Let’s improve our air quality and #ExtendPenn

Image courtesy of the Breathe Project Pollution Map

Our lungs can’t wait

Pittsburgh’s air quality is bad, and getting worse. Today, the American Lung Association’s released their 20th “State of the Air” report. The bombshell report shows that Allegheny County is the only county outside of California to fail both the soot and ozone categories. We live in a top ten city for particulate pollution.

While much of the focus on air quality goes to curbing industrial sources, fossil fuel powered vehicles are also a major source of pollutants. Beyond harming lungs, these pollutants contribute to poor outcomes in heart health, childhood asthma, and even a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

As can be seen in the above image from the Breathe Project’s pollution map, neighborhoods along arterial streets have the worst particulate air quality. A neighborhood like the Strip District, which is surrounded by high traffic roads, is particularly vulnerable.

The Strip District has seen a development boom over the past decade, yet nothing has changed to help people get there without a car. New housing developments, offices, and autonomous vehicle testing have increased the motor vehicle traffic and have provided acres of new parking. While job and residential growth can be positive, there is currently no plan to manage this increased traffic demand on our streets.

If you improve driving options, yet don’t improve options for biking, walking, and transit, not surprisingly, you’ll see more people in cars, making our air quality even worse. Additionally, you’ll actually see a decrease in options like biking and walking as traffic gets worse. Who wants to ride among even more cars and trucks?

Through our #ExtendPenn campaign, we’ve been pushing to extend the Penn Ave bike lanes to the eastern neighborhoods, using any of the available streets. The bike lanes currently end at 16th St, leaving people on bikes to contend with chaotic traffic patterns, aggressive drivers, trucks, and now, a near constant stream of Autonomous Vehicles.

It’s time we #ExtendPenn and create a safe, convenient way for people to leave their cars at home.

Our lungs depend on it.


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