Commuting from Crafton to Downtown
I’ve been lurking here for awhile and have my first pressing need to post. While living in the Lehigh Valley, I commuted on my bike almost every day until it snowed. Here? I feel stuck. I’m trying to get from Crafton to Downtown.
I plotted out the perfect route to avoid the West End Circle – through the Corliss Tunnel, onto Carson St on the sidewalk, to the Smithfield St Bridge. Tried it tonight as a dry run and it was perfect…until I hit the “sidewalk” on Carson and immediately heard “pssssshhhhhhhh.” There is glass everywhere on that path!
So now I’m considering going through the West End Circle, but going from there to Carson St is really intimidating to me.
Does anyone have an alternate route, a way to get kevlar tires, or words of advice for navigating the Circle? Do I just need to get gutsy and go for it?
PennDOT has a project in the works that will (hopefully) address the issues on West Carson Street for pedestrians and cyclists. The projected timeline is next year, or the year after. Kevlar tires are available locally, I believe. I’d start with Performance Bikes in East Liberty (same plaza as Trader Joe’s on Penn Avenue between Shady and Washington Blvd/Fifth/Route 8.
I have struggled with this mightily, I come in from Robinson. I don’t like the Corliss tunnel or that stretch of Carson at all. Boils down to this, go through the West end circle, it’s not bad. The worst part is the 200 yards on Carson to get from the WEC ramp to the Station Square driveway. I just take the Carson St ramp, slow down to look for traffic coming in from the right under the WEC, and merge over. Traffic tends to come in bunches down Carson, so just keep an eye out behind, there are several parking lots on the right you can bail out into if the traffic gets too hairy. Then just work your way up to the Sta Sq drive and turn left, and work through there to Smithfield.
If you’re really intimidated by traffic on Carson, when you come down Main street, on the far side of the WEC there is a set of stairs you can walk down to the Carson sidewalk instead of going down the ramp, and take that to the Sta Sq drive.
But try the first way on a Sat or Sun morning first for a dry run, it’s super easy.
+1 on what edmonds said although I used to just ride down (or between) the double yellow. Maybe it’s insane but it seemed more sane than trying to merge right and then back left.
Thanks for the feedback everyone. Glad to know that PennDOT is working on it because that stretch is seriously bad. Also good to know that I can always take the stairs down to Carson if I chicken out on the merge.
I was also thinking of crossing the Circle to get on the West End Bridge’s walkway, from there to North Side (Shore, whatever), and then across the 6th St Bridge.
Here’s the million dollar question, though: how do you do it in reverse?
Up the ramp into the WEC with the 2 lanes of cars that have no idea where they are going? I find driving there to be frustrating – lots of near misses with people swerving around to try to figure out which lane to take.
Going the other way is easier than it may look – yeah, I just went right up the ramp and around to Steuben St. I never had a problem with the circle itself in either direction (although this was before/during construction so I don’t know how that has changed things). Take the lane when necessary – the speeds are generally slow enough that it’s not a big deal.
What Salty said. Just stay alert for when the light changes and go with the flow.
The only thing I do differently on the way out is to hang a right on Chartiers before the bend on Steuben and jog up through the neighborhood to get back on Steuben higher up, the bend there is wicked narrow and blind for cars.
the only connector between the bridge and the
northside trail is a set of 40 or so stairs on the
outbound side of the bridge.
Stairs on a bicycle is a lot less uninviting than duking it out with West Carson traffic IMHO.
I used to work in the Cardello Bldg, on the northern end of the West End Bridge, and on several occasions used the steps on either end of the bridge. The downstream sidewalk does have a direct connection with terra firma, but it’s way out at the Western Avenue intersection. Easier to take the steps from the Cardello parking lot.
Steps get easier with practice. The major things I watch out for are grease stains from the chain, sharp parts on the bike that tear clothing, and smudges on clothing from tires and frame. But the steps themselves are usually not that big a deal.
Again, personal opinion, but I prefer taking a couple of staircases to a steep, narrow, winding street any chance I get.
@ pinky Do I just need to get gutsy and go for it?
West End Circle to Carson is loathsome, loathsome, indeed.
The other alternatives are not notably better, though. It all depends on the particular flavor of “wretched” that you prefer.
The only bright side is that after you get used to that commute, you will be unfazed by even the worst of traffic conditions. (Or, alternatively, you will be unfazed by carrying your bike up dozens of stairs.)
Thanks everyone. I think I need to do some test runs over the next weekend I’m in town (busy travel month for me) and just start trying out the different ways.
In the meantime, I’ll definitely be keeping my ears open for PennDOT news.
i’ve always found the west end circle to be much more difficult by car than by bike. especially during rush hour, when traffic has no where to go.
A much longer method that avoids West Carson and the West End Circle altogether: Go through Ingram, and ride Windgap to Singer, R Valley, wiggle R-L to Tunnel Way, R PA 51, L to cross the McKees Rocks Bridge (curb lane isn’t that bad, really, I do the McRB a lot, and there is a decent sidewalk that is entirely usable despite the “closed” signs). From that, Termon to Fleming to Antrim to McClure to Eckert to wiggle over to the river trail, and I think you can figure out the rest.
Actually, I found a shortcut for that route, Stu. Just past Route 65, as you head up Termon/Benton/whatever there is a set of stairs leading up to the right from the sidewalk on the right. It’s probably 18 steps? It leads you to the end of Davis Avenue. Take Davis Straight across (4-5 blocks), and wander down McClure from there, or follow Fleming/Antrim/McClure/Eckert per Stu’s directions.
I ride from crafton blvd to noblestown to main st west end over the west end bridge (roadway) to northside pretty much everyday @ about 8:30-9 am for the past 4 yrs. Then back over 7th st bridge up smithfield over to carson for happy hour then up carson detour through station square back on carson through the circle to main st and up noblestown @ about 6-6:30. If you want an occasional riding buddy let me know here (i don’t know how to use pm here yet) and i’ll send you some contact info.
Thanks, chefjohn. I leave about an hour and a half earlier than you on both commutes, but I may take you up on that at some point if I leave later.
cool pinky, here’s my cell 412-287-0567. call if you have a later start one morning or if you’d just like to take a dry run on a day off.
This could go in the “things a pampered euro cyclist
get” thread, but bike-pgh should lobby to have wheel
guides installed on those stairs. They have them
to take the bumps off of steps. On both sides its
like a V shape that you can roll your bike up stairs.
Guess what? I did it! After a dry run two weeks ago and a week out of town for vacation, I finally did it!
Today went swimmingly. Crafton Blvd to Noblestown Rd to West End Circle. Walked through the WEC using the crosswalks. Down the stairs, up sidewalk on Carson to Ft Pitt walkway ramp…to work.
Crafton Blvd/Noblestown Rd is a little more forgiving than Steuben – it’s wider and more gradual of a climb on the way home.
Thanks to everyone who chimed in on this thread. I still had a few moments of doubt (parking my beloved pink bike out of my sight downtown, Carson St’s traffic sign obstacles), but this is totally doable and going to be a regular thing for me now. Yay!
Glad to hear your WEC trip worked out well.
When I commute to the north side, I take Greenleaf St. to the WEC, then I cross over to the WE bridge walkway. If I happen to hit the green lights I just merge into traffic and take the roadway over the bridge instead. I go through there at 7am, and it’s not bad.
After Penn DOT spent the bank on making the WEC into a robinson commuter’s wet dream, I’m not hopeful that any future project is going to improve that interchange.
Good job pinky!
Make sure you check out the locking guidelines elsewhere on here to make sure you keep your bike yours, too.
Awww, I just love a success story….! Congrats, Pinky!
+1 on what Edmonds said about learning to lock you bike right, and remembering to do it EVERY time.
Thanks, guys. I definitely read up on it but it doesn’t keep me from being paranoid
Does anyone know – there is a loading dock on Ft Duquesne Blvd between Stanwix and Cecil Way with bike racks. Are those for Highmark employees only or can I park there too?
There’s a loading dock attendant there and nice racks (ha nice rack). I’d rather park there than in the 6th and Ft Duq Port Authority garage because it’s closer to work.
Park there and bring the attendant a bag of fresh donuts from the place on Steuben St every once in a while and he’ll guard it with his life.
That’s assuming I would be able to refrain from eating those donuts…I might be capable of bringing him a greasy bag with crumbs in it.
Hi, sorry to bring up an old thread but I might have need to bike to Steuben street in the west end circle. Can I just take Carson street from station square like a car? That intersection seems dangerous enough in a car (where the west end bridge is). You have to cross the street where the highway exits are and take the second left onto the Steuben street ramp.
Since this thread is 2 years old, I’m wondering if any better routes are new.
I would suggest riding the sidewalk on W. Carson from the Station square westernmost driveway to the West End bridge, but don’t take the ramp up, stay on W.Carson to the steps. Throw the bike on your shoulder up the steps, and at the top there is a crosswalk with a ped pushbutton for crossing and it will take you to a lovely new asphalt path right into West End.
Thanks! I see the yellow steps on google maps at least.
Yep – that’s what I’ve been doing for 2 years (!) now.
If it’s a Saturday or Sunday, I’ll ride through like I’m a car. But on weekdays I hoof it up the stairs. It’s actually faster because you don’t have to wait in traffic.
Coming back, I couldn’t really see a way so I just pretended I was a car and from Steuben bear right down that ramp and left to get to Carson where there is no opposing traffic around that bend near the bridge. If that made any sense.
btw, do you really lift your bike on your shoulder? I would imagine that would get messy.
If it’s my road bike, sure, just make sure to lift it on your right shoulder to keep the gears/grease away from your body.
My pink bike has a step-through frame, so I just lift it to carry it. Same thing – bike on the right to keep away from grime.
If it’s wet out, I’m wet anyway. But I don’t find that I get any messier than usual in dry weather.
I guess that’s kind of a figure of speech, but yes. Only messy if you lift on the right (wrong) side.
I routinely haul my bike up a set of steps or jumping across a stream. Both with my step-thru and standard road frames, I’ve figured out how to do with without getting grease on anything. Just takes practice figuring out where to pick it up. I’m also usually wearing a laptop PC over my shoulder.
Hey Pinky, I am a new Craftonian and trying to get up the motivation to try your route into town! Crafton is great, just wish the connection into town was a little better.
Hey Westender – welcome to the neighborhood!
My husband and I commute at least once a week into the city and often go for weekend rides, leaving from our house. I’d be happy to meet up with you on a weekend or commute with you on a weekday and show you the different approaches you can take to get through the WEC. I’m not all that fast, so it won’t be a speed session.
Where are you heading, typically? Lately I’ve been taking the West End Bridge instead of Carson – the North Shore trail is more pleasant, especially since the sidewalk on Carson has deteriorated in recent months.
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