The Wheel Mill

Cycling is possibly the greatest and most pleasurable form of transport ever invented. Its like walking only with one-tenth of the effort. Ride through a city and you can understand its geography in a way that no motorist, contained by one-way signs and traffic jams, will ever be able to. You can whiz from one side to the other in minutes. You can overtake £250,000 sports cars that are going nowhere fast. You can park pretty much anywhere. It truly is one of the greatest feelings of freedom once can have in a metropolitan environment. It’s amazing you can feel this free in a modern city.” –Daniel Pemberton, The Book of Idle Pleasures

 

HOURS:
Monday – Friday: 2:00PM – 10:00 PM
Saturday – Sunday: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
To view an up-to-date event schedule click here.

This location is INDOORS and HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE.

Admission: Click here to see details.

Address: 6815 Hamilton Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15208

Transportation: Bus accessible and on-site parking available.

Site Information: http://www.thewheelmill.com 

Contact: 412.362.3693 || INFO@THEWHEELMILL.COM

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Looking for a real “diamond in the rough” right here in the burgh?  Well, if bikes are your jam, then The Wheel Mill may be right up your alley!  As one of just six indoor bike parks in the country, this park is a rare gem for the local cycling community.  It was inspired by Ray’s Bike Park in Cleveland, Ohio and has over 6,000 square feet of skate park (The Wheel Mill).  Inside this converted row of warehouses there are rooms ranging from half pipes to pump tracks and foam pits for BMX riding to trail rooms, and mountain biking skill rooms. There is also a fundamentals skills room for those just getting started. Several areas within The Wheel Mill are also ADA certified for wheelchair riding!   So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned veteran, there is something for you inside the park.

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Originally, The Wheel Mill was built for cycling enthusiasts, but Harry Geyer, the owner, has found that it is the hobbyists who really keep the park alive. The park runs biking summer camps and skill classes for children of all ages.  The youngest riders are about eighteen months old and learn to ride on balance bikes without peddles.  Anyone with an interest in BMX, Mountain biking, unicycling, or skateboarding can utilize the park.  As mentioned above, those utilizing a wheelchair can also find a home at The Wheel Mill!

Another great aspect of the park is the fact that it partners with plenty of local organizations to not only improve the internal structures for riders, but also to foster a tight-knit cycling community in Pittsburgh.  The Wheel Mill has worked with various local organizations. Tree Pittsburgh has donated lumber and old trees to be used as both riding space and decor in the park’s trails.  In fact, roughly 75% of the park is constructed from reclaimed lumber and other materials (The Wheel Mill). The Wheel Mill also works together with Bike Pittsburgh to co-host city biking safety lessons and biking workshops. Additionally, The Wheel Mill and the Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe partner to bring catered events with alcohol to the park for a variety of events and competitions.  One of their most popular events is the “When I’m Not Riding” event.

The Wheel Mill offers a variety of healthy snacks, energy bars, and drinks.  They’re also a carrier of Leona’s ice cream sandwiches -a local gourmet ice cream delicacy.  There are a variety of great restaurants located near the park and the Pizza Parma nearby even offers “The Wheel Mill Special” for park visitors!  Along with the concession eats and treats, The Wheel Mill has a shop with a variety of retail clothing items and basic bike parts.  Some of the parts include: chains, pegs, and grips. Also, there are bikes, pads, and helmets available for rental in the park.  However, all sizes may not always be available, so it is best to give The Wheel Mill a call before stopping by to verify that your size is available.  Visitors are able to rent lockers and locks on site.  Those with season passes are able to rent bike parking spaces.

Currently there are eleven employees at The Wheel Mill in areas such as: sales, event planning, social media, construction, and marketing.  During the summer season, they also hire independent contractors for a variety of projects.  For those interested, The Wheel Mill has a variety of internship opportunities in: advertising, marketing, writing copy, blogging, and construction.  Mr. Geyer is also open to enthusiastic individuals contacting him with ideas for additional internship opportunities, so if you have skills different from those listed above, you may be able to propose the idea.

Whether you are looking to learn to bike through the city with more confidence, or you just want to sharpen your skills on the ramps, The Wheel Mill is the perfect place to do so.  Take advantage of this unique feature that our city has to offer.

 

Transitioning from a Steel Town to a Wheel Town:
Pittsburgh’s Quest to be a Bike-Friendly City

By: Jordan Dahlstrand

Pittsburgh: A Bike Town

Since before its creation, the bicycle has been a significant part of our society.  If one were to head to Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, England to the St. Giles Church, he or she would find a stained-glass window depicting a man riding on a two-wheeled device.  This image was created over two hundred years before anything like it ever came to life.  In 1817, Baron Karl von Drais of Germany built a running machine called a laufmaschine, which had many elements that would transfer into what we know today as the modern bicycle (Macy, 14).  Though significant, it has meant different things to different people.  To some, it is a mode of transportation.  To others, it is a recreational toy.  As a whole, the bicycle can be seen as a “freedom machine.”  Bicycles are a cheap way to get out and explore an area.  Today, if one wanders around Pittsburgh, he or she will see various elements implemented for cycling including; bike lanes, rental stands, bike shops, and riverside trails.  Something unique that Pittsburgh has for cyclists that most other cities do not have is The Wheel Mill, an indoor bike park on Hamilton Avenue in Homewood West.  Pittsburgh as a whole has made great strides to become known as a bicycle-friendly town where riders of all ages and skill levels are able to explore the city space on wheels.

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An Industrial Past

Although today we are able to utilize our free time to pursue our hobbies, whether that be riding bicycles or knitting sweaters, Americans in the past did not always have such freedoms.  In pre-industrial times, people lived rough, short lives.  The tempo of their lives was centered on the farming cycles.  As life shifted to the industrial age, the tempo shifted more to the workplace –mainly in factories (Bell, 45).  Workers had long, twelve-hour shifts and only one day off every other week.  There was no time to do much besides work, sleep, and eat (Ruck).  In the novel Out of this Furnace, author Thomas Bell described what life was like for steel mill workers in Braddock, Pennsylvania and the horrible conditions that led workers to fight for change through several characters, including a Hungarian immigrant named Kracha.  He wrote,

“Kracha did what he was told and was paid for it every two weeks; his interest ended there.  There was little about his work to make him feel it was important or necessary; on the contrary, the company lost no opportunity to impress upon him that his services could be dispensed with at any time, that it was really doing him an enormous favor by letting him work at all.” (44).

Workers eventually became fed up with their miserable lives and created labor unions to fight for better conditions and better pay.  A man named Robert Owen started a campaign to allow people to work no more than eight hours per day.  His motto was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest (Widrich).”  It was not until around 1914 when companies such as Ford Motors began to implement the eight-hour day.  Due to individuals like Owen and technological advances that occurred during the Industrial Revolution, individuals could finally enjoy a life outside of the workplace, a life where leisure time was available (Ruck).   This leisure time gave the majority of Americans the ability to enjoy sports and recreational activities, like cycling.

Steel City? More Like Wheel City!

This cycling friendly city that we know and love today only came to be over the past fourteen years.  One of the major players in this evolution is Bike Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization created to help residents, commuters, and visitors experience the city’s unique neighborhoods and landscape while navigating the city by bike or on foot through the creation of bikeways and walkways (Bike PGH!).  The organization came to be in February 2002 after David Hoffman was hit by a car at the intersection of Negley and Penn Avenues during his bicycle commute to work.  He soon decided to use the exposure that this accident brought him to bring attention to the need for bicycle safety in the city and created a website to discuss the issue.  This site quickly caught the attention of thousands of riders in the city and led to a variety of events and initiatives. (To view the complete history click here)  In the spring of 2007 the city’s first marked bike lanes came to be and today there are approximately 62.33 miles of bike lanes strewn through out the city (Bike PGH!).  Bike Pittsburgh has created most of the outdoor elements for Pittsburgh and The Wheel Mill has added the indoor biking element to the city.

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A Freedom Machine

In 2013, The Wheel Mill opened its doors to the public.  Since then, the park has made cycling more accessible to Pittsburghers year round.  No longer do those with an interest in cycling have to put away their bikes when the winter weather brings snow and ice to the city.  The Wheel Mill hosts events for people of all ages, young children, women, teens, men, skilled riders, new riders, and unicyclists alike!  Although today, cycling events for women seem like nothing out of the ordinary, this would have been viewed as very problematic in the past.  In the late 1890’s as bikes became very popular in society, many criticized women being allowed to ride them. The Young Adult nonfiction piece Wheels of Change shows both how women utilized the bicycle as a source of freedom and provides examples of those who criticized this notion.  On June 29th, 1896, a young woman named Charlotte Smith who had recently spent the past decade fighting for women’s rights in the workplace spoke about her distrust of women utilizing bicycles and said,

“Bicycling by young women has helped to swell the ranks of reckless girls who finally drift into the standing army of outcast women of the United States.  The Bicycle is the devil’s advance agent morally and physically in thousands of instances.” (Macy, 28)

Although this may seem ludicrous today, women in that time period had to deal with obstacles like this when they first started riding bicycles.

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The Wheels of Conclusion

Over the last fourteen years, Pittsburgh has evolved into a bike town.  There are bike paths, bike rentals, and an indoor bike park -The Wheel Mill.  It can be easy to take these things for granted because they are so prevalent.  One can simply walk outside of their residence and walk less than a mile to find a City Bike stand.  However, if we take a look back at history, less than a century ago, Pittsburghers rarely got to enjoy leisurely activities of this nature because they were busy working strenuously in factories and steel mills.  After fighting for better conditions, eight hour work days were created and life got easier.  Today, because of these advancements, everyone can enjoy these freedom machines, regardless of age, gender, or skill level.

 

Making Pittsburgh Bike Friendly: A Collaborative Effort

by Elizabeth Furiga

Bikers are a common sight in the Pittsburgh area today. In the past 13 years, businesses and advocacy groups have worked together to make the city a safer and friendlier place for bicyclists. Bike Pittsburgh and Free Ride, the former a bicycle advocacy group, the latter a bike repair shop and education center have been supporting the community since 2003. Newcomers like the Wheel Mill, a 3 year old indoor bike park have been just as important to the movement as the original supporters.

Together these businesses and organizations have helped make Pittsburgh a city, where commuting by bike is easy, bikes can be rented with the touch of a smartphone, and local legislators are constantly working to make the city more bike friendly.

Bike Pittsburgh and Free Ride were two of the earliest groups working to support cyclists in Pittsburgh. Bike Pittsburgh is a charitable non profit organization. The group works on behalf of the Pittsburgh community to make the city safe, friendly, and accessible to bicyclists. (Bike PGH!) Free Ride is a bicycle recycling and education facility focused on teaching the DIY approach to repairing and maintaining your bicycle. Free Ride is organized as a collective so no one person owns the shop. Like Bike Pittsburgh, it is also a nonprofit. (Free Ride Pittsburgh)

Bike Pittsburgh began in the winter of 2002, after the founder, David Hoffman, was hit by a car while riding his bike. This accident inspired Hoffman to create a website dedicated to bringing exposure to bicycle safety in Pittsburgh. By 2003, Bike Pittsburgh had reached nonprofit status. Later that year, Free Ride became a project under Bike Pittsburgh’s support. Since 2003, the two have worked together tirelessly and supported each other immensely in the fight to keep Pittsburgh street’s safe for cyclists. (Bike PGH!)

By spring of 2004, Bike Pittsburgh was growing in strength and the community of cyclists was rallying around them. At this time, it became clear that Bike Pittsburgh would assume leadership of Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Urban Cycling Committee. By this time, it was clear that an advocacy group was something the community wanted and needed. (Bike PGH!)

At the same time, Free Ride was growing enthusiasm and education for bicycles in the Pittsburgh community.

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Safety Improvements

By 2007, after a few years of steady preparation and planning in cooperation with city council, Bike Pittsburgh, the advocacy group that could, was able to see some huge improvements for biking safety in Pittsburgh. In spring of 2007, the first commuter oriented biker lanes were created on Liberty Avenue in the Bloomfield/Lawrenceville area. Later that year, a bike lane was created on the Birmingham bridge. (Bike PGH!)

Already, things were getting safer for cyclists. But this was just the beginning. In 2008, the city created the Bike and Pedestrian coordinator position as part of the local government. This position was the first of its kind in Pennsylvania. At this time Bike Pittsburgh also released an updated version of a map for a guide to biking the streets of Pittsburgh. (Bike PGH!)

From 2008 to 2009 multiple more bike lanes and sharrows were installed throughout the city as the result of Bike Pittsburgh and the community’s hard work. At this time, the city also improved bike parking and installed several more bike racks in various locations across the city.

Moving into the 2010’s, Port Authority announces that now all buses have bike racks. The buses went from 0 in 2001 to the full fleet in ten years. By 2012, Governor Corbett, announces a new law, the Safe Passing bill. Among other things this makes it illegal to pass a bicyclist without at least a four foot clearance.

And finally most recently in 2014, Schenley Drive and Penn Avenue both got protected bike lanes. This means the bikers are separated by some sort of barrier from traffic. One of the most praised efforts came in 2015, when Oakland created a major expansion of bike lanes. Much of this was on Bayard street as an alternative to the Forbes/Fifth corridor. (Bike PGH!)

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A Growing and Thriving Community: More than Just Advocacy

In recent years, the bicycling community in Pittsburgh has grown from more than just advocacy groups and education centers. The community is also focused on more than just safety and adding bike lanes. In 2013, Pittsburgh became a place known not just for outdoor bicycling, but indoor as well when the The Wheel Mill opened. The Wheel Mill became Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania’s only indoor bike park. Ray’s bike park located in nearby Cleveland had previously been the destination for BMX riders and people looking to ride in the winter. (Wheel Mill Home)

Since 2013, the Wheel Mill and it’s owner Harry Geyer have established themselves as an integral part of the biking community here in Pittsburgh. Geyer dreamed up the idea of the Wheel Mill after visiting Ray’s in Cleveland. He knew that Pittsburgh had many BMXers and mountain bikers and he figured an indoor park would do well. (McGill)

Using his experience as a construction worker and builder, Geyer brought his vision to life in a former warehouse. Today, the park now works with other organizations like Bike Pittsburgh, Free Ride and the Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe to keep the cycling community in Pittsburgh alive and well.

The Wheel Mill has been growing the strength of the biking community by encouraging young children to pick up a bike and ride. The Wheel Mill is a family friendly park and it brings together generations over the joy of riding a bike.

The park also brings fundamental skill lessons to the community and hosts special nights for kids as well as ladies’ nights. (Wheel Mill Home) The Wheel Mill has become a hub of activity for the cycling community. Here friendships and memories are created. It is a place to get outdoor riding safety lessons from Bike Pittsburgh as well as hone your mountain biking skills. The Wheel Mill has built upon the advocacy Bike Pittsburgh did in the past ten years to make Pittsburgh safer for commuters and now the park is making Pittsburgh a place for biking leisure.

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The Bicycle in the Past: A Long Legacy

Transportation has certainly evolved a lot over the last century. In the 1880’s and 1890’s, when the bicycle first rose to popularity, the invention created a transportation revolution in the US. But even today, with the car as the main mode of transportation, the bicycle is once again making a comeback. This revolution as was previously discussed has come about in Pittsburgh as the integration of the bicycle into a car-obsessed society. Bike Pittsburgh and other cycling organizations have worked hard to make the bicycle an accepted part of our automobile dominated roadways.

In the late 1800’s, the bicycle did not have to worry about competing with automobiles. Instead the bicycle was a revolution all its own. For the working class and women, the bicycle created opportunities and freedom that were not previously afforded to these groups (Macy, 36).  In the book, the Wheels of Change we can see how bicycles changed the dynamic of the US. Bike riding became a mode of transportation as well as a leisure activity. At the same time bicycle racing evolved as a sport, which can be compared to mountain biking and BMX as a sport that is rising in popularity in the US (Macy, 63).

The bicycle was questioned at first as to whether it was safe for the health of women and others. The bicycle while popular, still faced criticism in the beginning (Macy, 35).  Although the bicycle has remained a constant in the United States, even today we see it facing sharp criticism among the automobile heavy world. But biking enthusiasts have rallied around it now just as they did then. Biking today will become an environment friendly alternative to cars and a way for kids to gain more mobility and freedom similar to the way that bikes allowed women to gain more liberties in the past.

The bike has and always will be supported by a strong community, therefore it will endure.

Soja, Space and the Bicycle

Finally, after discussing the evolution of the bicycle community in Pittsburgh and the way the bicycle is perceived now and how that compares to the beginnings of the bicycles, I’d like to bring up the idea of space. For bikers here, through their actions and hard work, they have converted the space of Pittsburgh into a biking city, biker’s destination, and a place where cyclists and drivers can get along. These ideas and views of Pittsburgh fall into certain ideas of space.

Edward Soja was a space theorist, and his ideas can give us a way of thinking about “thirdspace” a place that is both real and imagined (Soja).  A thirdspace is also what Soja sees as a lived space. This is a space that is transformed by the way we live and interact with it (Soja). Pittsburgh is a city, but it became a biker’s city and a cycling destination through the way the specific community has interacted with the city and lived in its spaces. Because of the people who commute by bike through our city, because of the bike lanes they utilize and the spaces they have utilized for community activities, Pittsburgh has been transformed through these lived activities into a biking city.

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Conclusion

The biking community in Pittsburgh has transformed the city as a safer place for cyclists in the last ten years. The advocacy groups and businesses involved have worked to give bicyclists more safety and freedoms while living in a automobile dominated city. Bike Pittsburgh, Free Ride, and later the Wheel Mill have all played a key role in growing the community.

In addition, the criticism bicyclists have faced from drivers today and the obstacles bicyclists have faced is similar to the very beginning of the bicycle in America. In both times, the bicycle was adopting to changing times in the society around them.

And finally, the actions the biking community have taken to make Pittsburgh more bike friendly have also turned the city into the thirdspace, lived space idea of Pittsburgh as a bike friendly city.

Turning Pittsburgh into a bike friendly was a collaborative effort. It is also an effort that speaks of the bicycle’s rich history and the ways that bicyclists live and interact with Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh has a rich and strong bike community something that would surely be felt if you were to visit the Wheel Mill.

Works Cited:

Bell, Thomas. Out of This Furnace. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh, 1976. Print.

“BikePGH!” Bike Pittsburgh RSS. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

“Free Ride Pittsburgh: Who We Are.” Free Ride Pittsburgh. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Macy, Sue, Jennifer Emmett, James Hiscott, Lori Epstein, Marty Ittner, Kate Olesin, Grace Hill, and Lewis R. Bassford. Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (with a Few Flat Tires along the Way). Print.

McGill, Andrew. “Wheel Mill: One Man’s Vision Turns Homewood Warehouse into Indoor Bike Park.” Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 19 May 2013. Web.

Ruck, Rob. Lecture.  History of Sports.  University of Pittsburgh, Cathedral of Learning, ON September 15, 2015.

Soja, Edward. Thirdspace: Journeys to Lost Angeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places. Cambridge MA: Blackwell Publishing Inc., 1996. 53-70.

“The Wheel Mill.” The Wheel Mill Home. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

Widrich, Leonhard. “The Origin of the 8 Hour Work Day and Why We Should Rethink It.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 9 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.

 

 

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