March 2022 newsletter from Northside Councilman Bobby Wilson
Councilman Wilson discusses making outdoor dining a mainstay in Pittsburgh and lowering the speed limit in City parks.
This month, I would like to share some details about two bills that I passed at Pittsburgh City Council in February.
My first bill made permanent changes to the outdoor retail and dining process that allow businesses to apply for a license to use the public right-of-way for restaurant seating, retail displays, grilling, and other approved business purposes. Creating a program to grant licenses for outdoor dining and other retail activities allowed many of these restaurants to survive the pandemic. Recent studies show that about 39% of customers still do not feel comfortable indoors and about 74% of food and beverage workers have reported lost pay or income.
Recognizing how important this program was to keeping restaurants and other small businesses alive across the city, and how much livelier it made our main streets, I passed this bill to make outdoor dining and retail a mainstay feature of street life in our city. My colleagues in Council were deeply supportive of this bill not just because it supports restaurants and small businesses, but also because it reflects a shift towards more pedestrian-friendly streets across our city. Because of how important it is to make sure our public spaces remain accessible for all, most of the license requirements continue to be there. However, for the first time, businesses have the option of permanently expanding into parking spaces and installing protective barriers that are both safer and more attractive. The updated ordinance also clarifies and increases business accountability for maintaining these public spaces.
If you are a business owner interested in applying for an Outdoor Dining & Retail License, please visit https://pittsburghpa.gov/domi/outdoor-dining. This spring, look for an announcement about the rollout of a $1 million fund at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) that will provide grants to businesses for setting up barriers for streets and sidewalks that clearly mark dining and retail spaces and improve public safety.
My second bill directs DOMI to reduce the speed limit on Pittsburgh park roads to 15 mph. Many of the roads that go through our City parks lack sidewalks and are shared by both vehicles and pedestrians. The default speed limit on these roads is currently 25 mph. This creates potentially unsafe conditions on park roads shared by cars, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and discourages residents and visitors from enjoying our City’s beautiful parks. During this pandemic, we have all come to appreciate the importance of our parks in staying healthy and active. Reducing the speed limit on park roads is a major step towards ensuring our safety in these green spaces.
The chance for a serious injury drops dramatically when the speed limit is 15 mph. To sharpen the point, one 2011 study showed that the average risk of a severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle is 50% at 31 mph, but 10% at an impact speed of 16 mph. Lowering this speed limit will most protect our most vulnerable park users, such as older Pittsburghers and children. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), a 70-year-old who gets hit by a car at 25 mph has about a 25% chance of losing their life. However, if the same person gets hit by a car traveling at 15 mph, their chance of death drops all the way down to about 5%.
Under the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code, the City of Pittsburgh is empowered through its police powers to enact an ordinance that reduces the speed limit on roads within a public park to increase the safety of the citizens of Pittsburgh. Any action taken under this law must be authorized by an ordinance of Pittsburgh City Council. Additionally, the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) has the authority to determine the maximum speed limit within a public park, upon the basis of an engineering and traffic study, if it determines that the new speed limit is reasonable and safe under the conditions found to exist upon park roads. Now that City Council passed my bill to lower the speed limit on City park roads to 15 mph, I am looking forward to working with DOMI to bring a lower speed limit on major park roads on the Northside—such as Riverview Avenue, the loop in Riverview Park—and across the city.
Please contact my office to share your thoughts on these two bills or any other legislation that you would like us to consider. You can call us at 412-255-2135, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We look forward to hearing from you.
COUNCILMAN, DISTRICT 1