Workers began installing Pittsburgh’s first green bike lane on Tuesday
Liberty Ave bike lanes go GREEN
Way back in 2007, BikePGH proudly proclaimed our first on-street bike markings that we lobbied the City to install. The Liberty Ave project, consisting of bike lanes and sharrows spanning Baum Blvd to Heron Ave, were also the first on-street bike infrastructure installed since 1983, when the Caliguiri Administration striped Beechwood Blvd. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl attended the Liberty Ave ribbon cutting, and even went for the inaugural ride on a police bike.
While we were proud of the Bloomfield business district sharrows (one of the earliest sharrow projects in the country), we knew that something better, like bike lanes could go in. There was also the question of the “missing piece,” ie. the complicated section of road where the bike lanes disappear and where Liberty Ave intersects with the Bloomfield Bridge/Main St and its neighborhood-unfriendly ramps.
After five years of acceptance, more people riding bikes, and that the sharrows legitimately made the Liberty Ave business district better, it was time for the City to repave Liberty. Over the course of those years, the City hired a full-time Bike/Ped Coordinator and Traffic Engineer, subsequently becoming better prepared to design bicycles into the roadway system. We were able to use these opportunities to turn the sharrows into legit bike lanes in September, 2011, further improving the corridor for bikes.
Why Green Lanes?
But there was still the missing piece, or “no man’s land” as it became known as among locals, where you were expected to fend for yourself among confusing, loosely marked lanes and crossing traffic.
Green lanes are popping up all over the country as a way to help draw attention to an area that sees a large number of people on bikes, in order to avoid conflict. The first bike lanes like this within the City actually came from a PennDOT project, where they painted the crossings of the interchanges on the Birmingham Bridge blue in 2007. Since then, FHWA got on board with this type of roadway treatment and are now recommending that US Cities paint these lanes in a bright green color.
The section of Liberty Ave where people on bikes need the most protection are near the entrance to the Bloomfield Bridge and Main St. Despite existing in the middle of a pedestrian oriented business district, these slip-ramps were designed like they are for a highway, making it easy for drivers to turn without necessarily slowing down. Not surprisingly, conflicts arise when people need to bike and walk across the intersection. The goal is that the green lanes will help draw drivers’ attention to the crossing so that they’ll be more aware and accepting of the presence of people on bikes, as well as pedestrians. Riders should of course stay as vigilant as always.
Another important aspect to this project was to help reduce the confusion when the two-lane Liberty Ave opened up to four lanes for a small section. Aside from being confusing to newcomers, this encouraged aggressive drivers to “cut ahead,” causing dangerous conflicts due to lane switching. Keeping everyone in one lane throughout the corridor minimizes the confusion.
The lanes themselves are affixed with a thermoplastic that’s been used all over the country for similar applications and bike boxes. It is embedded with a grit that makes it slip-resistant and is expected to last much longer than paint.
Thanks to the City of Pittsburgh and Mayor Ravenstahl’s team for getting this done. Also, thanks to Bikes Belong, who provided the grant to the City to pay for the green lanes.
Tell Pittsburgh’s Mayoral Candidates that you want safe streets for biking and walking! There’s a good chance that Pittsburgh’s next Mayor will be decided in May’s Democratic Primary. A supportive mayor is the difference between expanding on bike-friendly initiatives or a halt. Show the candidates that biking and walking issues are popular, and can even swing an election! Sign our petition TODAY!