Action Alert: Help Secure Funding for this Much Needed Connection!

UPDATE as of 8/11/08:

DPW Director, Guy Costa announced that the City will be rehabbing the rest of the sidewalk from Moultrie Street on up! And in an email this week to Bike Pittsburgh, Councilwoman Tonya Payne committed to using city funds to rehab the sidewalk and to keep cars from illegally parking on it! Thanks to all the advocates who got the city to act!

UPDATE as of 7/8/08: Cars are still parking illegally on the sidewalk nearly every single day. City of Pittsburgh, why are you allowing this to happen!?
UPDATE as of 3/12/08: Cars are still parking illegally on the sidewalk just about every day
UPDATE as of 9/28/07: City Planning is working with the Police to keep cars from parking on the sidewalk, and DPW has sent engineers out to give a cost estimate to rehabbing the sidewalk. Thanks everyone for your letters! You are responsible for getting the city to act! Now what we need are letters asking the city to allocate funds to the rehab the sidewalk from Moultrie St (just past the Birmingham Bridge towards Uptown) to the Blvd of the Allies construction site alongside the Bus Lane. DPW’s estimates come in at $130,000. The key person to write to about making this funding available is Councilwoman Payne. Please tell her that this would complete a safe non-motorized route for her residents and other commuters in the city needing to walk or ride through her district. You can write her at – please cc the City’s 3-1-1 request line:

It would also be helpful to write Representative Jake Wheatley and ask that money needs to be allotted for bike/ped/wheelchair improvements along the Fifth and Forbes corridor in Uptown and Oakland.

Thanks again for your efforts everyone. Let’s keep the momentum going!


“So, how do you want us to ride from Downtown to Oakland?”

On Thursday September 6th, a cyclist was ticketed on Fifth Ave in the bus lane between the Birmingham Bridge and Craft Ave. This isn’t the first time we reported about harassment here. The officer said the ticket will be for $100.

The cyclist knew that he wasn’t supposed to ride in the bus lane, BUT IT IS THE ONLY SAFE WAY INTO OAKLAND AVAILABLE YEAR ROUND.

Forcing cyclists on Forbes Ave is giving us a death sentence.

As bicyclists WE MUST DEMAND that the city provide us a safe commuting alternative. It is our right to choose how to commute, it is their responsibility to make it a safe choice for their citizens. And people should not be forced to drive a car or take the bus because shortsighted planning in the past has not provided for safe access to cyclists, walkers, and wheelchair users. We must DEMAND that the city addresses this unsafe section of town and either install a multi-use path alongside Fifth Ave., and/or light and maintain the Panther Hollow Trail so that bicyclists can use it regardless of time of day or time of year.

This corridor is arguably the most important cycling connection in the city as it sits at the crossroads of multiple neighborhoods, a heavily used bridge to the South Side, as well as connects the two largest business and employment areas, Downtown and Oakland. Despite the illegality, the bus lane has been a major cycling route for years (it’s the safest current alternative), yet no steps have been taken to ensure our safe passage on an acceptable alternative.

In fact, there was an opportunity to correct the situation with the new Blvd of the Allies project, currently under construction. Instead of redesigning it to ensure our safety, the traffic engineers have designed it so that cycling through this corridor, especially east on Forbes Ave, will get worse. They seem to have put more thought and time on the aesthetics of this “Gateway to Oakland” than on safety, creating instead a “Gateway to the Graveyard” for cyclists.

sidewalk on fifth

To add insult to injury, the project calls for a rehabilitation of the sidewalk along Fifth Ave, but only half way down the hill, which the state is covering. The city, who is responsible for the rest, has so far has not been able to find the funds to rehabilitate the rest of the sidewalk. Supposedly there is no money, but guaranteed if a sidewalk looked like this in Shadyside, it would be fixed. Even a smooth wide sidewalk would be better than our current situation. Note: according to PA law, cycling on sidewalks is only illegal in business districts. This is not zoned as a business district. Which brings us to our next point.

To add insult to injury, a used car dealership on the 2300 block of Fifth Ave (just east of the Birmingham Bridge) is parking the cars they’re selling on the sidewalk (our only refuge), yet we’re the ones getting ticketed and harassed because we have no where to go. We couldn’t ask for a more convenient metaphor. Somehow it is acceptable to force pedestrians, cyclists, and those in a wheelchair into the bus lane to help sell cars.

By the way, we’re not telling people to ride in the bus lane. Like we’ve said, this is illegal. However, we do understand why most cyclists choose this route. When given the choice between breaking the law and dying, most rational people will choose to break the law in order to survive or stay out of the hospital.
wheelchair buslane pittsburgh
Solutions exist to provide a safe and legal passage into Oakland, but the city so far has yet to act. This is where a grassroots effort can make a difference! We invite any decision makers, law makers, and planners to see this first hand and take a ride with us up Forbes Ave into Oakland, we’ll even provide the bike! No police escorts allowed.

Please stay tuned as we follow and pursue this story.
Click here for more photos of this area

cars parked on sidewalk

Get fired up!! Some people to contact:

Writing these people is a necessary component in our struggle. The squeaky chain gets the lube. We must keep the pressure on.

If you need some talking points, here you go:

  • The bus lane is the safest, although not preferred or legal cycling route into Oakland. A mixed use path next to the bus lane is the easiest and cheapest, short-term solution.
  • Forbes Ave, with 376 off ramp and a future off ramp from the Blvd of the Allies is a Death sentence for cyclists.
  • This corridor is arguably the most important cycling connection in the city as it sits at the crossroads of multiple neighborhoods, a heavily used bridge to the South Side, as well as connects the two largest business and employment areas, Downtown and Oakland.
  • It is unacceptable that a public sidewalk on a major corridor be used to park private vehicles, especially to sell cars which further ruin the sidewalks.
cars parked on sidewalk

cars parked on sidewalk 2

cars parked on sidewalk 3


  • nathan says:

    Does Bike PGH have any sort of recommended plan for this area? Or really, any areas of the city? Just curious as to whether or not you have specific recommendations that you make.

  • erok says:

    good question.

    unfortunately that page is missing from the city of pittsburgh’s bicycle plan pdf, that is available online here:

    in the paper version, you can see appendix A, the high need bicycle capital improvement projects. they reccommend an off street path from the bridge to oakland on fifth.
    this seems to be the easiest and best solution. in all reality, we’d be happy if they just fixed the sidewalk and made it smooth all the way up. i think that would take a most of cyclists off of the buslane, as well as increase usage. it is legal to ride the sidewalk here, but if they designed it to intentionally include cyclists, then it would actually be pretty nice.

  • Is there much precedent that you guys are aware of for just demanding sidewalk access for such a key, pivotal route by other bike coalitions in other cities? I understand that we need a route as soon as possible, and that the city and its traffic engineers are still thinking with a retro-grade mindset (per the Blvd of the Allies drawings which are pretty grotesque), but I really do not think that demanding a sidewalk to ride on (which should be pedestrian space) is ever the best option. Then we are tangling with pedestrians for space, and not with the guys out there in the street taking up four lanes, and who can afford to give up some space to share. If we demand a paved sidewalk and then get it, will that be the end of bike improvements on 5th Avenue? Maybe for years; but why not drive a harder bargain and tell the city that what we actually need to be safe, and what any other city who has had success at striping bike lanes and building bike infrastructure (Chicago, San Francisco, even NYC!) would never consider just asking for a paved sidewalk to ride.

  • joshuamarx says:

    After a terrifying ride to Oakland from downtown on Forbes a while ago, I figured that I would go over the Hill next time.
    I have rare occasions to make the Downtown-Oakland trip, so have not tried it. Does anyone have experience with this option?

  • erok says:

    “Is there much precedent that you guys are aware of for just demanding sidewalk access for such a key, pivotal route by other bike coalitions in other cities?”

    Well, it’s more of a “shared use facility.” in town we have the jail trail, the southside trail, etc. Off the top of my head, you have the West Side Highway path in NYC, the Williamsburg Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge, etc. In san francisco you have the shared path through golden gate park along side… i forgot the street at the moment…

    I tend to think of this area as a bridge in a way. it’s a short connector between neighborhoods (hardly anyone is going to a destination here) there is an existing really wide facility, no cross traffic, and that can feasibly and easily be improved upon so that it can be shared. and in all reality, the pedestrian traffic there is very miniscule (i live at the bottom, near fifth/kirkpatrick). i’d even venture to say that if you make it bike-able, you would see more cyclists here than peds. i feel you on the fight for the best possible solution, but after the multi million dollar rehab of this corridor is more or less complete (the design anyway), they are not going to drop a cent to re-engineer their 10 year engineering plan. we sort of missed the boat on the re-engineering because, well, we’ve only been advocating for 5 years now (only 3 of which were even at the table), and this project got started about 10 years ago, and for our intents and purposes, is complete.

  • erok says:

    PS. thanks for the comments everybody, we really appreciate the chance to dialog. keep it coming!

  • erok says:

    “and that the city and its traffic engineers are still thinking with a retro-grade mindset ”
    Very true, and it’s a mindset that we are slowly, but surely changing. I also want you to keep in mind that the Blvd thing is a PennDOT project, not city. they are even a bigger beast. the city has almost nothing to do with it. In fact, the city is so poor that it doesn’t even have a traffic engineer on staff (they let him go a few years ago to cut costs), so also keep that in mind when comparing to bike friendly (read: rich) cities like SF, NYC, Chicago. although they are very inspiring to us as cyclists, we have a totally different battle than them.

  • bjanaszek says:

    I noticed this morning, coming into work in the South Side via 5th and the Birmingham Bridge, that there are “No Parking Between 7am and 9am” signs along 5th west of Craft (where the “bike lane” begins). There was not a parking place to be found along the road though. Does the city even care about this stretch of road?

  • clanzw says:

    joshuamarx, just a thought assuming you don’t already know about it, from Oakland to Downtown, try Panther Hollow Trail accessed via Boundary Street to Eliza Furnace (Jail Trail) and avoid Forbes/Fifth corridor all together.

  • Eric says:

    It kills me that the city has no money for this side walk, but spent close to 2 weeks on a sidewalk in Polish hill that no one every uses.

    The sidewalk on Brereton on the busway side needed a bit of repair due to a bit of a land slide down into the hollow, but otherwise was perfectly serviceable. I know as walked it quite often with kids in a stroller. The side walk on the other side was NEVER used, mainly because it makes more sense to cross the street at the intersection of Brereton and 30th(4 way stop) rather than walk down to the bridge on 28th and try to cross there with no stop signs.

    I live a few blocks away and even I didn’t want this fixed. Who makes these decisions?

  • imakwik1 says:

    call me crazy but i actually find forbes to be a little less nerve-wracking with the construction… not that it justifies the ride… there is also a sidewalk that goes up the side of forbes all the way to ophelia street and then under the blvd, if anyone was interested in the sidewalk route

  • erok says:

    I just added a photo (above) of a wheelchair user forced into the buslane. I sure hope she doesn’t get a ticket.

  • Thanks for your response to my questions posted last week. You are right, and I see now the unfortunate predicament that requires gunning for a ‘sidewalk/bike-lane’ compromise rather than road space per the already-past re-engineering. And your point regarding the wealth of Pittsburgh vis-a-vis SF and Chicago is well-taken; even here in SF we find ourselves with a newly re-designed and well-paved Third Street down the entire eastern edge of the city with a new light-rail line but absolutely no space (not even a berm, let alone a bike lane or sharrows) for cyclists due to similar reasons that you site for 5th ave–the bike coalition simply did not get on board and give input when the planning was underway for the 3rd street re-design.

    Perhaps Albuquerque would be a better model for us to consider regarding bike lanes and on-street bike infrastructure as New Mexico and ABQ as state and city are relatively poor places as well, and ABQ has achieved at least a modest amount of cycling infrastructure, including a number of miles of striped lanes (see

    This direct relationship between cycling infrastructure and city revenues (read per capita wealth) is a rather unfortunate one, as in most places (even in SF) it is the working classes that often use bicycles for everyday transportation.

  • erok says:

    I’ve never been to albuquerque, and didn’t know that it was making strides to accommodate bikes. We’re always looking for cities to compare ourselves to in this town as we aren’t really innovators with things like street design, planning, etc. this city doesn’t seem to like being compared to progressive cities like sf, portland, etc, unless it’s in their favor.
    we’ve been using louisville as an example recently as there are alot of similarities between our two urban areas.

  • justinc says:

    Concerned Citizen :
    I’m writing regarding the bike lane on the birmingham bridge.. i wanted to congratulate the city on taking cyclists more seriouslyand it’s greatly appreciated. as it was the bridge was always a terror for many people i know who commute that way. that said, theway back to oakland seriously needs attention, either with a rehabilitated – wider sidewalk – or a bike lane giving us a safe wayback into oakland. you made it half way, now follow through please! forbes ave is too dangerous to ride on.

    Richard Meritzer (

    I would love to take the credit for the improvements on te4h Birmingham Bridge, but this is the result of a lot of work by BikePittsburgh. They worked tirelessly with PennDOT to make these improvements happen.As for Forbes Avenue, this summer we drafted a report on bicycling in Oakland and held a meeting. We are going to be evaluatingthe feedback from that meeting and making recommendations. I will put you on our mailing list so that you can become part of theprocess

  • Kordite says:

    The new Pittsburgh Bike Map says “You are allowed to ride the sidewalk on Fifth Ave next to the bus lane”, that makes that as close to an official bike lane as it’s going to get. I made a posting at your Flickr photoset but figured I’d mention it here that you (and anyone else) should post pictures of the cars parked illegally there at Perhaps the greater documentation will encourage TPTB to take action.

  • So I was riding up Fifth yesterday and, as I always do, stopping and moving aside when the buses come up so they can pass me. The one driver stops next to me and opens his door and yells “you can’t ride in the bus lane!” I was sort of stunned that he was stopping a bus full of people to yell at me when I was moving aside for him out on my bike in 20 degree wether. Then he sayd “ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME?!” I said “Yeah, but there isn’t anything I can do about it now.” He said “Yeah there is you can turn around!” and then moved in front of me, driving extra slow so I suppose I would not be able to go up the hill any further. He apparently expected me to turn around and go all the way back to move onto the death-ride that is Forbes.

    That guy obviously felt powerful after that whole thing. But, I am really starting to get sick of this crap. No matter how polite I am to people there is always some jerk waiting to start something for no reason (I wasn’t inconveniencing him in any way).

    Funny thing is, luckily, the cops have never bothered me. Yet, the bus driver, whose bills I pay, whose fares I rally to support, wants to make my life difficult for the sake of rules.

    Sorry, just needed to vent. I don’t know if anyone else has had similar problems with the drivers. But, there’s one guy who really needs to get a life. I have written to everyone I can on this. Hopefully they will do more to fix this situation.

  • […] most part need to walk to transit stops, that’s a whole lot of walking going on. And although there’s still tons of work to be done, it’s reassuring to know that the City has dedicated to focusing on improving the […]

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