Oakland to the North Shore

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Hi everyone!
I’m new to the site and relatively new to biking in Pittsburgh. I used to ride my bike from Carlow (I’m a student) to the Animal Rescue League in East Liberty the back way through shadyside. Now, I’m starting a new internship at the aviary and am looking for the best way to get from Oakland to the North Shore. Would taking the trails along the river be easiest? (read safest for a newcomer). I’d really appreciate any input!


Yes, from Oakland you have relatively good trail access.

Do you know how to get to the Eliza Furnace Trail from where you live? That’s the trail along the Parkway that some people call the Jail Trail.

If so, you can take that into downtown. It “ends” at Smithfield Street, but you can take an on road connection to Point State Park by either staying on Fort Pitt Boulevard and continuing west, or moving two blocks further from the river and following Blvd of the Allies to Point State Park. It sounds scary, but both are wide streets with relatively light parking and traffic. You’ll be fine on either one.

At Point State Park, go under the weird bridge with the water under it (as if you were going to the fountain), but just past the bridge, look for the ramp heading up and to the right. This will put you on the pedestrian (and bicycle) connection to the north side. PAY ATTENTION at the north end of the bridge, where you need to veer slightly right to take the ramp down. The straight ahead option is the stairs, and we don’t want you using those!

From the bottom of the ramp (right near Del Monte/Tilted Kilt), take the road heading away from the river, towards the new parking authority garage. This is Tony Dorsett Way, but as you approach the red brick Clark Building (behind the parking garage) it will become Scotland Street. That will take you to the rear of the red brick building (Clark Bar Building). At that point the street name is Martindale. At the only left turn you will come to, you will take a left up Merchant Street, enjoying the new sharrows on your way…

This will drop you on Ridge Avenue at the south edge of West Park/Allegheny Commons. The Aviary will be straight ahead, less than a block away.

You total off trail commute will consist of:

You house to the trailhead of the Eliza Furnace Trail
5 blocks or so through downtown (not as scary as it sounds), and
5 blocks of low volume roads from the ped walkway to West Park/Commons.

It’s a nice commute!


…safest for a newcomer…
That’s a good approach. To achieve safety, be visible, be predictable, be in control. Stick to 25 mph streets, which is most of downtown, but some streets are better than others.

Sara gave you pretty good advice for getting there. I’d use Ross St to Third Avenue instead of Blvd of the Allies, but that’s just personal preference.

Coming back, I would recommend pretty much the reverse of this. The getting-through-Downtown part that I have come to trust is this:
* Out through the park to the corner of Liberty and Commonwealth.
* Get on Commonwealth; do this after all the traffic clears on Commonwealth and you have the light green to cross Liberty.
* Turn left on Liberty. Take the entire right lane.
* Peel right onto Stanwix. Obey the light.
* Once on Stanwix, get in the left lane, occupying it fully. You’re only on it for one block.
* Turn left onto Fourth Avenue. This is a very quiet street. Just stay smack dab in the middle of the street. Yield to pedestrians at the big crosswalk.
* Once you get to Grant St, turn right, and as before, get in the left lane and fully occupy it.
* Cross Blvd of the Allies, and then get in the left turn lane for First Avenue. Chances are pretty good you’ll have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear. This is pretty safe; most of the moving traffic has its own lane.
* Make the turn but aim for the sidewalk instead of First Ave itself. This is the beginning of the trail. From there, you’re set.

“Taking the lane” makes you the most visible, and signaling your turns and stopping for lights makes you the most predictable. With that and a good headlight and taillight, that should spare you any serious trouble with traffic.

@swalfoort and I both do a lot of in-traffic riding, and this has worked well for us.


I think the suggestions for the downtown end are both fine and the advice to be visible and predictable key for avoiding trouble from any angle.

Things will get a little nicer and simpler navigating to point state park when the mon wharf switchback and connector from the wharf to point state park are built. I think that’s coming this summer… btw anyone on these boards have an update?

I don’t know if you’ve tried already or you start in 2014, but getting to the EFT trailhead can be a little weird and there are actually two reasonable points to access it from.

The more common is by a trailhead parking lot off second avenue. Search for “chute” on this site and you’ll get inundated with information (and scorn).

Bates street->2nd avenue sidewalk->trail is less common but more direct in many cases and should be stress free enough on the way down, though I wouldn’t recommend it as the route back for most people due to a strong climb and a slightly sketchy sidewalk south of Blvd of the Allies interrupted at the parkway ramp.

Anyways, lots of folks, myself included, would be happy to show you around. Good luck.

helen s

I have been riding Squirrel Hill to North Shore for the past 12+ years. Although I usually take the Eliza Furnace (Jail) Trail, I sometimes need to go through the Strip District, in which case I get myself to Liberty through Bloomfield then cross the 16th St. Bridge to get on the north shore trail. I find that going through town at 8:15 or so is never a traffic problem, but I am very used to riding with cars around by now. Most of them behave themselves.

Either way is an pretty easy ride going to work, but takes longer due to uphill on the way home.


“Things will get a little nicer and simpler navigating to point state park when the mon wharf switchback and connector from the wharf to point state park are built. I think that’s coming this summer… btw anyone on these boards have an update?”

The PG quotes Riverlife:

“The design teams are working to find the most efficient and cost-effective design and materials for both projects,” Mr. Bontrager said. “We’re pushing as hard as possible to have them bid for construction in 2014.”

But back in June 2013, they were saying this:

“The Mon Wharf switchback is what we like to call a ‘shovel-ready’ project,” said Riverlife president and CEO Lisa Schroeder in a statement. “Top-notch design, complex engineering and permitting have all been completed, and now is the time for the Pittsburgh community to take the switchback to the finish line and make it a reality.”

Wonder what changed to make the ramp un-shovel-ready.


If you are coming rfrom Carlow, getting to the trails is not trivial. IMO, you would be better off going down Fifth Avenue to town.

It’s a little trafficy, for sure – but then, so is any route that would get you from Carlow to the trails. Going the quickest route to the trail – down Bates St. – is challenging and adds more than a mile to your trip.


I ride down fifth quite a bit. Most days actually. It’s much more direct, and most of it comfortable even for a beginner because the downhill grade helps you go a good pace. I just didn’t want to recommend it to someone describing themselves as a newcomer because of the rise between Moutrie and Jumonville and the unfortunate tendency of some of the bus drivers to give less berth than they ought when passing there.


Steven wrote:Wonder what changed to make the ramp un-shovel-ready.

Bumping because I’m interested to know if anyone here knows more.

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