Pedestrian safety and traffic concerns

In a recent report issued by Transportation for America, Pittsburgh was noted as one of the safest cities for pedestrians.  It’s not so surprising; in decades past many more people didn’t have cars, so Pittsburgh was designed as a walking city.  Until recent decades, most residents didn’t own cars, hence the system of stairs, sidewalks, and walkable neighborhoods.  This system has been allowed to erode as limited monies go mostly towards moving ever-increasing numbers of cars, but Pittsburgh still has a lot of very walkable areas.

A neighborhood survey taken a few years ago indicated that almost 40% of Polish Hill residents do not own cars.  Of course many older residents don’t drive, but there seems to be an increasing number of adults who choose not to own a vehicle, and Polish Hill is actually a great neighborhood for the car-free.  Although the hilliness and rough sidewalks can be difficult for people with impaired mobility, the 54D comes through the center of the neighborhood, there’s the busway at the bottom of the hill, and we’re within easy walking or biking distance to a number of other neighborhoods.

We do have our challenges, which are being discussed as part of the community plan process.  Bigelow Boulevard, which was originally designed to be a grand thoroughfare leading Downtown, routinely sees drivers driving far over the 35 mph limit.  Bigelow has only intermittent sidewalks and can be quite dangerous for those on foot; in fact, it’s 15th in the county for pedestrian accidents.

And Polish Hill residents are increasing frustrated that Polish Hill streets are the only cut-through from Bigelow down to Penn, Liberty, and the Strip.  The number of cars speeding through our quiet streets, and damage to parked cars, particularly on Melwood, is a source of increasing concern.  This problem has been with us for a long time; it’s noted in the meeting minutes from the early days of the PHCA, in 1969.

Traffic calming and pedestrian issues are some of the topics we’re discussing as aspects of the strategic community plan.  During the June 4 community plan workshops at West Penn, the second workshop, at 11:30 a.m., will be about traffic, transportation, the gateways to Polish Hill, and infrastructure issues, like stairs and sidewalks.  If you are interested in these issues, we encourage you to attend.  Email the PHCA or call us at 412.681.1950 for more information.

(top photo:  A traffic jam during a recent power outage that closed Herron Bridge provided a clear illustration of just how many cars are using Polish Hill as a shortcut to other destinations.  With just one exit point closed, neighborhood streets were impacted for a few hours with hundreds of cars — almost none of whom were Polish Hill residents.  Photo by Patrick Singleton)