05.19.2014Personal Tech

Roadtreking With Mike Wendland – Biking in Pittsburgh Goes Mobile

Across the country, the use of bicycles as transportation is rapidly becoming a major trend. In Pittsburgh, thanks to the designation of more protected bike lanes on various roadways, the installation of bike racks on city buses and the advocacy of groups like Bike PGH, the city has become one of the most bike friendly places in the Midwest.

Last week was Bike to Work Week nationwide, an annual event. For people like Geoff Moak, biking in Pittsburgh is an everyday occurrence.

Geoff works as an actuary for a downtown insurance company. He bikes a few blocks to a bus stop, loads his bike on the front rack and reads the paper as the bus transports him downtown.

From there, it’s a short pedal to his office building.

“I take the bus in the morning,” he said. “I ride all the way back home at night. It saves me money and keeps me in shape. It’s a great way to commute.”

He is not alone in biking to work. There’s a designated parking spot for bike commuters in the company’s parking garage. Bob Lee, another Pittsburgh bicycle commuter, says biking gives him a sense of accomplishment every day, before he gets to work.

“I got to work this morning on my bike in 18 minutes,” he told me. “In a car, it would have been triple that. You can really zip around traffic in a bike.”

Check out my video to see how biking in Pittsburgh is a growing trend:

Going right along with this surge in biking for transportation are a slew of powerful smartphone apps, like Runtastic and MapMyRide, aimed squarely at cyclists. The apps really shine when accessing Verizon’s super solid and fast 4G LTE network.

The Bike PGH advocacy group offers safety and training rides and works closely with city officials and employers in making bicycle transportation a highly desired way of getting around.

Ted Zellers is another bike commuter, cycling to and from his downtown job as a software engineer.

He says the key to safe bicycle commuting is following the rules of the road, signaling your intentions and paying attention.

“You have to be alert on a bike,” he said, “just like you have to be alert in a car. But a bike is more maneuverable and the fresh air and exercise leave you invigorated. I rode my bike even during the winter during snowstorms and freezing weather. I love it."

Aside from transportation, biking in Pittsburgh is fostering something else: bicycle tourism.

I met four buddies from New Your who flew into Pittsburgh and rented bikes from the downtown Golden Triangle Bike Rental shop. As we videotaped them, they were preparing to set off on the Great Allegheny Passage, a 340 mile trail that runs from downtown Pittsburgh all the way to Washington D.C.

They planned to cover 80-90 miles a day, staying at bed and breakfast spots along the route.

They too rely on apps to make sure they are where they should be.

“We would be lost without our smartphones,” joked Ben Miron. “So you can bet we’ll be checking them the whole way down. They tell me there is great cellular coverage, so we’re confident we’ll make it to each stop.”

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