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5.12.2016

Pittsburgh's Bike Trails & Visiting the Bicycle Heaven Museum

Bicycle Heaven Museum
We've lived in Pittsburgh for close to ten years now. The amount of development along the riverfront in the whole region is truly stunning. The seeds of a post industrial Pittsburgh are truly coming alive. Areas that were once barren industrial brownfields are being redeveloped. For most of my time in Pittsburgh, we've had bicycle trails along the majority of the riverfront in the city. This is the easiest way to really get to know this city. There are close to thirty miles of bicycle trails that go along the shores of the three rivers, from the borough of Millvale to the West End, passing points of interest like the home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, PNC Park, and the home of the Steelers and Pitt Panthers Football, Heinz Field, the many bridges, the Bicycle Heaven Museum, which we will talk about in a little bit, and more. If you double back on the trail to North Side, you can cross the Fort Duquesne Bridge from the North Side to Downtown's Point State Park. The park is a great place to stop and take a breather and do some sightseeing. From here you can cross the Fort Pitt Bridge and swing by the Duquesne Incline and head through the awesome Station Square area, the former train station for the former Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad, that was repurposed into a popular entertainment area, home to restaurants, the Gateway Clipper Fleet, old rail memorabilia, and more. From here you can continue along the banks of the Monongahela River in Southside to the Southside Works area, where there are several boat marinas, entertainment areas, and more. This area has continually expanded and become a true riverfront recreation area that is home to a stage for concerts, and more. 

Once you reach the Hot Metal Bridge, you can continue on the Great Allegheny Passage trail. On the GAP trail here you can continue through to the edge of the city into the Hayes neighborhood, and then go into other regional post-industrial cities such as Homestead, Duquesne, McKeesport, and eventually continue on to Ohiopyle State Park and finish in Cumberland, Maryland, where the trail meets up with the C&O trail that leads to Washington, DC.  If you decide to take a left and cross the Hot Metal Bridge, you can either meet up with the Eliza Furnace trail back into downtown, or you can reach a good trailhead where you can park your car. Pittsburgh has a ton of great bicycle trails that provide one of the best perspectives for getting to know the cityscape of the city and beyond.
I usually bike onto the trails from our place in Oakland, but I was low on time and wanted to get right to the trails. I started at the Eliza Furnace Trailhead, an excellent place to park if you are hauling your bike to the trails.
This is the Eliza Furnace Trail. This entire area was once filled with steel production. Now the bulk of it is barren. The riverfront in this area is currently being excavated for future development.
Now we are getting onto the Hot Metal Bridge. These two bridge once carried molten steel across the bridge on rail cars, for fabrication on the other side of the river. They were eventually repurposed, with one bridge for vehicles, and the other for bicyclists and pedestrians. You can see some of the office buildings and labs that are located on the river front. This part of the riverfront is known as the Technology Park. 
Looking down at the two Hot Metal Bridges.
This spot has one of my favorite views of the city. The green bridge is the Birmingham Bridge. In the foreground you can see the new marina that is now a part of the Southside Works area, a welcome addition to what was once a barren plot along the river. There is a public boat launch just on the other side of the Birmingham Bridge as well.
Back to appreciating the Hot Metal Bridges. I love these.

At the end of the bridge, you can see the American Eagle Headquarters, with its giant logo sign. 
Decision time.....hmmmmmm. While the GAP trail is tempting, I am going to stick with the Pittsburgh ride. This area of the trail is GREATLY improved and integrated into the new riverfront project. 
I love when they show off these old and giant industrial relics.
Here is a little amphitheater and patio area. This is all relatively new. This area is hardly recognizable from the barren land that this was before.
This brand new marina was an awesome idea.
There is a decent public boat launch right underneath the Birmingham Bridge here, for all of you boaters out there.
This is one of my favorite sections of the trails along the riverfront. This has grown in to become a nice little forest area.
The Tenth Street Bridge
The underside of the Tenth Street Bridge, with Duquesne University just showing up on top of the hill across the river.
The Liberty Bridge, which is in the midst of a huge restoration process, along with the downtown skyline, the Panhandle Bridge, which is utilized by the Port Authority T Light Rail Line and formerly used by the Pennsylvania Railroad, and we see just a little glimpse of the stunning Smithfield Street Bridge, which we will talk more about later.
The Liberty Bridge in the midst of a serious restoration process.
At this point the trail detours into the old Pittsburgh Terminal Properties, a genius idea for an Intermodal Facility where River, Rail, and ground freight could be distributed. Very ahead of its time. It is currently the "Riverwalk Corporate Centre. These hulking buildings are quite awesome. 
Now back to the trail area. Here you are fully aligned with the rail line and you get to see these giant freight trains roll by.
This is still the same train. It probably had a hundred cars on it. In the background you can see the spectacular Smithfield Street Bridge, the oldest bridge in the city and the oldest steel bridge in the united States. This is an absolutely spectacular landmark and gem of a bridge. The bridge is featured in the opening scene of the movie Flashdance. In the background you can see the downtown skyline, with the tallest tower in this shot being the PPG Place Tower, home to the headquarters of the global company PPG, primarily known for their paint and glass products. You may also recognize PPG place from the old Inspector Gadget movie with Matthew Broderick.
I love the old railcars that they have up on display at Station Square. I would not mind seeing them restored a bit and be kept preserved.
Here you can see how there were once many more rails located on this right-of-way.
The old machine parts they have throughout these areas are simply awesome. I can only imagine how spectacular this was to see in motion. In the left of the background you can see the Monongahela Incline climbing Mount Washington. On the right you can see the old Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroad station. This spectacular building is now used as the Grand Concourse restaurant. 
The other side of the Smithfield Street Bridge. I could spend hours looking at this bridge that has so much character.
It is pretty neat seeing these giant old machines that now serve as giant artistic sculptures.
Moving along on the trail. We now approach the Fort Pitt Bridge. This double-decked Steel Bowstring bridge dates back to  1959 and was the first bridge of its type to be designed with computers, a pretty stunning feat considering how early this was in terms of technology. The computer was probably big enough to cover a third of the bridge's length.
The Point State Park fountain! 

The famous Duquesne Incline
Heading onto the Fort Pitt Bridge
It is good only having to look at this and not have to drive through it!

Point State Park, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers join into the Ohio River
The marble outlines of old Fort Pitt are in the grass. You can see the fountains at the Point straight ahead.
Looking towards downtown...
And the Fort Pitt Museum and the Blockhouse. The Fort Pitt Blockhouse is the oldest building in Western PA that we know of.
Fort Duquesne Bridge heading into North Side
If you go left at the end of the bridge, you can head along the Ohio River for a short distance. You can't miss the signs for the turn off to the awesome Bicycle Heaven Museum.
Bicycle Heaven is located at 1800 Columbus Ave in the Manchester neighborhood of North Side. It is not only a museum, but also a bicycle shop and repair shop. The museum has the largest collection of bicycles and parts in the United States.
Bicycle Heaven has an overwhelming amount of bicycles, over 2000 of them!
They also have near duplicates of both of our ancient bicycles.

Now we head up to the second floor and see a wooden wheeled bike from the 1890s
Bikes galore!
Including a Viscount, a slightly newer version of my Lambert of England Death Fork bike. The forks had several catastrophic failures, but this really is not too different from the modern carbon fiber forks snapping off today.
Now back across the Allegheny and over to the Eliza Furnace Trail.
The Eliza Furnace Trail traverses old B&O railroad right-of-way
My favorite way to take in the city is by way of the awesome bicycle trails that run along the rivers. The evolution and economic development along these trails is quite impressive, for as recently as just a few years ago, many of the trails went through barren areas. I highly recommend taking a bike tour through the city, either through carrying your own bicycle, or renting one through Golden Triangle Bike Rentals. You definitely will not regret touring through these historic areas by way of bicycle. Here is a great map of all of the city's bike trails.


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