Route for 13 y.o. from Sq'ill to CAPA and help letting go
My son wants to ride his bike to school, which is great, but we live in Squirrel Hill (Beacon St near Frick) and he goes to CAPA (9th street and Fort Duq blvd, downtown). He is 13, 8th grade. We have been teaching him defensive cycling since he was 11.
I need help with two things. #1, route. #2, my fear.
#1) current route is this:
Beacon Street to Schenley Park, exit towards Phipps, cut through CMU garage, Panther Hollow, take the chute to Jail Trail. Take Smithfield to Blvd down to Point. Pick up trail at Point along water and come up at Convention Center. Find a place to lock up and walk in to CAPA (thereby avoiding the thick traffic near the school at pick up/drop off times).
* Suggestions on safest place to lock up near 10th St and Penn/ Convention Center?
* Is there a better way to get there than this? My husband thinks that cutting across Smithfield Street is better but I think a.m. rush is too scary to be cycling downtown.
#2) When I ride I have come to peace with the risk and of course do my best to minimize it. However, I can’t get there with my kid and I am worried about him. He wants to do this… and I want him to… but man I’m scared. Have other parents dealt with this? Advice?
No advice but I totally feel for you on #2. That’s a really hard situation.
Unless your son is committed to riding the whole way, I would suggest a bike/bus commute as an alternative. He could ride to one of the East Busway stops (you can easily find a low traffic route to either the East Liberty or Negley Station) and then take any number of buses to Liberty and 10th downtown.
I do this almost every day (with the added fun of a second bus out to Robinson).
I would also suggest the bike racks in the parking garage on Penn and 9th.
Anonymous 08/14/12 at 1:16pm #
Sara, Which CMU garage are you referring to? You can get to the Panther Hollow trail from Schenly Park without traveling on any streets by jumping the railroad tracks near Panther Hollow Lake. Trains are MUCH more predictable than traffic.
I know where you live because I was looking
at deeds and saw your name. small world.
Down your street. Left on beechwood. Left on
aylesboro and ride that to the entrance of
schenley. I think it avoids a few bad
intersections that the direct route takes.
Otherwise I would take the Jail Trail to
First ave to the point and take that trail
to the convention center trail up to capa.
We did the summer bike program and I never
even knew that connector was there going
up from the river to the convention center.
I would avoid smithfield downtown. It mihgt
add 5 minutes but smithfield has a lot of
buses and doors.
wow. if you figure out a way to deal with #2, kudos. You know your kid better than anybody else, my guess is he’s not the issue. The issue is all the people he might meet along the way that you DON’T know (people in cars, trucks, busses, on bikes, foot, everybody).
Somehow the bus plan seems safer to me – usually the same commuters ride the same buses at the same time every day, so there’d be a little community of people. That, for some reason, seems quite safe and reasonable to me for a 13y.o.
If I were biking the whole way, I’d likely take steevo’s route, because it’s quite traffic light. I wouldn’t go through the CMU garage, it seems like a hassle when the trails are right there.
The first route seems fine. The boy will probably adjust it himself as he tries it a few times. You might use this opportunity to tell CAPA they need to provide some bike facilities and it will reduce that thick traffic at pick up/drop off times.
I wish I had some genius for you on part #2, but I don’t have much, it’s hard. I do have some perspective from both sides. When I was about your son’s age I got a good road bike. Prior to that I had already been riding all over my small town. But this road bike opened up all of North-east Ohio, I’d ride way out into the farms, up to Lake Erie, hundreds of miles a year. Way before cell phones. If I carried a quarter and a spare tube, that would be a lot. When I was 14 I went with a school group on a bike tour in Europe, and at one point the leaders allowed me to go off apart from the group and ride over the Grossglockner pass in Austria (they were taking a bus – F that) and meet them on the other side. I also went off, with permission, and went all over Paris on my own on the subway system. My parents and the leaders somehow had immense trust in me and faith in the world that I could do these things, and these things I will never forget. Now as a parent I don’t know how they did it. The world is no more dangerous now than it was then.
There are forces at work in the world that want to make us afraid of living, for whatever reason, to boost TV ratings, to sell papers, to control us. Don’t be a part of those forces. Life is pretty cool.
At the try-a-bike on Sunday my son wanted to ride the tall bike, and it was kind of scary. He started off and got up on the seat, but he wasn’t pedaling and he was going to stall and fall. So, of two choices, I could freak and try to catch him, or I could give him a push. So I pushed him. Hope that helps.
Anonymous 08/14/12 at 1:55pm #
Re: Steevo’s route, I would recommend using Northumberland instead of Aylesboro. Primarily because there are lights at all the major intersections (Shady, Murray, and Wightman).
Bill, I thought it was awesome to see a father push his son on a bike on sunday, no matter the age! That made me smile.
Kids heal quicker than adults, so keep that in mind if something does happen. There are a good number of us here who have not been in an accident and we have been riding for years. You have done the right thing by teaching him defensive driving. Would a camera on his helmet put you more at ease?
As far as getting to the jail trail, I think it makes sense to drop down through the CMU parking garage from phipps. That way he avoids the RR tracks, which can be really slippery even when there is just frost (and it avoids the shitty bump up onto the asphalt right before the tracks… I hate that). I would recommend not taking the chute. People wait for the bus and it is a series of blind turns. Maybe have him walk up the ballast across the RR tracks and into the upmc parking lot? When I try to make the right turn from saline at the intersection with greenfield ave, I get pissed cause oncoming traffic makes their left turn without yielding to my right turn. There is also a lot of loose gravel after it rains as you make the turn off of second ave and up the hill to get to the trail head.
When coming up from the Point to CAPA, I’m not sure if you are referring to the low connector or the high one right alongside Ft Duquesne Blvd, but there are usually a few days in the spring when the low one is underwater. Just something to keep in mind so there’s no surprise on the day it happens and you have to stay up high.
Going down Ft Pitt Blvd to the Point sounds like a good plan compared to Smithfield.
I forget if the bike parking garage with the big green wall and bike picture on it is on 9th or 7th, but they have free outdoor parking or you could rent an indoor space there too if there’s a vacancy.
Best of luck with #2, I think trust the training and time are all that will help with that one.
Steevo’s route makes the most sense. I’d have him avoid as much traffic as possible in town, especially at rush hour. And using Smithfield is a bad habit, since he (technically) wouldn’t able to get back to the trail at the end of the day.
As far as the chute v. crossing the tracks v. taking Second Avenue, why don’t you ask him to do what cyclists are supposed to there–walk their bikes along the sidewalk and chute? I’ve gotten in the habit of avoiding that whole area–Second Avenue kinda stinks, the chute kinda stinks, and I don’t feel comfortable crossing through the lot and over the tracks (not saying folks shouldn’t cut through there…I just don’t feel comfortable doing it).
As for #2, yeah, I’m right there with you, but I don’t have any sage advice. Just trust him, and what you’ve taught him.
Wow, as you struggle through these decisions, bear in mind that these are also monumental steps in your child’s life. You’ve been teaching him defensive riding for two years now. He has a route that is mostly off road. Yes, he’s only 13. But, 13 year olds CAN display a great deal of maturity, if they are permitted to do so.
Ride the route with him a few times. ride it in segments, so you can find the route that makes YOU the most comfortable, and ask that he use that (at least until you get more comfortable with all this.)
Make sure he has a bus ticket (or two) stashed in his wallet/book bag, in case he suffers a mechanical problem. Teach him enough about the buses between downtown and Sq. Hill to get his CLOSE to home, if not directly to your corner. There’s a rack on every bus. That will guarantee that he can get to school and home again.
There is bike parking downtown. Nothing directly in front of CAPA, but there is a rack that’s close in the parking garage on Penn, just west of Ninth Street. That’s about 2 blocks from CAPA, maybe? We have seen a bike or two disappear from that rack, so make sure he knows how to use a good U lock and cable set up. There is less publicly visible parking behind the Bike Center, at the entrance to the parking garage on Seventh (between Penn and Ft. Duquesne, opposite Bossa Nova.) I’d probably use that location myself, but it’s a little further from CAPA.
I would not recommend the wave style racks at the Convention Center. They just seem to exposed yet remote to me.
When’s his first day of class?
Does your son ride a fixed gear or a single speed? (if memory serves me right)
I’d be tempted to go from Beacon to Greenfield
I’d also jump the tracks rather than using the chute, especially since I imagine he’ll be using a backpack and has a light bike
From the end of the trail at Grant, I’d jump on to Blvd of the Allies, swing to the point, then ride the trail back up to around the Convention Center and then walk over to CAPA
As for the age, I started commuting around the same time (albeit a smaller town/shorter commute) From this point, his safety or skill won’t increase with age unless he gets out and start riding. I.E. A 16 year old cyclist that’s never done it before is probably just as likely to get into an accident as a 13 year old.
If you start the kid out on the bike, he could take what he’s learned into the car too.
What time does school start these days? If he’s up for it, I’ll be riding a pretty similar route the next two Tuesdays
I’d get him some nice lights. Maybe a Cygolite Hotshot or brighter and a MiNewt 350 or something, both cordless so he can take them with him
Re #2, it’s about managing the transition. You know that when he’s 17 it’s going to be fine. The end-state is certain, it’s the transition that’s open to misadventure.
With my kids, when they’re transitioning re bikes/bus/cars I have dibs on getting to go with them until I’m comfortable that they’re good on their own. Sometimes it’s just one or two co-rides; sometimes it’s more.
It’s not just about them being comfortable with it, it’s also about me being comfortable with it, and part of their job is making me comfortable with it. Because it’s all about me.
If your own schedule permits, can you ride in with him the first week in the mornings? (Detaching before the Parent becomes visible to the posse?)
Because it’s the first week, and the mornings rather than the afternoons, when he’s most likely to benefit from your presence. Just ride behind him, and after the first orientation you’re only going to bother him for safety items. You’re the safety net.
I’m thinking you’ll both be more comfortable after a few dual rides. The third or fourth day, you’re going to think “I probably didn’t need to be here“.
If you can’t get there those first few mornings, can you arrange for somebody else to be the wingman?
Generally the kid is good, the most difficult transition is the parent’s. (in my experience)
I wish you the best, this letting go stuff is very tricky and it’s especially hard to do it in a way that leaves the relationship effective.
I told my youngest last week, you’re a creature that’s supposed to be changing and growing and you are just living the dream, and parents are creatures that tend to resist change, and there’s an inherent tension.
But: it’s all about working the two transitions (yours and his).
Frankly we all hate the chute. My husband had to convince me to send him through it since I always take the road. The quick portage up the hill by the parking lot is a better idea, and we will do that.
I feel ok about Beacon-Schenley and my kid knows the area since he loves to ride/skate to the art store so we’ll stick to that. Drivers on Beechwood are crazy during the morning rush so there’s not much advantage to switching it up. On the return he cuts through CMU to the golf course then over to Darlington.
I think First Ave is better than Blvd or Fort Pitt. What about on the way back? Is there a safer way to get the jail trail other than the left turn of doom from Grant onto First?
I have ridden this with him several times and plan to keep doing so until he knows the route well, and I can go with him to school for a while too. He likes riding with me and he’s cool being seen with his mom in front of his friends (for now anyway). He learned how to put his bike on the bus rack at Try-A-Bike (awesome!) but he really wants to ride the whole way.
Oh, first day is Aug 30. We just rode it yesterday and we’ll do it a few more times between now and school. I can go with him for the first few weeks of school too. He needs to try this with a fully loaded back pack. The kids can’t take the elevators and the middle school is on the 8th floor so he’s going to be tired at the end of the day even though he’s in decent shape (runs 10ks, did the pgh sprint tri, etc).
round of applause for you for even considering it, and I guess also for raising a kid that wants to do this on his own. My parents gave us a lot of freedom as kids, my brothers even more than me and I’m so glad that they did.
I was actually thinking sidewalk on Ft Pitt, there is a fair amount of trail traffic that goes both ways doing that. You’re right though, First is better if you’re staying in the street in bound. I haven’t found anything I like better than the sidewalk when going from the Point to Smithfield and that’s the only place I opt not to ride in the street.
I was riding all over Tampa at that age, and loved it. Used to give my mom nightmares, though.
I’d advise him to keep quiet about anything that happens that might worry you. Don’t ask don’t tell. For example, if he decides to explore and ends up miles away from where you think he should be don’t call home.
Bus money or a bus ticket might be a good idea. He can use that if he gets stuck due to mechanical problems.
he needs panniers that double as a back pack, or is a bunjee’d crate a possibility? It’s so much more pleasant without the pack on the back. Sooooo much more pleasant.
I’m encouraged by everyone’s comments on here… My mom was pretty ok with freedoms and independence until I started using them (around 12-13, come to think of it), and I think sometimes my worldview is still skewed as a result. Maybe that’s another thing that might help – know that he’ll take away what you present. Confidence, preparation, and a sense of cautious adventure, or a fearful death grip.
Ultimately, you will find a happy solution that works for you and your son. You’re the mom, that’s what moms do, right?
This doesn’t quite connect up to CAPA, but when I was going downtown regularly I’d take Ross inbound from the trail. Very congested & with door zones, but slow-moving. Cut across Mellon Green, walk across Grant, remount & do 6th Ave >Montour Way> Strawberry the wrong way (sorry)> to Liberty.
If you have a comfortable route from home to any of the East Busway stops, that’s also an option.
Maybe have a (general) chat about confrontations with strangers. How to handle himself smartly if he gets screamed at. It was great having him at Try-A-Bike — hope you can work this out.
BTW I love it that this request is coming from a mom who swims regularly in the Allegheny River.
Anonymous 08/14/12 at 6:46pm #
A little bit longer but you can avoid downtonw streets totally. http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1581888 — it’s a little bit longer but view is priceless.
Mikhail, I thought of this but it’s hard getting him up in the morning as it is. I’ll run this idea past him and ride it with him to see what he thinks.
He’s a snob about sidewalk-riding but he’ll do it if I insist. I am not sure how to get him back to the jail trail in one piece from downtown with out doing the S Side detour or sidewalks.
I am definitely putting a rack on his commuter bike.
Oh, and he loves swimming in the river with me too.
Thanks everyone for the help/support, I really really appreciate it. This has been very hard but I’m trying not show it around my kid. sigh
@pseudacris, you are right about confrontations and unfortunately I have been a terrible role model. I told him under no circumstances is he to swear or otherwise engage with drivers (unlike mommy). I explained why. I think he gets it.
Also: buying him a RoadID. He picked the color.
You can also let him know that every cyclist friend of yours knows who he is and will report back to you if we see him doing something he shouldnt. A look over the shoulder is a good thing every now and then.
Anonymous 08/14/12 at 8:55pm #
Well, I know how to get him there and back avoiding downtown.
Jail trail — T on the first ave (it’s in golden triangle and free) -> north shore, north trail, Dq Bridge, point, Convention Centre. And reverse it — CC, Point, Dq Bridge, north trail, T to 1-2st, jail trail.
Haha Marko, yeah, my kid is easy to spot. He’ll probably take his red ’86 Trek 400 (downtube shifters) that has bright green tire walls, green pedals, and green bar tape. His hair might be blue, pink, green, etc. And he wears skinny jeans with checkered vans every day.
“This has been very hard but I’m trying not show it around my kid.”
Wouldn’t letting him know you’re concerned for his safety encourage him to act with more care? I’ve never heard children say “My mom cared too much!”
(Which isn’t to say I haven’t heard kids saying their parents were overly concerned, but that’s usually combined with a lack of freewill, which you’re still allowing)
There’s a difference between being concerned (good) and terrified (bad).
For going home have him ride the long way. Over Smithfield or ft Pitt bridges to the ss trail to hot metal bridge and back through the hollow.
It’s a real bummer that there’s no safe way to reconnect with the jail trail riding uptown.
Not just for my kid, but for all of us.
Yes, we can’t get an 8 foot wide, two way path, one mile across town, yet we have this insane spaghetti of concrete just to provide the most barely adequate movement of motor vehicle traffic. In what rational world does this not register as an epic fail?
20th century urban planning = trying to keep cars from destroying cities, mostly losing.
Just did this again with him this a.m.
Definitely going to cross the tracks to avoid the chute. Has anybody ever seen a train there? Just curious.
First ave wasn’t too fun and ends at Stanwix so I am just going to put him on the Blvd from Smithfield going down and back to Grant going home. That’s the way we always go and he has ridden downtown with us dozens of times over the years so he knows the drill.
There’s an alley from the convention center to 9th street behind Blush right next to CAPA and there’s a place to lock up in the garage across the street so that worked out great.
*THANK YOU everybody for your help!*
p.s. Looking at the map, the easiest way to get to the point is to swim there.
Hi Sarah — yes those are live train tracks & the train can’ t stop quickly. Fortunately, the sightlines are decent and there is no reason to “cut it close” if you see or hear the train coming from either direction. I’ ve seen smaller maintenance vehicles on the tracks a time or two.
Good to know. He wouldn’t dart out in front of a train. I’ve never seen one there at all. Thanks for the info.
Ironically I think the most dangerous part of the commute is Boundary street btwn the parking garage and Panther Hollow — cars there seem to be going 45-50 mph and the road is narrow.
Also if it eases your mind, motorists seem to keep more of an eye out when they see a youngster, and there are more cyclists out there than ever and I know I for one would keep an eye out if a youngster needed a hand.
don’t tell him someone referred to him as a youngster.
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