Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was clearly with his people speaking before a crowd of livable streets advocates at last night’s opening reception of the Pro-Walk, Pro-Bike, Pro-Place conference hosted by Project for Public Spaces.
Peduto, formerly a City Councilman, was elected in 2013 on an ambitious platform heavy on urbanism politics (parking reform, bike lanes, land bank, and 97 other ideas), and since he got into office in January, many of the big changes he called for during the campaign have already been enacted. The idea of the city’s new protected bike lane downtown on Penn Ave, for example, was first conceived in March of this year, and is already on the ground, showing how fast things can happen when streets changes get some political juice behind them.
One interesting moment from the speech: after promising to leap-frog other cities’ bike infrastructure gains, the Mayor reminded attendees about the importance of politics, and counseled advocates to run primary challenges against politicians who don’t support a livable streets policy agenda.
“[In the mid-90’s] we were ranked one of the five worst cities for cycling. Today we ranked the 21st best city for cycling. But I gotta tell you something – we’re Pittsburgh! We’re not happy about being 21st. We want to be in the top 10 in the next 5 years, which means we are going to leapfrog you. You have been ahead of us for a while, but we’re going to create programs now and models that you’ll want to take back to your cities.
These protected lanes through the Green Lane Project are just the first step – there’s five more miles coming in the next two years. They’ll connect to our riverfront trails in a superhighway system around this city. And we will create in this downtown area, where we have this goofy two-grid system, the most comprehensive and largest contiguous complete streets model in the United States. And we’re going to do it through a community based process, involving everyone as a stakeholder […]
But none of that happens unless you have partners. BikePittsburgh now has more members than the Allegheny Democratic committee. And I wouldn’t be standing here as Mayor if they didn’t get behind me, and help me get elected. And that’s what you gotta bring back too: it’s not about trying to convince the people in office – it’s about putting the people in office who get it. And that is the mission to take back from here as advocates.”
Addendum: BikePGH Executive Director Scott Bricker writes in to clarify that Mayor Peduto did not mean BikePGH literally supported his candidacy – they can’t, they’re a 501c3. Rather, he was crediting BikePGH with helping shape the political environment in which a candidate with his views on streets issues could be elected citywide. Here’s the statement from Bricker:
We are a 501(c)3 and did not do anything inconsistent with what is ok in educating people around where candidates stand on our issues. We gave every candidate the same platform and opportunities to tell our constituents about their vision. Over many years, we’ve built a political base of 15,000 email subscribers, nearly 3,000 members, 11k+ Twitter followers, 8,500 Facebook followers etc. Our people are very civically engaged and they pay attention to candidate surveys. 2,500 people signed the “I bike. I walk. I vote.” petition that was given to every candidate.