Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Not? - Biking Pittsburgh at Night with Flock of Cycles

Somewhere along the way, I became a biking advocate. I gave up on the idea of owning a car long ago; a mix of cost and the fact that I could be the world's worst driver has pretty much left me relying on my own two feet to get around since I graduated college. After a five-day trip to Berlin with a friend in 2007, I realized the unique value of biking in a city after a day spent zipping around on a couple rented bikes. I bought a bike and started navigating the unwieldy streets of Boston and Cambridge. I biked enough in Boston, but I never relied on my bike like I do now. For me, in Pittsburgh, it's the quickest way between two places. It's taken me on adventures and it's certainly gotten me into what is probably the best shape of my life.

Corey and I decided to take our bikes on an adventure a couple Fridays ago when we took part in Flock With Lights, a BikeFest ride through the city - starting at midnight.

The ride started from the BikeFest kickoff party, held in the Strip at the Pittsburgh Opera Building. Around midnight, we rolled out of the cavernous parking garage onto the streets with our lights flashing. The ride was sponsored by Flock of Cycles, who also provided some tunes along the way with this speaker system hitched onto the back of a bike.

The ride first took us downtown and across the Warhol Bridge to the North Side. We circled around Allegheny Commons, past PNC Park, and then we were back downtown after crossing the Clemente Bridge.

My favorite part of the ride was overtaking Market Square and then circling around the plaza at PPG Place. We went round and round and round until a security guard came out of one of the buildings and gave us some bad news: "No bikes in the plaza! No biking in the plaza!" We reluctantly ended our dizzying antics and continued onward through the Armstrong Tunnel and across the 10th Street Bridge to the South Side.

We turned left onto E. Carson Street probably around 12:45 a.m., and it was most definitely a Friday night in the South Side. We were greeted with a mix of heckling from drunken dudes, some cheering, and a few passer-bys had questions about what we were all doing on these bikes at night. One woman got my attention while I was waiting for a light to turn green and asked, "Why are you guys doing this?"

"Why not?" I responded.

Once the craziness of E. Carson Street subsided, the streets felt incredibly empty. We biked through the South Side Works and came upon some people milling about outside of the Hofbrauhaus. We crossed the Hot Metal Bridge and took to the Eliza Furnace Trail. After a short pitstop in the parking lot for the trail, we resumed our ride, which was nearing its end, but not before the lights from our bikes glowed as we navigated a very dark and very cool Panther Hollow.

Once everyone reached the top of S. Neville, we all disbanded and made our ways home. Corey and I took Ellsworth and I enjoyed the space the wide and empty road provided to let go of the handlebars and just glide most the back toward Bloomfield. By the time I was home, it was 2 a.m. I fell into my bed, exhausted. I was asleep in minutes, dreaming of my next Pittsburgh adventure.

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