A Few Particular Street Observations

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Impala26
Participant
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So, I figured I would post a few musings that I noticed in my riding around town, mostly about particular streets and sidewalks.

Today I discovered Watson Street in Uptown. Boy howdy was I glad I did. This street is a long, glorified alleyway that runs parallel and in between Forbes and Fifth Avenues. It is similar to Euler Way in central Oakland, that is to say, makes an excellent bike-way. I heartily suggest this as a route to take at least outbound during rush hours. It is a one-way street, so technically you shouldn’t be taking it inbound, but it would be slow speed for cars so I wouldn’t complain if someone did that. I wouldn’t suggest this route at night however simply as a safety precaution.

Secondly, given this awesome street’s potential to be a bike way through Uptown, it further highlights to me how poorly designed Forbes and Fifth Avenues are for bikes and peds in the vicinity of the Birmingham Bridge. Normally, I ride on-street on Fifth approaching the bridge (from Oakland) and return using the sidewalk. This route is pretty solid, but I still get angry about parked cars (and a van) blocking the sidewalk along this stretch. Well, this time I approached it from the Uptown side of Forbes. I’m sure many on this forum are familiar with this stretch, but I think there is a lot of fairly simple things that could be done to make the area more ped and bike-friendly. Today, I rode along the sidewalk up from the bridge to Oakland and must say it was in pretty good shape. The ultimate problem, as everyone knows, is that this sidewalk ends between two lanes of swift-moving traffic (a parkway off-ramp approaches from the right). There is no crosswalk or control mechanism of any kind that links this sidewalk to the sidewalk on the right side that continues up Forbes. A mechanism here of some sort, be it warning lights and a crosswalk or a full button-triggered traffic signal would be immensely welcome in my opinion. The old right outbound lane from the bridge could also be converted into a bike-only lane, but would only be beneficial if this control mechanism were installed.

Also, on the note of sidewalks, my thought was to have a discussion where riding on the sidewalk could actually be a better (read: safer) idea. I know there are probably a few on this board that feel set in their ways that cyclists shouldn’t be riding on the sidewalks, but in my honest opinion sticking exclusively to roadways isn’t always logical. This stretch of Forbes I was mentioning is actually pretty freeway-like, so I think it makes a lot of sense to be using the sidewalk there to ride because of the slope and lack side-streets and few pedestrians. Riding on the sidewalk carries different responsibilities to me, and those include keeping your speed down, and keeping a vigilant eye for pedestrians (including those approaching from the side) and cars (everywhere: driveways, side streets, even behind you where they could be turning). I feel that on uphill stretches with potentially thick and fast traffic, where a sidewalk is available with little to no ped traffic it might be a better idea for most to stick to it.

I guess I was curious to see what people felt about these streets and how bikes pertain to use of sidewalks. Keep in mind I was talking about using sidewalks in particular circumstances, and not exclusively. I still advocate using the streets in residential areas, crowded commercial centers, and slow traffic areas in general.


dbacklover
Participant
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I try not to ride on sidewalks but I have been on a few roads where I simply didn’t feel safe on the road (usually this would mark my first and last time on these streets.) But as a general rule if I am on the sidewalk with my bike I try to go by the same rules that we want cars on the road to adhere to. watching speed, being vigilant, taking the other people on the sidewalk as those who have the right to be there. making sure those around me know im there.

Also I try to get back on the road as soon as possible.


Noah Mustion
Participant
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I think the bike map addresses that very stretch of Forbes/Fifth and suggests using the sidewalk instead.


asobi
Participant
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When you see cars on sidewalks or otherwise parked illegally, in a way that implies they’ve been there more than a day or two…call it in to 311. Every time.


Impala26
Participant
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I’m pretty sure virtually every time I’ve ridden uphill on the Fifth Ave. sidewalk from the bridge that there is always a minivan and a school van parked at the daycare there. They’re parked what appears to be legally, but their rear ends block about half of the sidewalk and the other half is mostly taken up by a utility pole. I understand there is limited parking in that area, but I think something needs to be done about this as well promoting the sidewalk as a shared sidewalk.

I think I’ve already 311’d it, and I’ve let Scott know in person. Aside from the cars, other problems I’ve seen in the area include incomplete signal/crosswalk at the Fifth/Birmingham Bridge intersection, lack of good ped access from Fifth Ave onto Birmingham, nasty/decaying sidewalk along that stretch, the unsafe crosswalk across the Blvd. onramp, and the narrow part of the sidewalk near Carlow. Usually from there I ride downhill on Craft and either turn on Forbes or go straight to the Boulevard.

Riding a bike on-street on the Boulevard in South Oakland is another issue entirely…


ejwme
Participant
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I have a friend who lives on Alequippa right at that location. I rode to his place from Center – up that awful hill – but I rode home following his directions on that sidewalk you mention. No way even I would ride that stretch of road. On a Sunday afternoon it was still scary. I merged with traffic once the freeway turned back into regular oakland traffic. It was neat riding with cars through the green lights – I was fast enough I didn’t get caught by the timed lights, so that felt good.

I’m struck by the difficulty in traffic control, particularly along rush hour arteries. Like it or not, cars have to get from A-B, and there are a lot of them at specific times. During rush hour, they’re not moving so fast. But in off times (when I’m usually on the streets), those convenient arteries become freeways.

So how do you passively slow down traffic in non-rush hour without further slowing down rush hour?


joeframbach
Participant
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Are we talking about the cattle chute? You don’t passively slow traffic there. You aggressively slow it. Take the full left lane until you’re either at the light or there’s a break in right-lane traffic. I love that rush in the morning on my way to work.


joeframbach
Participant
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In breaking news, a cyclist was killed this morning on the intersection of Forbes and the Boulevard. Witnesses say he ‘was asking for it’ by riding in the road.


Impala26
Participant
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For most riders though, Joe, I think that is a very difficult thing to do given the speed of the traffic, the uphill climb and the apparent availability of shoulder/sidewalk. I think this is a special case in this city where there actually is room to work with and extra space to accommodate new bike and ped infrastructure. I’m very vested now in seeing some sort of designated bike crossover onto the sidewalk (i.e. use the sidewalk up to Craft), or at the very least markings that make it easier to merge onto the right lane coupled with control/caution mechanism for motorists at the same time. There is no reason that stretch of Forbes has to behave like a freeway just because it’s next to the parkway. I see it all the time, people flying through residential streets or commercial districts or whatnot, just to come to a full stop at a light. It’s just wasteful irresponsible driving that endangers bikes, peds, and other cars alike. This mentality has to stop; you’re driving in the city, not a freeway.


ieverhart
Participant
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Like it or not, cars have to get from A-B, and there are a lot of them at specific times.

Don’t you mean “people have to get from A-B” and maybe “many of them choose to use cars”?


EastEnder
Participant
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Heading up Forbes toward Murray Ave., I’ll hop onto the sidewalk once the bike lane ends. Cars are easily doing over 50-60 mph, to hurry up and stop at the red light – very little room to bike, and I don’t trust the cars at all. Then I turn right onto Beechwood to avoid the crunch.


Impala26
Participant
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I suppose my sort of pie-in-the-sky idea is making Watson Street in Uptown and Euler Way in Oakland into some sort of shared use “bikeway”. They would have to be linked by some sort of protected path in the vicinity of Downtown and the Birmingham Bridge too, and possibly a good connection to Sennott Street and Schenley Drive in Oakland, allowing for a bike-designated path from Downtown, through Uptown, through Oakland, through Schenley and into Squirrel Hill.

If the Jail Trail and Junction Hollow is the “bike expressway”, this new bikeway would be the bike equivalent of McKnight Road. Slow but direct, with lots of destinations along the way.


asobi
Participant
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Do NOT take Forbes through Squirrel Hill! There are perfectly awesome parallel routes that take only a minute off your commute. Consider Darlington from the Schenley Park golf course to Frick Park. If your destination is north of Forbes, consider Wilkins or another parallel back street.


ieverhart
Participant
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I’m not terribly familiar with Watson Street, but I’m in Oakland and cross Euler Way almost every day. One major problem with making those streets as “bikeways” or bike boulevards is that they are intersected on every block by cross streets. By the time someone would get up any kind of speed, he or she would have to slow down to check for cross traffic, if not stop completely. (I guess it would remain to be seen if the bikeway had stop signs, yield signs or what at those intersections.) Certainly it’s sometimes a bit harrowing to ride among car traffic, but I’d just as soon not be on a side street where I have to stop and start that much.

A real pie-in-the-sky idea would be integrating this into the eventual extension of the light rail to Oakland and the East End.

Other observations I have, more generally, are the awesomeness of Millvale Street and using Google Earth and Maps to plot out distances. I much prefer Millvale Street to Mathilda Street at the Liberty Avenue intersection, since Millvale has a light and at Mathilda you might have to wait a while to catch a break in traffic. And Google will tell you that the trails may be taking you out of your way. From Neville Street at Fifth Avenue, taking the Panther Hollow Trail represents a significant detour going to either downtown or the South Side Works compared with just taking Fifth Avenue all the way or taking Bates Street.


ejwme
Participant
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ieverheart – yup, you got me, people getting from A-B choosing cars to do so. What a reflection – I see cars as the entity of conern, not the person inside. Gonna work on fixing that. Not sure if it’s vehicular apologism or burgeoning road rage, but it’s not healthy either way – thank you!!

oh, I’d be careful with google maps if you don’t know the streets. I tried mapping from Penn Hills to a place in East End, it wanted me to take Fleury Way. That’s a one lane back alley paved in broken glass with boarded up buildings butting right up against the “road”. It kept pulling me towards Fleury Way when I kept trying to tell it to take Bennet, more populated and wider to avoid the broken glass.


salty
Participant
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If you think there is a problem with something on Google Maps, just click the “report a problem” link in the lower right. Although, broken glass is not a permanent flaw, at least in theory.


Impala26
Participant
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Yeah, I reported to Google Maps about Melwood Ave. being a good bike route, and weeks later it has it marked as a hashed line “bike route”. Another time I was using it to map to get from Oakland to the house I grew up (Indiana Twp.) and it rightfully suggested to take Saxonburg Blvd. most of the way, but it also incorrectly suggested to take the 62nd Street Bridge through that Route 28/Route 8 interchange. I told them that that route is not suitable to bikes and it is better to get off the bridge and go through the main street in Etna to get to Route 8.


Lyle
Participant
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I think that Google should restrict their “not suitable for bikes” uses only to those cases where bikes are not legally permitted, or perhaps some really egregious cases. Otherwise, they are going to run into all the places that *I* think are not suitable for bikes that you think are fine, and vice versa.

I am a little bit concerned that Google may reduce “suitability for bikes” to the absolute lowest common denominator, and that will in turn be treated as prescriptive — that is, that someone will say “bikes don’t belong here, even Google says so.” And “here” will turn out to be someplace that I have been riding for years.

I’m sure that if it only takes one person to nix a road as being “not suitable”, I can find enough “not suitable” opinions here on these forums that would deep-six about 75% of the roads I use.


ejwme
Participant
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for all the routes I’ve tried, google recommends a few routes. That Fleury Way was the first choice. When I sent them info “reporting” it, I didn’t say it was illegal or should be removed as an option (so far I’ve only had trouble with one way streets), but just that virtually every neighboring street was a better option than this “first” choice.

I’m all for using back roads and whatnot, but the default first choice shouldn’t be the least safe for the neighborhood, which google wouldn’t know about, they don’t live there (it doesn’t look like anybody officially lives on fleury way).

And chances are, if the person doesn’t know the road (on bike or in car), and a handful of people have reported to google “that’s not a good idea for bikes”… Probably they’re not going to want to take that road.

But as far as I know, google uses grade and maybe traffic flow to determine suitability. I did once report “hey, let me get from A-B this way, I just did and it worked fine!”… It wouldn’t let me go from Ft. Duquesne to the rest of Downtown without passing back over the bridge and then taking the next bridge upriver (RC I think? 6th?) to the streets. They emailed me back a “whoops, sorry, we’ll fix it”. So they’re not drones.

Report stuff that’s illegal or bad ideas (specify which!). Report stuff that’s possible in real life. It’s better than a lot of other options, and “free” in functional form.


ejwme
Participant
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drat the double post! sorry.


HiddenVariable
Participant
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I’m sure that if it only takes one person to nix a road as being “not suitable”

i wouldn’t sell google so short.


Mick
Participant
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My experience with Google: They had the GAP to Frostburg,MD, but did not have the section from Frostburg to Cumberland.

I reported that it was there. Two days later, I had an email saying they would look at it, and about two months later I got an email saying it was fixed. It was gratifying.

This was a cut-and-dry thing. The trail is there and doesn’t end at Frostburg.

I’m guessing that they don’t really look at anything until more than one person reports it, and that they are a bit slow at changing things.

This is appropriate. They can’t change their map anytime one person doesn’t like a route. Lyle’s right that there is someone who would object to about 75% of the roads I ride on.

Heck, I object to about 10% of the roads I ride on.


surly jason
Participant
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I used google bike directions for a little trip from Pittsburgh to Armstrong County this past weekend. The directions amazed me with their accuracy but also their bizzare sense of randomness. Many of the roads looked more like gravel driveways but were, in fact, very scenic, low-traffic rural township roads. Many of the roads were also really steep and not ones I would have selected. Nonetheless, I got to where I wanted to well within the timeframe that was allotted and had a great time.

I noticed the directions repeatedly wanted me to stay off of Rt. 19 in favor of a slew of side streets but I intrepidly ignored these suggestions and traveled to North Park on 19 and picked up the suggested route from there.

I discovered just one error on my journey: directions detoured me to a housing development that is still under construction instead of going north on Route 8. The problem occurred when the route suggested taking a street that hadn’t yet been constructed. A new resident to the area suggested turning around and traveling north about a half mile on Route 8 before finally turning off.

I’m planning to do some googlemap trips to places I haven’t yet been just to see what routes are recommended. I discovered some great new roads and it was a fun experience having a cue sheet already made up.

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