Readers Write: How I reconnected with a city by bike

Editor’s note: We don’t normally publish letters from readers online, we save that for the magazine, but George’s letter was an especially good read and he sent along so many great photos, we asked him if we could share it with you. 

Dear Bicycle Times,

In early July, I returned to Pittsburgh to visit family and friends for what is an annual ritual —except that this time, I brought my bike for the first time since living away here in Chicagoland. Encouraged by my sister to try the new rail trails, especially on the Youghiogheny, and my friend who told me about the new bike lanes on Brighton Road near his house, I put my new Civia Bryant commuter wheels in the car and headed east.

But you can take a little credit for the inspiration, too: while shopping for this bike earlier this year, my wife picked up some magazines at the shop. As I looked at my first issue of Bicycle Times, April/May #16, I did a double take or two on the hero image on page 3 of a woman cyclist in winter gear. "Dang, that’s a PAT bus and that sure looks like it could be Smithfield Street." Your address confirmed my suspicions, and while I also read the ever-so-hip bike mags from the West Coast, I admit to a twang of hometown pride whenever I enjoy BT. The Issue #17 story on the ride to Washington, DC, went in the car with me to Pittsburgh, too—for inspiration.

So, I’m attaching some photos from my visit that included multiple rides. It was the first time I rode in Pittsburgh since I was kid bombing around Carrick on a $15, used 24-inch bike from Al’s Bike Shop.

What I discovered in Pittsburgh reinforced what my wife and I have concluded from our commuting here in Chicago and from other bike trips: a bike gives you a closeup view of your environment and your community that no motor vehicle can offer.

Of course, my one ride on Brighton Road that ended up on the South Side was not efficient —although it could have been—because I kept stopping, looking, and taking pictures in a city I was rediscovering. Was my Midwest cycling self going to get me up that hill inbound from Wood Run Avenue? (Yes, in lowest gear). Hmmm…what’s this nice urban garden on the right? Keystone Plumbing sure is looking pretty sad these days. Never rode a bike across the Allegheny or the Mon or the Yough before. That Hot Metal car, a legacy of the Steel City’s industrial legacy, is still impressive up close, though cold and graffiti’d. And amazing that the waste from a coal mine can support any vegetation—and even turtle nests with the broken remains of hatched eggs.

It was a fun visit and yet another revelation from cycling.

George Zrust

Evanston, IL

Thanks for writing us George! Got a story to share about riding in your city? Send it to




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