(Update: The City Council passed this ordinance on March 17.)
A public hearing was held Tuesday, March 9 to consider the Planning Commission’s unanimous recommendation to include bike parking in all new and re-zoned commercial construction (based on square footage).
The Council was expected to vote on the ordinance yesterday, fully six months after the Planning Commission initially endorsed the change, but two Council members, Natalia Rudiak and Bruce Kraus requested an additional week to investigate. At the hearing Tuesday, Kraus said “I want to see this happen”.
The ordinance also received the very vocal endorsement of District 7 Councilman Patrick Dowd who said it amounts to “small steps that would have a tremendous impact”. Dowd told the council and the assembled supportive public that he is “completely in support of this legislation”.
Under the proposal, developers are required to install bike parking based on square footage, but are permitted considerable flexibility. If they choose, developers could substitute bike parking for up to 30 percent of car parking.
It is this flexibility, somehow, that seemed to confound several members of the council who were concerned that this change could hamper development.
However, since the “swap” is not mandatory, developers will obviously be able to ignore it if they find it beneficial to invest their valuable dollars on inefficient car parking. This part of the legislation seems intended to benefit small businesses, rather than large chain stores, who may have not have the necessary resources to spend on providing car parking.
After about an hour of council grilling Stephen Patchan, the city’s bike-pedestrian coordinator, and representatives of the Planning Commission, primarily about the daunting details of the swap, the public hearing was turned over to the public.
A number of city residents spoke impassionately and all were firmly supportive of the legislation, though many found it did not go far enough.
Dan Sullivan, Director of Saving Communities, channeled urban planning rock star, Donald Shoup (author of The High Cost of Free Parking). Sullivan advocated abolishing all parking requirements, charging market rate for parking, and making the cost of on-street parking more expensive than garages. He suggested this would reduce the amount of cars on the road and the additional charges could be funneled directly to supporting community organizations in the areas that are affected. Sullivan called the ordinance a “timid step in the right direction.”
Seth Gernot, a member of the Board of Directors of Bike Pittsburgh, spoke of the need for Pittsburgh to endorse the proposal in order for the city to continue advancing as a green, livable, and bike-friendly city to attract new residents. He noted that Pennsylvania is ranked 38th in the nation for bicycle infrastructure, and that Pittsburgh is not yet evaluated by the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Communities rating — the benchmark for bike-friendly cities.
Despite the concern about the “swap” option, the overall mood in the chamber was that this proposal was a good move for the city of Pittsburgh.
This is a good time to get to know your city council member and urge them to pass this proposal which will mean a cleaner, greener, healthier future for Pittsburgh.