PublicSource: When is a street not a street?

A sinkhole along a paper street next to a popular cycling shortcut. Full slideshow on the Public Source site

Cyclists find that shortcuts can be dangerous, too

By Emily DeMarco | PublicSource | Sept. 29, 2012

In Pittsburgh’s late summer, Charles Carthorn and his son, Chuckie, rode their bikes over a favorite shortcut, a path sandwiched between the former Reizenstein Middle School and The Ellis School.

“We commute here by bike every day to football practice,” said Charles Carthorn, 42. “And this is our little shortcut.”

But he worried that 12-year-old Chuckie might be tempted to jump over a five-foot wide sinkhole on the path that looks as if it would gobble up about one-third of an adult bike.

“When he sees something like this, he wants to jump it,” Carthorn said of his son, who has been racing bikes for nearly half of his life. “I want to see him try it,” he said with a laugh, “but I don’t want him to do it because it looks kind of dangerous.”

The surrounding streets, however, are an even greater gamble for cyclists.

Two fatal bike accidents recently occurred on Penn Avenue, less than two miles from Mellon Park where Chuckie plays football. One cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Point Breeze, on Penn Avenue near the East End Food Co-op. The second was struck by an SUV just a few days later, on a stretch of Penn Avenue near the border of Wilkinsburg.

As public officials urged cyclists to use side streets in light of the fatalities, the Carthorns’ shortcut — known in the cycling community as the Great Northeast Passage — may have become more important than ever.

Technically, their shortcut isn’t a real street. It’s a paper street.

Paper streets are like unfinished thoughts: Streets that were drawn on a map for a neighborhood, but were never adopted by the city. So no one really knows who’s responsible for the paper street. Is it the city? The nearby property owners?

Read the full article in Public Source

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