Helping Pittsburghers Kick Their Car Habit

667811866_b4d6de3b9f.jpgA Critical Mass ride during Pittsburgh’s 2007 Bike Fest. (Photo: lemonad via Flickr)

Could Pittsburgh become the "green city" of the East Coast?

Reader Cullen Vandora pointed us to an interesting article on Pittsburgh’s Post-Gazette.com by designer Bob Firth. Firth writes that as the city embarks on a new comprehensive plan, it could use an "intervention" — a 12-step program of sorts — aimed at breaking its addiction to cars:

The city of Pittsburgh is kicking off a huge new comprehensive plan called "PlanPGH." It incorporates the Move PGH task force, announced in January, to look at improving transit and walking and biking options dramatically. With Earth Day fresh in mind, I’m considering just how hard it will be to get more Pittsburghers out walking and biking.

Firth goes on to list 12 concrete ways that the city could encourage its citizens to leave their autos behind. Among his proposals: separated bike lanes, deals for families using transit, more frequent weekend bus service, a policy of clearing snow from pedestrian and bike routes, and summer Ciclovía-style events.

Firth would also like to see Pittsburgh promoting the idea that "Life with a Lot Less Car In It" is "the great city-living pleasure":

When I started working on this piece, I ran into more and more people who had recently found out what it was like to live with a lot less driving. One person’s household was down to one car, another had recently moved into an East End neighborhood. They were a bit nervous at first; it took some getting used to.

But to their great surprise, in a short time they found using buses and walking more was an enjoyable way to live. We need to let the secret out: Life with a lot less car in it is not scary or a sacrifice. It’s a pleasure!

So, do Firth’s suggestions have a chance of being taken seriously by city government? Well, there has been a lot of positive change in Pittsburgh over the last 20 years. As Streetsblog Network member Bike PGH noted over the weekend, the city was just awarded Bronze status for bike-friendliness by the League of American Bicyclists. Back in 1990, Pittsburgh was ranked one of the three worst cities in the nation in which to ride a bike.

Big change can happen.