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Pittsburgh ranked among least dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently reported that Pittsburgh was rated one of the safest metropolitan areas in America for pedestrians.
The study, entitled “Dangerous by Design”, ranked Pittsburgh 50th out of 51 in the category of most dangerous places to walk.
According to the report, 47,025 people died and 676,000 people were injured while walking on streets between 2003 and 2012.
The study utilized Pedestrian Danger Indexes (PDI), which are the rate of pedestrian deaths relative to the number of people who commute to work on foot, to calculate the standings.
Oddly enough, the data indicates that cities ranked among the most dangerous like Orlando, FL and Jacksonville, FL have low rates of walking like 1.1 percent and 1.4 percent. Safer cities such as top ranked Boston and Pittsburgh coming in second have percentages of 5.3 and 3.6 respectively. 

NoWait raises $10 Million to advance business

Pittsburgh startup NoWait raised $10 million in venture funding which it plans to use for hiring and the creation of new tools.
The application allows iOS and Android users to track their wait times at restaurants and add their names to wait lists before they have arrived at the restaurant. The app also enables restaurant employees to collect phone numbers and send text messages to alert diners that their tables are ready.
According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 1,000 restaurants in the United States and Canada such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Texas Roadhouse are already using NoWait to organize their waiting lists.
Ware Sykes, Chief Executive of NoWait, says that the company plans to develop technology that allows restaurants to view analytics like how frequently their customers visit them and how much they spend. 

US District Court Judge rules Pennsylvania same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

District Court Judge John E. Jones, III in the case of Whitewood v. Wolf, declared the Pennsylvania Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional yesterday.

In the ruling, Judge Jones wrote, We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.”

The ACLU of Pennsylvania, on behalf of 21 Pennsylvanians seeking the right to marry or have their out-of-state marriages, recognized filed the case

Pittsburgh area officials are celebrating the news.

“I am overjoyed by the judge’s decision today, and can’t wait to throw open the doors of the Mayor’s Office to honor marriages of all couples,” Mayor Bill Peduto said in a statement released yesterday. “I would be thrilled to make the marriage of an LGBT couple the first one I officiate as Mayor.”

The mayor has been an active advocate for marriage equality since the aughts when he helped create Pittsburgh’s Domestic Partner Law, which was designed to allow same-sex couples share health benefits.

"As a long time supporter of marriage equality, I am thrilled to finally be able to celebrate this victory with supporters across the state," said Councilman Dan Gilman. "But more importantly, the decision to declare the ban on marriage equality unconstitutional in Pennsylvania contributes to our city's shared vision for a better and brighter—a Pittsburgh that embraces love, equality, and diversity."

Those who are interested can register for a marriage license in Allegheny County here. There is a three-day waiting period, which is the standard waiting period in Pennsylvania. For more information, you can read about the process here.

“For these couples, the judge’s decision will open the door to all of the rights and obligations of marriage that different-sex couples take for granted, from filing joint tax returns to transferring property from one spouse to another tax free to the ability to inherit without a will,” says Anthony Infanti, senior associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at University of Pittsburgh School of Law

Pittsburgh ranks third for walking workers

The Census Bureau recently reported that Pittsburgh ranked in the top three large cities in the United States for the percentage of people who walk to work. Coming in third place behind Boston and Washington D.C., 11.3 percent of Pittsburgh’s workforce commutes to work on foot.

The Pittsburgh Business Times reported that the Census Bureau found walking rates to be higher in both larger and smaller cities that are college towns.

Brian McKenzie, the Census Bureau sociologist who authored the report, pointed to community support as a reason for higher walking and biking rates.

"In recent years, many communities have taken steps to support more transportation options, such as bicycling and walking," McKenzie told the Pittsburgh Business Times.

PPG transforms television technology

PPG Industries is manufacturing organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, that have the ability to make big screen televisions more energy efficient and eventually more affordable for consumers. 

PPG sends the manufactured crystals to Universal Display where companies like Samsung and LG electronics buy the technology that is currently used in cellphones and mobile devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S5

According to Consumer Reports, Organic LED displays would combine the best attributes of plasma and LCD screens with none of their shortcomings. Applying OLED technology to televisions would improve the quality of colors on screen and make units thinner and lighter.

'Pittsburgh basks in refurbished image'

Bill Flanagan, executive vice president of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, told the Associated Press that Pittsburgh is the 'overnight sensation' that was 30 years in the making.

The Associated Press article chronicles the transformation of Pittsburgh beginning in the 1980’s and points to Pittsburgh’s leaders and cultural development as contributing factors to the city’s success. The Steel City has witnessed the diversification of its economy into technology, energy, healthcare, education and finance.

The piece lists the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, the Consol Energy Center and Rivers Casino among sites of Pittsburgh’s transformation.

"I don't know of anything on this scale, in any other American city, where we've gone from parking lots and forgotten roadways to beautiful riverfronts and significant stadiums, significant new buildings and a significant, world-class riverfront,” Grant Oliphant, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, told AP.

Bacteria found in ice at UPMC Presbyterian

News travelled as far as the Kansas City Star last week when Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s Disease, was found in ice machines at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Presbyterian Hospital.

According the piece reported by the Associated Press, officials at UPMC Presbyterian were stumped when the hospital’s water system tested negative for Legionella though one patient died and two were sickened with the disease last year. The bacteria usually develops in warmer water.

UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner said refrigeration compressors gave off heat raising the temperature in the water reservoirs of the affected ice machines and warmed the water enough for Legionella to develop.

Steel City Movie Tours

Starting on May 31, Pittsburgh natives and tourists alike can venture through the city on a tour entitled “Lights! Camera! Pittsburgh!” that showcases the history of movies in Pittsburgh.

The Steel City has made its way onto the big screen with classics like Flashdance and Night of the Living Dead. More recently, Pittsburgh has been the backdrop for movies such as The Dark Knight Rises and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

"People still want to know where the restaurant was in 'Flashdance,” the director of Pittsburgh’s film office, Dawn Keezer, told the Tribune Review.

The importance of BRT

In a piece about the boons and challenges of Bus Rapid Transit running into downtown areas across the country, Atlantic Cities writer Eric Jaffe points to both Pittsburgh and Cleveland as examples of where it's working and the challenges it faces.

"Take the case of the East Busway — a dedicated BRT highway in metro Pittsburgh," Jaffe writes. "The busway has done loads of good for the city: it's stimulated hundreds of millions of dollars in development and contributed to the 38 percent of city commuters who reach downtown by bus. [The Institute for Transportataion and Development Policy] recently gave it a bronze BRT rating."

However, he does point out that bus traffic gets terrible once you get downtown and that angsty businesses have led the Port Authority, with the backing of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Peduto to consider creating a "bus free zone" downtown.

The article contends that many cities have made the critical error of relegating BRT to curbside lanes with mixed traffic, rather than dedicated lanes along the medians of roads. This mistake makes BRT inefficient and has therefore given the form of transit a bad rap. But BRT done right can be extremely effective. However, sometimes it's a lack of political will to address the PR problems that come along with BRT that is the problem.

"But the fight is worth it," Annie Weinstock, a U.S. regional director for Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, told The Atlantic, "because building sub-par BRT — or, worse, calling something BRT when it's not — reinforces negative public perception of the entire mode. Over time, that preconception makes city residents resistant to the idea from the start."

Breath easy yinz- we've got 42 percent tree cover

In honor of Arbor Day, National Geographic rounded up nine cities that love their trees. Pittsburgh had the largest percentage of tree cover of any city mentioned at 42 percent.

Efforts of organizations such as Tree Pittsburgh and South Side Pittsburgh Tree Project among others have helped to plant 20,000 trees in recent years, contributing to a largely reforested metropolis.

According to the Nat Geo piece, our urban forest removes 532 tons of air pollution every year. Breath happy yinz!

Pittsburgh-based filmmaker's documentary on Bitcoin premiers today at Tribeca Film Festival

Local filmmaker Nick Mross and his brother, Dan Mross are gaining national recognition for the documentary The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, directed by the latter Mross and starring the former.

The Mross brothers were inspired to make the film back in 2011 after Dan’s obsession with the virtual currency piqued his brother’s curiosity. The documentary looks at the broader implications of Bitcoin through the lens of Dan’s preoccupation.

The documentary premiers today at the Tribeca Film Festival.  Check out their interview with Fox Business here.

Pitt study shows correlation between pop songs mentioning alchohol and binge drinking

According to a recent study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, young adults who liked top 40 hits that mentioned alcohol brands were more likely to binge drink; twice as likely to binge drink as their peers in fact.

The study surveyed 2,500 young people to see if they liked a selection of popular songs that mentioned alcohol brands. The survey showed that there is a correlation between this kind of marketing and a young person’s desire to drink.

“For younger people, the research shows that marketing exposure affects kids, so exposure to alcohol marketing leads to a greater chance of drinking more,” David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told USA Today. “All of this is very lightly regulated- most of it is governed by the alcohol industry which is all self regulation.”

'Thank You, Pittsburgh, For The Greatest Cake America Has Ever Made'

Shadyside’s Prantl’s Bakery got a major shoutout from Huffington Post writer Julie Thomson this week. She proclaimed their burnt almond torte to be the best cake in America. And as she hails from New York City, that’s saying something.

“To say that the burnt almond torte is light and airy doesn't even begin to describe the texture of this cake,” writes Thomson. “It is beyond that. This cake is so airy it tastes like the idea of a cake, one that can only be tasted in the best of dreams.”
Except it’s real and you could have it erryday if you wanted because you live in Pittsburgh.

Local woodworking firm wins Best of Houzz 2014 award

Local furniture and cabinetry builder Viking Woodworking received a Best of Houzz 2014 Award.

The South Side shop uses all LEED certified materials and methods to create custom bookcases and cabinets for the Pittsburgh market.

Houzz is a website dedicated to providing resources for those building, designing and/or remodeling a home. It utilizes social media and curated editorial to give homeowners inspiration and the tools they need to get projects done.

“We are very honored to be selected by Houzz.com for this award. This is a tremendous opportunity for a small local woodshop to be recognized on a national level. We take a great deal of pride in our work and the service that we provide to all of our clients”, said Pete Schoonmaker, the owner of Viking Woodworking.

'There are many Pittsburghs, all in very close proximity to each other'

The AP isn’t the only national media outlet singing Pittsburgh’s praises. Huffington Post recent published a piece by David Landsel, a contributing editor at discount airfare site, Airfare Watchdog who touts Pittsburgh for being the crème de la crème of Rustbelt cities.

The piece cites the ‘Burgh’s physical beauty as well as the many cultural offerings from great art to great food. Landsel even compares downtown to New York City.

“In some ways, it's like a little slice of Manhattan, streets filled with people on sunny weekdays, pouring off buses (and even a subway!) in the mornings and back on again at night,” Landsel writes. “Pittsburgh feels busy, it feels alive.”
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