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(2015 - Fall Issue)


If you’ve ever had a friend who quit smoking and took up cycling, you’ll understand the new Pittsburgh.

Gone are the steel mills and the pollution once associated with Pennsylvania’s westernmost city. Nowhere is the transformation from industrial heartland to hip, health-conscious city more evident than on the biking trails along the Monongahela River into the “Golden Triangle,” the nickname for Pittsburgh’s downtown.

An Urban Cycling Excursion

My trip through Pittsburgh’s industrial past begins at the Triangle Bar and Grill on Monongahela Avenue where I pick up a hoagie, true working-class Pittsburgh fare. These huge submarine sandwiches come in the 66-centimetre Battleship and the half-size Destroyer. With lunch in my backpack and a bike in my trunk, I drive to the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area down by the river. Here, a popular activity is to tour the Carrie Blast Furnaces, part of the former U.S. Steel works. Tens of thousands once laboured along these banks by day and chowed down on hoagies in watering holes such as the Triangle at night.

Across the Rankin Bridge, I enter the Great Allegheny Passage, part of a 539-kilometre hiking and biking trail that runs from here to Washington, DC. At Southside Works, a new neighbourhood with residential, retail and entertainment spaces, I pause in the park to marvel at two toiling six-metre-tall human sculptures made of reclaimed steel simply called “The Workers.”

Just beyond Hot Metal Bridge, I reach the new South Shore Riverfront Park built on the site of the Jones and Laughlin Steel factory where a former barge dock is now a grassy piazza for concerts and other events. On Fort Pitt Bridge, my destination comes into view—Point State Park, Pittsburgh’s meeting place, where the Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers merge to create the Ohio.

Here, Pittsburgh’s oldest building, the 1764 Fort Pitt Blockhouse, is dwarfed against the city’s tallest, the 64-storey black U.S. Steel Tower. Built with massive steel columns on the exterior to show off the company’s ingenuity, the building is now home to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. It’s a monument to the city’s economic shift from industry to “eds and meds,” as they say here, of the significant educational and medical infrastructure. Many parks and museums were also built in large part through the philanthropy of the great industrial-age families and their foundations.

I settle next to the fountain at the convergence of the three rivers to watch kayakers, paddleboarders and other boaters enjoy the now unpolluted waters. In fact, the rivers are so clean, major bass fishing tournaments are held here. I unwrap my Triangle Destroyer and tuck in, a reward well deserved for so much exercise and fresh air as part of Pittsburgh’s new healthy lifestyle.

Travel Planner

For more ideas on what to see and

do in Pittsburgh, log onto VisitPittsburgh.com.

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