Tag Archives: biking

Ride Your Bike.


May is National Bike Month!

Today is Bike to Work Day!


I live about 5 blocks away from where I work, so riding to work feels almost like cheating.  It’s all downhill and takes literally two minutes. Riding home on the other hand…

As of today, I have worked at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for exactly nine years. Before that I was a bike messenger. Yes, in Pittsburgh. Yes, Pittsburgh has bike messengers. Yes, it’s an awesome job. (In the summer. Not so much in sleet and snow. I’m a baby about the cold.)

After I quit, I stopped riding my bike and promptly got fat. I got back into bike riding again and recently bought a spanking new bike. It’s a thing of beauty. Every time I walk past it, I pet it.

MY Raleigh RX 1.0 Cyclocross Bike

I’ve already put a bunch of miles on it and I’m planning some big rides this summer. I’m doing a 50-mile ride to raise money for Diabetes research. I’m also planning some overnight camping trips on the Great Allegheny Passage and in September I’m going to Washington, D.C. via the Great Allegheny Passage and the C & O Canal.  All camping. Pray for me, folks, because a camper I am not. I’m more of an eat-in-restaurants-sleep-in-hotels kind of girl. For example, I made a list of what to take and it included make-up, hand cream and perfume. That’s definitely a tough guy fail.

Carnegie Library’s website has a whole section of helpful cycling information, including links to trail maps, tour and advocacy groups and even a book list about cycling (fiction and nonfiction!)


Here are some of my favorite resources. And a bicycle cafe.

Bike Pittsburgh

A Pittsburgh-based cycling safety, advocacy, and awareness organization offering
a wealth of local cycling information, news, events, links, and community
information, including an online bike map.

Free Ride Pittsburgh

Free Ride! is a non-profit recycle-a-bike shop recycles bikes. Located inside
Construction Junction.

And this is just awesome bike stuff.

So if you see me on the trail, say hi! I’ll probably let you pet my bike.

Ride on.



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Getting Outside in the ‘Burgh

As the newest member of CLP’s newest location, I’m keenly aware of summer’s approach as I plan our presence at neighborhood festivals, farmers’ markets, and other quintessential summer happenings. And while the writers of this blog have a welldocumented love of the out-of-doors, I haven’t seen anyone mention what I consider to be our region’s best outdoors asset: Pittsburgh offers tons of natural beauty and strenuous outdoor activity right in the city limits. So for the countryside-averse, the car-less, and the time-pressed urban outdoorspeople out there, here are some of my favorite sources for info on how to get your hike/bike/boat on in the city of Pittsburgh.

Bob Regan’s The Steps of Pittsburgh: A Portrait of a City (Local History Company, 2004)

Recent research out of McMaster University in Ontario suggests that brief, extremely strenuous bursts of activity (known as intervals) yield health benefits comparable to longer, lighter workouts. Following that logic you may be able to get a year’s worth of cardio workouts done in an afternoon by traversing Pittsburgh’s quirky city steps. Follow Regan’s exhaustive survey of city streets that no car or bike can use to take your urban hikes to new heights.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Navigation Charts for the Mon, the Al, and the O

So you’ve gone on a moonlight kayak tour, maybe paddled around the Point a little bit, and now you feel ready to explore Pittsburgh’s three beloved rivers on your own. Great! If you don’t want to bump into a bridge pile or run aground at Brunot’s Island, make a note to stop by the Main Library in Oakland and check out the navigational charts for the Allegheny, Mon, and Ohio rivers.

Louis Fineberg’s 3 Rivers on 2 Wheels (Mon Quixote Press, 2002)

The spandex-clad diehards will likely always consider Oscar Swan‘s Bike Rides Out of Pittsburgh to be the ultimate statement on rides in the area. But as the title implies, Swan’s routes all take the most direct path out of town. For those of us who prefer to stay within a quarter mile of a good restaurant, cafe, or library branch, Lou Fineberg (scroll down a bit after the click) keeps you in the neighborhoods with his excellent 3 Rivers on 2 Wheels. Just be sure to cross-reference your ride with a current map at Bike Pittsburgh’s website. The Pittsburgh cycling infrastructure was nowhere near where it is now when Fineberg penned the guide ten years ago.

Toker1Franklin Toker’s Pittsburgh: A New Portrait and Buildings of Pittsburgh (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009) and Buildings of Pittsburgh (University of Virginia Press, 2007)

When you’re hiking out in the wilderness you might take along a field guide to help you identify birds, plants, and whatever else you might encounter out there in nature. When you’re hiking in Pittsburgh, give yourself a little cultural context by bringing along these guides to architecture and the history of the built environment of Pittsburgh. Toker, a popular professor at Pitt and architecture historian of national renown, uses buildings as a jumping-off point for an examination of the cultural, economic, and political history of Pittsburgh. And just as you might hope to spot a yellow-bellied sapsucker on a hike in the Allegheny Forest, you can get a similar thrill by spotting a Scheibler, a Burnham, or a Kahn where you’d least expect them to be.

Part of the joy of getting outside in the city is discovering new favorite places right in your neighborhood. You can’t always plan these discoveries–I found one of my favorite secret running route connectors when my street was blocked by a festival and I needed to get my groceries into the fridge before the ice cream melted–so the most important thing is to just get out there.

Do you have a favorite outdoor spot in the city? If you do, please mention it in a comment for others to discover!


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Bikes and Zines, Plus!

Biking Resources at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh–Main

At  Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh we strive to provide information and resources that people want! Because Pittsburgh has such a large/strong bike community, the library makes sure to offer good bike-related resources to the cyclists of our fair town.


We have a number of bike-related resources in the zine collection in the First Floor–New and Featured Department. They’re shelved in a category with a divider that says–you guessed it–“BIKES.” The collection ranges from repair guides to bike trip journals to zines that deal with bikes and city infrastructure questions.

We list our zines in LibraryThing under the member name “clpzines.”  You can search the zine collection here by typing a keyword, zine title or author into the search box.  As of right now, fifty-seven of our 943 zines have a bike-related tag, such as “bike accidents,” “bike gear,” and “bike maps.” We also have Bike Pittsburgh‘s bike map and bike commuting guide.


We’re really excited to host the Bike Pittsburgh Bike Commuting Workshop on Thursday, August 18 from 6-7:30 p.m. at CLP—Main. Last year the library hosted a Bike Pittsburgh/Elly Blue and Joe Biel collaborative workshop where Elly and Joe spoke on the history and current situation of bike infrastructure in Portland, OR. We imagine doing more bike-related zine programs in the future, so please let us know in the comments section if you’d like to see this happen!

Books and Movies

We also have books–it’s true! If you look for the Library of Congress call numbers that begin with TL, located on the second floor as part of Reference Services‘ open stacks, you’ll find many bike repair manuals for both mountain and general road bikes. You’ll also find more specific info, such as a Schwinn Bicycle Service Manual from 1972, as part of the reference collection. For a more traditional, yet still bike-related, reading resource, try David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries. Do your kids have bikes? In the Children’s Department, under that same call number, you can find Kids’ Easy Bike Care. Next, visit the Film and Audio Department, where you will find a jillion great bike-related movies, including Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Bicycle Thieves, and Quicksilver.

If you haven’t been to the library to boost your bike love yet, it’s obvious that you need to get there.


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Car Free Trails

Pittsburgh is a city of hills and valleys, rivers and plateaus.  And while it may not seem to have the most bike-friendly terrain, there are many ways to enjoy the Steel City by bike.  With the help of the bicycle advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh and a rising number of people getting around by bike, cyclists are gaining more respect and a greater presence in the city.   Riding in traffic may not be for everyone, and for those individuals Pittsburgh offers multiple car-free bike paths along the rivers. 

Eliza Furnace: Named for the historic Eliza Blast Furnace, this paved trail leads Downtown from the edge of Panther Hollow at the foot of Oakland/Greenfield.  Also known as the Jail Trail, the Eliza Furnace Trail eventually connects to the South Side Bike Trail via the Smithfield Street Bridge or Hot Metal Bridge, depending on which way you are heading. There is free public parking at the trailhead off of 2nd Avenue (885) between the Hot Metal Bridge and the intersection with Greenfield Avenue. Parking is also available at the Downtown end of the trail in a parking garage near the Jail. 
This is Dave's bike.
North Shore Trail: The North Shore Trail has what I would consider three distinct sections: The Ohio River, The North Shore, and Washington’s Landing.  The Ohio River section begins at the old Western Penitentiary about 5 miles up the Ohio from the Point.  This section is best accessed via one of the other two sections as it can be difficult to find parking near the trail.  The North Shore section offers some of the best views of the Point and surrounding areas. It passes by the Science Center, Heinz Field, and PNC Park.  There is usually somewhere to park around this area, unless there is a sporting event.  The Washington’s Landing section follows the Allegheny River away from the Point and eventually ends up in Millvale Riverfront Park, which offers ample parking.  From this section there is also the option to take a pedestrian bridge to Herr’s Island where you can hop on another trail that will take you around the edge of the island.
South Side Bike Trail: This paved trail runs from just past Station Square almost the entire way to Homestead, stopping just short of Sand Castle.  Winding its way along the Monongahela this trail passes through Station Square, Riverfront Park, and the South Side Works.  It can be used with the Eliza Furnace Trail to make a nice, flat, car free loop. Parking is available in the South Side Works areas, but can be tight in the evenings.  There is also parking at the Station Square end of the trail.
Great Allegheny Passage Trail: Pittsburgh is the Northwestern terminus of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail that goes to Cumberland Maryland. The trail then becomes the C&O Trail and heads all the way to Washington, D.C.  While this trail officially starts at the Point, it is very difficult to travel from the ‘Burgh to Port Vue where the car free section begins.  It is advisable to drive to the trailhead in Port Vue, located just across the Youghiogheny River from McKeesport.  Take the 15th Street Bridge from Walnut St in Mckeesport and make a left onto River Dr/River Ridge Road.  The trail begins where the road ends. If you aren’t quite up to planning your own trip on the Great Allegheny Passage trail the folks at Venture Outdoors, a local non-profit organization, can help get you on your way.
 Here are some resources to help you plan your own bike ride:
 Print Resources
  Online Resources
– Dave

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Carpool, bike, or walk?

If you rely on public transportation to get around, you’ve probably been following the news about a possible transit strike as closely as I have.  Here at the library, employees have already started thinking about alternatives to getting to work.  Carpool lists are being circulated, and a few of us who live in the same neighborhood have organized a group of people to walk home together, giving us the opportunity for exercise and good conversation at the end of the workday.

Biking is also a great alternative  way to commute: it beats standing on a crowded bus, and if you avoid traffic and stick to some of Pittsburgh’s abundant trails you might even find that you have a quicker commute (and certainly a more scenic one).  Bike Pgh has started a Bike the Strike web site with tips for people who decide to go that route during a possible strike.

If the cooler weather makes you think twice about biking (*raises hand*), this Chicago-based web site (where they know cold weather) offers lots of advice about dress and safety in inclement conditions.  Looking for someone to carpool or bike with, but no one at your place of work lives nearby? Fill out a short profile on CommuteInfo.org to be matched up with people in the Pittsburgh region to ride with or a group to bike with. For more suggestions on alternative ways to get to work, mass transit in the county that will continue to operate, and the Port Authority’s point of view on the possible walkout, look at the new Port Authority-sponsored web site, PghTransitInfo.com.

From the Collections of the Pennsylvania Department, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

From the Collections of the Pennsylvania Department, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Of course, if you’re looking for books about bicycle commutingwalking, alternative modes of transportation, or labor and union issues, we’ve got them at the library!  And with 18 libraries in the city of Pittsburgh, and 44 more throughout Allegheny County, strike or not, you should be able to find a nearby location to visit! 


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Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off to Work We Go

Once the clocks changed last month, I suddenly realized that it was going to be time to go back to Two Wheels, Not Four on my daily commute.  Biking is my method of choice for getting to and from work every day, as long as the weather cooperates for me; and for a city as hilly as Pittsburgh, there are a heck of a lot of us out there with our helmets on and the breeze in our faces.  Bike Pittsburgh and Free Ride are just two advocacy organizations that can help you get on this carbon-footprint-free, healthy, economical bandwagon, by offering safe riding tips, a DIY repair shop with expert help, and low-cost bikes.

Of course, another alternative to car commuting is walking.  Did you know that Pittsburgh was ranked among the top 10 most walkable cities in the U.S.?  In my mind, that fact combines perfectly with our status in the top 10 most literate cities — walk and read at the same time!!  Use one of our eAudio services, or if you don’t have an mp3 player, borrow a playaway!  Gone are the days of an extra pound of equipment and multiple CDs per book, although if you really are stuck with the car commute, we have plenty of those, as well.  (It doesn’t particularly relate to commuting, but you can calculate your neighborhood’s walkability at walkscore.com.)

One more obvious choice in car-free commuting is public transportation, again with the distinct advantage of being able to get in some quality reading time.  But there are other options as well, which you can learn about at commuteinfo.org, a website for commuters and employers by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission

So whether you cycle, hoof it, bus, carpool, or drive, just remember to watch out for each other and be safe!


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