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June 19, 2011

Pittsburgh Bike Belt : A Modest Proposal

This has been a big year for bike trails in Pittsburgh, and there is the promise of more to come. Already we've seen the Point-to-24th Street / Strip District Trail opening and the long-awaited Duquesne-to-Munhall Steel-Valley-Coaster-Pipeline Trail opened on Friday. Both of these are tremendous.

This year we also expect to see the SouthSideWorks Trail complete, the PIT Airport connector trail will open, and we may see the Sandcastle connection open.

Which brings us to the matter of Names and Naming Trails. It's great to recognize people and to preserve memories by giving trails effective names like the "Mon-Whorf Trail". Some names are unwieldy, such as the Ruprecht S. and Penelope K. Rutherford Lower Burrel Multi-Use Health and Wellness Trail. If the official world gives an unwieldy name, the real world will assign a more pragmatic one, hence: Jail Trail, Casino Trail, Strip Trail, Southside Trail.

Although each community is justifiably proud of their efforts to bring forth their trails, for outsiders the distinction between the Southside Trail and the Baldwin-Brentwood-Whitehall Trail isn't intuitive. In the same way that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny", the nomenclature of our trails restates the condition of our fractured local government.

With all due respect to the Bard, naming is not a trivial issue; on Friday, I had the occasion to call 911 seeking help for an injured rider, and it took a little while to suss out the specific name of the trail I was on. We may need a better system of trail names.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh has previously dealt with the problem of naming and marking routes that run through a variety of municipalities and domains. Let's look at some maps.

The map of today's Pittsburgh bike trail system looks like this:

(click image to embiggen in a new window)

Imagine What The Future Might Hold

Imagine what it would look like if the region is able to:
  • fill in the southern gaps of the Montour Trail
  • extend the Panhandle Trail on existing abandoned rail lines into West End Circle
  • extend the Casino Trail to Neville Island
It might look like a belt system of trails:

(click image to embiggen in a new window)

Through a dozen local successes, we're on the verge of adding a new "belt" to Pittsburgh's infamous Color Belts: the Bike Belt.

I propose that we rename (and re-sign) the various Pittsburgh regional trails (in at least Allegheny and Washington counties) as the Bike Belt. Using the existing, much-loved and parochially functional color-belt framework would connect "new-green-bike" Pittsburgh with "yinzer-mullet-n'at" Pittsburgh.


Mark said...

ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, wow.

I was thinking that there ought to be a system of trail markers that would integrate with the rescue system. It would be nice if it some clever taxonomy would make it easy to convey and drip with information.

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