mass arrests. In February, a New York State Supreme Court judge in Manhattan rejected the NYPD’s last-ditch attempt to shut down the group’s rides, but asked the parties to patch up their differences out of court, according to The New York Times.

Critical Mass cyclists here have had run-ins with police before. In April 2003, four riders spent a night in Allegheny County Jail; they’d been cited for breaking various traffic rules while cruising through Oakland with a group of roughly 70. The charges were later dismissed. Within two days of the current incident, members of the group drafted a formal complaint to the review board, compiled a list of witnesses, and gathered statements.

Morgan Ress, a veteran of Critical Mass in New York City who moved here two months ago, doesn’t think the recent citations portend any future clashes. But, he says, there is no guarantee against further confrontations unless the group acts.

“We want to make sure [the cited cyclists] are cleared of the charges and hold the officer accountable for his actions,” he says.

Critical Mass arrests blog

Hot Medal Bridge and Bike Trails Edit

The Urban Redevelopment Authority is completing the final engineering for the conversion of the Hot Metal Bridge for pedestrian/bike use. URA is anticipating starting construction in early fall, 2006, pending final approval from PennDOT.

The long-term plan for the Southside Trail is to connect to the existing trail at the Waterfront in Homestead/West Homestead. At this point there are not construction plans because we need to work out agreements with private property owners. South Side 10-1 trail segment of the Three Rivers Heritage Trail is now complete. Trail users are finally able to travel from the Baldwin Borough Trail through the South Side and to Station Square, downtown Pittsburgh and beyond. Work continues on the acquisition of trail corridor on the Steel Valley Trail section.



  • City teams with Garfield businessman to provide bikes to needy A Pittsburgh police officer walked into a Garfield bike shop two years ago, introduced himself, told the owner about some unclaimed bikes at the nearby East Liberty station and asked if he'd 'tune them up' so they'd be safe to give to needy children at Christmas. 'Sure,' said Jerry Kraynick. 'Let's take a look at them.




  • Community Bike Program along the Mon River bike path
  • VeloCity is held every other year. The next one is in Munich, Germany, June 12-15, 2007.


City puts wheels in motion to help cyclists Edit

By Kacie Axsom, Tribune-Review, Monday, August 6, 2007

Computer science professor Frank Pfenning rides his bicycle year-round from his Squirrel Hill home to the Carnegie Mellon University campus, weather permitting.

The 15-minute ride is mostly pleasant and relatively flat, he says, but some streets are dangerous.

"This part of Oakland is terrible," Pfenning said. Especially on busy Forbes and Fifth avenues, cars cut off bicycles, he said. "It's a mess. You have to weave your way through traffic."

He thinks a bike lane would help.

That could be among ideas the city Planning Department considers at a meeting Tuesday about how to make Oakland more bicycle-friendly. The meeting will be 6:30 p.m. in Room 1105 AB at the University of Pittsburgh's Scaife Conference Center, 3350 Terrace St.

Planners will discuss the findings of an independent study of Oakland, conducted by Cornell University researchers. The study concluded that Pittsburgh is ideal for a large bicycling population, in part because of its many colleges, but the city needs a comprehensive bike network to make cycling safe and convenient.

Forbes and Fifth avenues must be made more bicycle-friendly, especially between Halket and Bouquet streets, the study said. That part of Forbes has three traffic lanes and one parking lane. Eliminating the parking lane and adding a bike lane could help bicyclers, the study said, but more research is needed to determine where drivers could park.

The city has no money for bicycling projects, said Richard Meritzer, a senior city planner. But some improvements can be done as part of routine maintenance, such as sidewalk maintenance or shared lane markings, he said in an e-mail.

Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the city will hire a full-time bike and pedestrian coordinator early next year. That person would secure money, conduct studies and improve safety and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in the city.

Scott Bricker, executive director of Bike Pittsburgh -- a nonprofit working to make the city safer for cyclists -- said recently painted shared traffic and bike lane markings have helped make conditions safer along Liberty Avenue through Bloomfield and Lawrenceville.

He rides through Oakland from his home in Friendship to Bike Pittsburgh's offices in the South Side. He doesn't know how many cyclists travel in or through Oakland, but said the number appears to be increasing.

"I find it intimidating, and I'm an everyday rider," Bricker said. "The perception is, it's not very safe or welcoming for cyclists."

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