Bike Trails: Get Your Spin On

Did you know that the number of bike commuters in America is on the rise? This is thanks, in part, to promotional events like the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Month, which runs during May. Reasons for the recent resurgence include a national focus on staying healthy and fit, fighting pollution, saving money, avoiding traffic delays, and simply because it’s a fun and enjoyable way to get around and explore.

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Nationwide, U.S. bicycle commuting has grown 46 percent since 2005. And from 2000 to 2013, bicycle commuting rates in large Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) increased 105 percent—far exceeding the 62 percent national average and more than double the 31 percent rate of non-BFCs. To aid in this trend, more and more cities are increasingly implementing bike trails into their master planning to make it easier for residents to safely commute via bike. And because they’re car-free, bike trails provide one of the safest, most stress-free routes for bike commuters and cyclists in general.

Pittsburgh and The Great Allegheny Passage

GAP_mapPittsburgh, PA, home of GAI Consultants’ founding office, is fast becoming one of the most bicycle friendly communities in the U.S. One of the longest continuous bike trails in America—The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)—actually runs right through the City. The GAP offers 150 miles of biking between Pittsburgh, PA and Cumberland, MD, where it joins the 185-mile Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath to create a continuous, 335-mile-long, vehicle-free corridor all the way to Washington, DC.

The Final Trail Piece—The Golden Spike

In 2013, one remaining piece called “The Golden Spike” prevented bike trail segments from connecting. (GAI’s office is located just ¼ mile from the link and fronts the trail.) In this final link, a scrapyard sat in the middle of the bike trail’s alignment, blocking the final connection and completion of the bike trail. The land owner agreed to donate the land on one condition—that a barrier be built for liability protection, as hazards from the operation could affect bike trail users. To separate the property from the bike trail, the Regional Trail Corporation and PennDOT hired GAI to design 1,200 feet of barrier fence, constructed of vertical steel I-beams using stacked, decorative concrete panels that slide down between the beams to create an attractive façade for bike trail users.

Bike Trail Open for Business

After three decades and $80 million total invested, the GAP is now complete. The final bike trail link opened to the public in June 2013, and cyclists can now safely get into downtown Pittsburgh without ever getting onto a highway.

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GAI is proud to have played a part in this bike trail project, making it easier for cyclists to safely commute in our home city. For additional information about GAI’s bike trail planning and design expertise, contact Assistant Director of Landscape Architecture Dave Gilmore, PLA at 304.926.8100.


To learn more about National Bike Month, visit The League of American Bicyclists, or check out the important dates below:

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