York Urbanist

Pittsburg – Day 3

July 6th, 2012

Although I wanted to be the urban design bloggist, my zoological hat led us to the Pittsburgh Zoo. An easy drive took us southeast of the City.  Seemingly, the south has embraced cyclists with talk in the hotel about having engaged international experts in cycling improvements. Sharrows and real lanes were evident in Squirrel Hill, an upscale suburb near the universities (Pittsburgh has 10 – last count). The downtown would be a monumental win if they can figure out how to fit in 1.2m wide lanes – sorry, 4-foot.

Schenley Park, Frick Park and Pittsburgh Zoo have retained greenness of the south end of the city. Had I my bike there were ample opportunities.  An outdoor cycling oval was the most interesting addition to the landscape, near the zoo. The southeast is blessed with mature canopies over their streets, making cycling a better mode of transportation than the downtown. Fortunately in the south are major universities and therefore a market for the use of cycle lanes.  Some are there, more could be done.

About the zoo: A single route takes the visitor though a jungle or jungles of Africa, Asia and Australia (at least you could meet a kangaroo). The design and layout move the patrons through, under, behind and even into exhibits with animals.  Perhaps the favorite experience was watching the elephants getting pedicures – well, feet washed.  You are close to the behemoths, can interact with the keepers and watch as the pachyderms respond to direction from their human handlers. Toronto’s troubles with their elephants made this special.  The experience is as close to behind-the-scenes as the operations could allow. The rhino exhibit allowed views from numerous locations, including a sneak look from above/behind after you have seen the other Savanna animals.

The interior/exterior aquarium was perhaps the most magnificent exhibit with glass dividers as the tactic to allow viewers to explore underwater without getting wet.   On the downside was the tiredness of some of the exhibitry and the method of Zoo Keys to automate a speaker about each exhibit, followed by an advertisement about … perhaps…. PNC.  But few of the animal dividing fences were evident, kudos to the designers for creating the layering effect.  The staff were all friendly but appeared steeled to the anticipation of those groups behind us.  The Zoo knows its market is primarily children but have brought out the child in many age groups, apparently.

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