Urban Velo

City Report – Pittsburgh

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City: Pittsburgh

Nickname: The Steel City, the Iron City, or the City of Three Rivers.

Claim to Fame: Pittsburgh is home to the six-time Superbowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s a drinking town with a sports problem, or vice versa.

History in 100 Words (or less): Pittsburgh began as a fort during the Seven Years’ War between the French and British. The British won, and Fort Pitt became a city, which in turn became famous for the production of iron, then steel, then the development of aluminum. Pittsburgh played a significant role in the development of nuclear power, and today stands as one of the world’s foremost medical and technological centers. It’s also a big time food city, owing to an early influx of eastern European immigrants, followed by the more recent proliferation of Asian cuisine.

Random Fact: Mr. Rogers is from Pittsburgh. His neighborhood is a fictitious amalgamation of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, but the show featured a who’s who of Pittsburgh citizens, including regular appearances by storied jazz musician Joe Negri as Handyman Negri.

City’s Terrain: Pittsburgh is hilly with narrow streets and lots of bridges. As part of the Rust Belt, road maintenance takes a backseat to other public interests, but bike lanes continue to pop up as the economy continues to rely more on the education, technology and medical fields. As a relatively small city, Pittsburgh is very “bikeable” as long as you’re either young, strong, or you stick to the bike lanes and the bike paths which are flat and run along the rivers.

Weather Forecast: Pittsburgh sees the best and worst of all four seasons, but the climate is generally pretty mild. Expect snow and ice in the winter, and hot, humid summers, but it’s seldom as extreme as the conditions in cities like Minneapolis or Tucson.

Top Shop(s): Hands down, the most famous shop in Pittsburgh is Kraynick’s. The top two shops for urban cyclists are Thick Bikes and Iron City Bikes. But Pittsburgh has more than a dozen individual shops, several of which have numerous locations, such as Trek of Pittsburgh.

Best Watering Hole(s): In this writer’s opinion, Kelly’s Bar & Lounge is the finest dive bar in Pittsburgh, but we would be remiss to overlook Over The Bar Bicycle Café, which now has two locations. D’s Six Pax & Dogz, a hotdog shop located right next to the mountain bike trails of Frick Park, is a beer lover’s dream. Also, the Church Brew Works is a stunning repurposing of an old church that now serves craft beer that’s brewed on site.
Primanti_Menu_2008apr v2a outside right.indd

Authentic Local Food: It’s hard to talk about Pittsburgh without mentioning Primanti Bros., home to the greasiest, messiest, most delicious sandwich in America. You don’t get fries with it, you get fries on it. As well as cole slaw and cheese. French fries and provolone cheese are common toppings for salads in Pittsburgh, and if you order a fried fish sandwich, be prepared for the filet to extend way beyond the bun.

Best Coffee Shop(s): Pittsburgh has numerous high-quality coffee shops, but the most notable is Tazza d’Oro, who sponsors weekly group rides dubbed Team Caffeine and Team Decaf. There are also several local coffee roasters, including Prestogeorge in the Strip District.

Must See: The Pittsburgh skyline is beautiful, and the city plays host to a number of cultural attractions including the Andy Warhol Museum and it’s many professional sports complexes. There’s also a bicycle museum just a stone’s throw from the casino.

Must Ride: If you only have an hour or two, you’ll want to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s most famous bike path, locally known as The Jail Trail. It runs from downtown to Oakland, where you’ll climb out of Panther Hollow up to the University of Pittsburgh. Stop and eat some fries at The Dirty O, then head into the East End, or back down and across the river to the Southside for drinks.

Best Time to Visit: The spring and fall are beautiful, but nobody loves fireworks like the residents of Pittsburgh, so come on July 4th and party outside with the locals.

Need For Speed: Pittsburgh has a rich history of bike racing, including the infamous Dirty Dozen hillclimb race. There are regular crits during the summer, and more mountain bike races than you can shake a stick at, as well as cross races and alleycats. Pittsburgh also has a storied BMX history.

Two Wheeled Celebrities: Pittsburgh’s most notable bike celebrity is known as the Bumper Bike guy. He has several bikes, each with an automobile bumper lashed to the handlebars, making for an unusual but unforgettable sight.

Top Tourist Attraction(s): Sports, sports, sports, sports, sports. The Carnegie Museums are world class, including the aforementioned Andy Warhol Museum. The city hosts numerous gallery crawls, a large annual arts festival, a regatta, and countless theatrical, musical and other cultural events.

Advocacy: Pittsburgh’s advocacy organization, BikePGH has been named the national advocacy organization of the year. With strong support and equally strong leadership, the local non-profit has made big changes in a city that’s deeply rooted in car culture. To date there are nearly 60 miles of bike lanes, and they’re still gaining momentum.

Locals Only: The city has three rivers, and their shores are an excellent place to congregate on warm summer nights. Locals can show you secret party spots, rope swings and more.

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  1. sarahelizabethFebruary 17, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I will be in Pittsburgh next month with bike, I want drinks at all these old spots I miss tons!

  2. ascpghMay 2, 2014 at 8:46 am

    The missing specification is the cycling vibe. It’s a friendly and inclusive collection of riders with the common denominator of this terrain within the compact boundaries of the city.

    Can’t overlook the Great Allegheny Passage ties in to Pittsburgh’s river trail systems and connects to the C&O Canal toe path at Cumberland, MD to head east into Washington DC.

    Favorite ride is any that starts with a coffee @ Tazza d’Oro and ends with a Belgian and poutine @ Park Bruges.

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