The Healthy Ride bike share in front of Reyna’s Foods on the corner of 21st and Penn.
How One Strip District Businessman is Supporting Bike Infrastructure in Pittsburgh
“Not in My Backyard” or NIMBY (….you may already know where this article is headed): it is the mantra that has derailed countless community meetings and neighborhood development plans in Pittsburgh and cities across the county. So why not use it as the start for this story?
It was the summer of 2015. Pittsburgh had just launched it’s brand new bike share system bringing 500 bikes available at 50 stations to neighborhoods all around our city. One of these bike share stations was placed in front of Saint Stanislaus Church on 21st St. We won’t get into the details (read: NIMBY, or “NIMFY” in this case) but by the end of the summer it was obvious that the station had to move.
Enter Nic Dicio, founder and owner of Reyna’s, the landmark Mexican market/restaurant/tortilla distributor at the corner of 21st and Penn. We all know and love Reyna’s because it’s delicious and one of the few places in Pittsburgh to get fresh Mexican ingredients and food. But little did we know that the man behind Reyna’s brings a passion for creating great cities and building neighborhoods that support genuine interactions between their inhabitants.
Nic was born and raised on a farm in Hampton, PA. He loved the open space and the biking, running, and exploring that it lent itself to. He was constantly outdoors, seeing new things and meeting new people. His mother was Mexican and would prepare her family delicious recipes from her home country. So when Nic would head home at the end of the day there was always a home cooked meal prepared with a basket of warm tortilla.
It wasn’t long before he noticed that this made him different from his peers, that not everyone was familiar with the food, language, or stories that surrounded his childhood. But he reveled in it. He loved the differences it invited. He took this perspective, a love for hard work, and a quick wit into the Strip District to start Reyna’s in 1987. Nic has witnessed many changes that happened to the area. When the 80’s ended and the after-hours club scene died away, more small businesses opened their doors and residential spaces began to appear. Over the last three decades the Strip District transformed into what it is today: one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant, mixed-use communities.
“We want a parking problem, and it’s wrong to think that we shouldn’t want one. A parking problem means that people are coming down to the area to shop, dine, and have fun. The math is simple: people on your street equal more business. It’s good advertising for the area. They will figure the parking problem out.”
Back to our story’s start – NIMBY: someone said “no” and a bike share station was in need of a new home in this new Strip District. It didn’t take long for Nic DiCio to catch wind of it and invite it to his yard with the enthusiasm he brings everywhere in life: YIMBY.
But this isn’t just about bikes. Nic has been part of the Strip District for 30 years. He loves Pittsburgh and the Strip District and he understands that communities need to develop. He is concerned about the growth of the neighborhoods. “Nobody knows all the answers to community development,” but he believes that improving transportation options are an important piece in growing healthy environments for both residents and businesses. “When one goes up so does the other,” he explains. Business owners have to think about the advancing their business, the neighborhood and the people in it. It’s hard and Nic understands that, but agrees that biking and walking are integral parts of the equation.
David White, Executive Director of Pittsburgh Bike Share agrees, “It’s wonderful to meet and work with business owners who see the benefit that bicycles bring to their businesses and communities. The Healthy Ride station at 21st Street & Penn Avenue has been one of our most heavily used stations in the system, and we know it’s being used by people who want to shop, eat, and play in the Strip. We couldn’t be happier with the station’s new home in front of Reyna’s.”
So for the time being, there’s a beautiful bike share station in front of Reyna’s. “Bike share is in front of my house and I love it,” says Nic. You should stop by and give it a try.
Don’t forget to stop by our last OpenStreetsPGH of the Summer!
Come on down and check out Open Streets for some fun on July 31st. Biking, running, walking, yoga, food, shopping, and more. Hope to see you there!