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DIYDPW #54

February 5, 2019

Pittsburgh: who cleans the 40th Street Bridge’s sidewalks? Most DIYDPW posts focus on signage, but every once in awhile we find a human filling in a vacant municipal role…


Dani Kramer works with Pin-Up Posters Courier Collective, an independent bike-powered event-poster-hanging business with an office in Bloomcraft, right down the hall from Justseeds Global Distro HQ in Pittsburgh.

Since I’ve known her, Dani has been regularly cleaning an entire city bridge, because absolutely no other municipal entity will take responsibility for it.

It’s a Herculean feat. Specifically, Dani’s bridge is the 40th Street Bridge (aka the Washington’s Crossing Bridge), a 2,366 long, three-lane monster that connects Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood with the borough of Millvale across the Allegheny River to the north, pumping cars and commercial trucks into and out of the city via PA Highway 28. It’s a brutal corridor for any pedestrian, and the only time I’ve ever walked over it is on the annual 4th of July festivities where neighbors crowd on the east side of the bridge to catch the downtown fireworks.

Dani bikes over this bridge every day for work, and she’s started cleaning the sidewalks: clearing and hauling out trash throughout the year, and shoveling, sweeping and salting them in the winters. Again: she’s taking on this work because no other official body will take responsibility. Now she’s raising money for her work, and I asked her to take a minute and explain why…

(40th Street Bridge from Flickr Creative Commons, user glindsay65)

From Dani:

Here’s a run-down of what the deal is! For the last few years since I moved to Millvale, I’ve tried to get PennDOT, the City of Pittsburgh, and the Borough of Millvale to care about the state of the 40th street bridge sidewalks. They were constantly covered in garbage and broken glass. So I started doing cleanups myself because I was just tired of getting flat tires all the dang time. I still pick up a lot of trash, and bigger stuff that falls off vehicles and ends up getting tossed onto the sidewalk. But the two garbage cans that I installed this past spring have helped quite a bit. They’re a bitch to empty but I’m glad that people use them!

 

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IM YOUR PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT, NOW. please donate at GoFundMe pay-the- bridge-troll

A post shared by An Untranslatable Pun (@dani_the_poster_girl) on

The bigger problem is the winter conditions. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the ice and snow removal from the sidewalks. I’ve done a lot of communication with local officials and folks from 311 (Pittsburgh’s hotline for municipal issues), PennDOT, and Public Works. There’s just been a ton of finger-pointing for years and nobody will take care of it. When there’s heavy ice and snow, the stuff that’s plowed from the roadway ends up on the sidewalk, where it piles up and freezes and makes the bridge impassable even for pedestrians. There are ‘sharrows’ painted on the roadway of the bridge, but that’s basically a joke/death sentence. I’ve been car-free and cycling in Pittsburgh for ten years, and I’ve only braved riding on the road across that bridge a handful of times. It’s not a good idea. It’s an insanely dangerous bridge. Last winter I was hit by a distracted driver in a Ford F250. Not cool.

 

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🎶Chop a couch into peices. This is my last resort.🎶

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So I’ve been trying the squeaky wheel method for a couple years now, still to no avail. I’m out there shoveling and salting as often as I can. A lot of people use those sidewalks. It’s pretty much the only way to get into town for a lot of people. The other option is to walk the north shore trail down to the 31st street bridge. But to tell bike/ped commuters to use the trail (which also isn’t cleared of snow in the winter, obviously) would be akin to telling any motorist to always take a long, circuitous scenic route to get to and from work every day.

 

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Guess what

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So anyway, I made the gofundme because I was tired of talking to a brick wall about this and just decided to do it all myself. The funds I’ve raised so far have helped me buy the longtail bike which is specifically for this volunteer work (so i can carry heavy loads of trash, tools, salt, etc.). I’m still accepting donations because this is an ongoing, seemingly endless, thing that I’m doing. I’m hoping to shut it down when someone takes responsibility, and I hope it’s soon. I work seven days a week and really can’t spare the time to BE public works. If the city was paying me, I’d be totally happy to keep it up. I like physical work, and I like doing things that benefit the community.

Anyway, I’m still in touch with some folks, still being a squeaky wheel, and considering ways to move somewhere warm, never to touch a flake of snow again!

(Please Donate to Dani’s perpetual fundraiser, help pay her a wage for her municipal service work!)

 

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I’m salting the fucking bridge myself because this city is a joke. I have a job to get to.

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Housing & Cities

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