by Billy Ludt
At the cross section of alternative mobility and urban greenspaces comes an event that’s gathering serious and casual cyclists for a trip to one of Pittsburgh’s community-created greenspaces.
GTECH, a nonprofit that focuses on greenspace initiatives, is organizing its fifth annual neighborhood biking event, Two Wheels Lots of Green. This guided biking event takes riders on tours of Pittsburgh neighborhoods, stopping at local greenspaces along the way. This year’s Two Wheels Lots of Green tour will be in Pittsburgh's southern Hill Top neighborhoods.
“Our greenspaces are really unique,” says GTECH relationship manager Katherine Chamberlain. “They take many different shapes, and they’ve all been designed by neighborhood residents.”
The event gives participants the choice to take a rigorous, hilly seven-mile ride or a leisurely four-mile ride, both through the Hill Top's Allentown and Beltzhoover neighborhoods. While stopped at greenspaces, riders will meet neighborhood residents who have dedicated time to creating a green space. The event is also attempting to raise awareness about the amount of underutilized or vacant land in Pittsburgh.
“We want the ride to be accessible to people who are familiar with biking in the city,” says Chamberlain.
“It’s also a great way for residents of the neighborhood to show ownership of their green space,”
says CEO and co-founder of GTECH, Andrew Butcher. “It can be difficult to find time to be exposed to all the amazing things that are happening in these neighborhoods.”
The idea for Two Wheels Lots of Green came from the Social Capital Council, GTECH’s social outreach committee. One committee member, who happened to be an avid cyclist, wanted to create more interest in greenspaces.
“We said, ‘Boy, I really wish there was a way that I could experience these spaces and meet the people who made them,’” says Chamberlain.
Two Wheels Lots of Green started at a time when the German Marshall Fund, a grant-making organization, was seeking initiatives that dealt with alternative mobility (like biking) and urban green space. The event received the fund's support in 2012 and has occurred yearly since. The ride aligns with GTECH’s mission to make use of vacant and underutilized land in the city.
“It was a perfect time for us,” says Butcher. “‘Shine the light and share the love’ has become a sentiment for Two Wheels Lots of Green.”
Butcher said that crowds for Two Wheels Lots of Green have grown over the past several years; composed of a mix of serious bicyclists and people simply serious about greenspace.
“We’re very excited about aligning this event with Bike Fest,” says Butcher. “This is one of my favorite GTECH events.”
“We always enjoy seeing the connection between the riders,” says Chamberlain. "There’s a developed camaraderie in the groups through a shared interest in greenspaces.”
Two Wheels Lots of Green’s rides start and end at Garden on Gearing, running from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday. The bike tours are followed by a garden party back at Gearing, with live music, food and a pop-up playground provided by City of Play.
Participants can partake in “bike-powered” smoothies from Green Mountain Energy and iced coffee from Black Forge Coffee during the bike tours.