Biking from Greenfield to UPitt
Hi, I just moved to Pittsburgh from Gainesville, FL and I’m looking for a good route from Greenfield (on the edge of Squirrel Hill) to Pitt. Cycling seems a bit daunting here, especially coming from a bike friendly/flat town. I’m used to bike lanes and fairly bike-conscious drivers. Any tips for a good route or other advice would be most welcome. Thanks!
From Greenfield you can minimize traffic or hills but not both. Your best option is going to depend a little bit on which part of Greenfield you’re in. My first recommendation would be over the bridge to Greenfield Rd and through Schenley Park. That is a little busy but it has a nice white stripe on the side of Greenfield Rd now.
I would advise you to be ready to have cars passing really (often absurdly) close to you. That said, many drivers do try to give some distance, but there just isn’t much room in some places.
Also, watch out for doors.
Lyle’s route is pretty good — you might choose a different route through Schenley, take a left off of Greenfield onto the Bridle Path trail, ending up at the pool, where you can duck under the underpass into the playground, and, uh, then take an illegal left turn and get back onto Lyle’s route at the Schenley Park Visitor’s Center. You’ll want to experiment a little bit. The parks are nice, go see them.
Pittsburgh’s actually improved the cycling experience A LOT in the past five years (much credit due Bike-Pgh) but there’s still room for improvement.
Welcome to Pittsburgh!
Has anyone told you about the Pittsburgh Left? Imagine two cars, facing each other, stopped at a red light at a 4-way intersection. One is going straight; the other is signaling to turn left. Now the light turns green. Very often (but not always) the person going straight will let the person turning left go through the intersection first. (But only the first car, not the whole line.)
This is seen as a charming little local custom, but actually it can be very dangerous when you’re on your bike. It’s the drivers who determine whether the Pittsburgh Left is in play, not the cyclists.
I don’t mean to be the voice of scary scenarios. There’s lots of great biking around here, and the infrastructure is getting better all the time. As for hills, remember that for every bit of up there’s down.
One thing I forgot to add: if you can find a hard copy (or just look on the website here), get a Bike PGH map. It’s brilliant.
You may at some point want to install a low-low gear to your bike. Being able to climb steeper hills greatly increases travel options, as well as options for fun.
i’ve been trying to tell my gf, but she won’t have it yet–the only thing you can do around here is embrace the hills. it is understandable that you don’t want to climb a 20% grade on the way to work and arrive all sweaty, but the less you fear them and try to avoid them, the more fun you have on the local slopes.
nowadays, i find biking in the buffalo area (where i’m from) incredibly boring. who wants to be able to see 10 miles ahead? i’d much rather come around a curve and see an are-you-kidding-me? monster standing there, waiting to be scaled.
there are tons of fun ways to get from greenfield to oakland, depending on where you are and where you’re going. for a relatively quick route, one could bomb down greenfield ave. (not rd.) and make a right at frazier st., across the swinburne bridge, and up swinburne into south oakland. or go all the way down greenfield, right onto saline, and hit the junction hollow trail then up joncaire or neville. both of these are one relatively daunting hill each way. lyle’s way is also pretty cool. you have a lot of options, and you can vary your route from day to day to get more exercise, stay out longer, see more of the park, or get to your destination more quickly. it’s a nice commute.
and don’t let people scare you about the traffic around here. as long as you’re predictable and visible, and keep a good eye out, cars aren’t a problem. the worst thing that happens to me most days is people always seem to want to wave me through stop signs, when it’d be much easier if they’d just take their turn. enjoy your stay!
Thanks for the advice everyone. I’ve picked up a bike map and done some reconnaissance by car and on foot. I’ll hopefully be venturing out for my first ride tomorrow. I’ve definitely got some hills to contend with, but as you said hiddenvariable, it does make things a bit more interesting. And since I’ve got a single speed, adding a lower gear is not possible.
If you can’t add a backup gear, you might consider a backup bicycle. And a backup rider…
The trip through Schenley and Junction Hollow are both doable and enjoyable on a singlespeed, ride both often. Haven’t ridden the other suggestions.
I also live in Greenfield and bike to Pitt everyday.. Let me know if you want to ride in one morning. I usually leave around 9am.
I bike across the Greenfield bridge, up the hill and through the stop light, then on to the Upper Panther Hallow trail. There is a little dirt path back up to the road before you go under the Panther Hallow bridge. I take that and continue past the visitors center and Phipps.
90% of my route is on bike lanes or trails. Despite this, at least once a week someone honks/makes hand gestures/yells expletives at me. I follow all traffic laws and stop where I’m supposed to, but it seems there are still enough folks here with negative views towards cyclists to make this a common occurrence. Just this morning I had some guy go to pass me, but then slow down and stop next to me so he could honk, flip the bird and yell at me because I was “in his way”. I imagine that took longer than following me across the bridge. He then floored it so he could tailgate the car 100 feet ahead. Idiots everywhere.
Depending on where you are starting from – either the Panther Hollow trail or the Greenfield bridge – I like the Bridal Trail.
I ride the park area a lot, 90% of my riding is on the street, and I don’t seem to get yelled at like dwillen. I’m not sure why there is a difference. It happens, of course, but it isn’t once a week or anything.
Riding a single speed in Pittsburgh is an extreme sport, you know. I’m with StuInMcCandless on this. I have a 22T chainring and 30T rear gear. I won’t deal with the 28/32 that seems to be standard these days – there are times I want to get home after being athletic all day and night.
“I’m built for comfort, babe. I ain’t built for speed” Howling Wolf.
The Junction Hollow route that everyone mentioned is, by far, the safest, along with fab scenery. However, that starts once you get to The Run (lower Greenfield). You would need to travel down Greenfield Ave, which could be done safely. It may take you a little out of your way, but you should try it at least once. The only hill you’ll need to ascend is Joncair st. in Oakland(requires sidewalk riding unless you love huge cobblestone). I take this route constantly, but I also live in The Run and that makes it much easier for me.
greenfield ave. coming down is nothing, provided you know the way the road curves and can avoid the potholes. you just take the lane and coast at 30-35, and usually people are fine about not trying to pass.
the only problem with that as a two-way route is, on the way home, you’re trying to ride up a hill you coast down at 30-35. personally, i don’t mind this as much, since getting sweaty on the way to work is the part that bothers me. but i also don’t ride a single speed.
Mick, perhaps I’m biking at the wrong time of the day. People late for work or something like that. It is almost always in the morning when someone flips out. It could be the same people each time, I don’t really pay much attention to them. Also, once a week might be pushing it, but at least 2-3 times a month I’ll get the one finger salute.
I think it would be interesting for some of us to ride together on our commutes sometimes, just for calibration (though it does change the game, granted.) I’m game to ride from Greenfield to Pitt some mornings at 9am. I guess I’ll just extend my commute in order to work that in and ride it alone for a while and see if I run into anyone.
Thanks for offering to ride in with me. I have evening classes, so I won’t be riding in at that time of the day, but I could join in for the experience. Luckily, I do have a back up bike if I find the single speed just won’t cut it here.
I’ve gotten up to the top of Greenfield on my fixed gear once. It’s doable but might not treat your knees that well. Try it and enjoy the enormous quads if it works.
I’ve gotten up to the top of Greenfield on my fixed gear once
All you folks on fixies in Pittsburgh seem really cool and I have have a tremendous respect for you and all, so don’t take this the wrong way.
But I gotta ask.
ARE YOU FUCKEN CRAZY??
I have ridden my bike fixed to work a few times but Liberty Ave downhill turned me off to it.
Sounds like bugface has her Florida fixie and her Pittsburgh-hill geared. Which makes sense.
Yeah, there are places in Pgh a fixed would be cool, but when I get home after a 30-mile ride, I’m looking at a >15% grade for that last 200 feet, and am soooo happy to have that granny gear.
I normally ride a geared bike on the big hills. I was using the fixie for commuting Shadyside to Downtown on the nice flat Jail Trail. Then I found a good deal for a new brake on Craiglist midday and wanted to grab it on my way home. So I did.
Update: I made it to Oakland today taking the route that Lyle suggested through Schenley Park. It’s a Saturday, so I could see Greenfield and that left in Schenley being a bit dicey when there’s more traffic. As for the ride home, I cut through the CMU campus, rode through the golf course and hit Forbes and then Murray. A guy from work showed me this shortcut to avoid the Shady/Negley hills on the way home from Shadyside the other night. Thanks for all the help everyone! It seems the lack of cycling infrastructure has led to a strong community here.
p.s. I’m definitely glad I’ve got gears.
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