Cyclist Killed on Rout 51, Beaver County
This Thread was started in the local News thread, http://bikepgh.org/mb/topic/local-news-stories-lte-2015/page/9/#post-315866
Link to news stories:
@benzo‘s post links to other crashes in the area.
Route 51 needs safety improvements if it’s going to remain a PA bike route. There have been serious accidents in 2013, 2014, and now 2015 along this same stretch near coraopolis and aliquippa.
8/6/2015 – Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge
10/31/2014 – Aliquippa
Cyclist Hit By Vehicle, Killed On Route 51
Family Wants Answers After Bicyclist Hit & Killed On Route 51
7/21/2013 – Coraopolis
I’ve ridden that road many times on randonnées. There are some sections, like here, where there’s absolutely no place to go but to take the lane. No shoulder, nothing. There’s no way to fix this other than road redesign.
There are other sections, like here, where simply cleaning the berm would make a huge difference. It’s quite wide there and the surface is smooth, but it’s unrideable because of fallen rocks. Maybe, in light of this most recent death, we could get whoever is responsible for maintaining the road to do some cleaning.
51 is an important transportation artery for this area. With that in mind, it is an eyesore throughout its length and a very poor excuse for a gateway into a major American city.
Yes, there are no shoulders and poorly cleaned/maintained berms. There is also very little traffic enforcement on 51 in the Pittsburgh City and Suburban Pittsburgh communities. Few drivers obey the posted speed limits and there is frequent racing and maneuvering in and out of lanes to save a few precious seconds. There are often extensive traffic backups due to problems on the Parkway.
On July 14, 2015, an organization known as Economic Development South held a Forum regarding the future of Route 51. The section of 51 covered by the forum was from Large to the South Portal of the Liberty Tubes. The crowd of approximately 50 people was overwhelmingly positive about the possibilities for the corridor, which included making the Saw Mill Run watershed into a Greenway complete with bicycle and pedestrian transit.
It gave me some hope that something might actually be done to improve the 51 corridor.
I know that this does not directly address the tragic situation in Beaver County. I’ve ridden that section of 51 in the past and was scared shitless. Bicycle Route A was established with good intentions but no follow-up was ever done to make it safer. Until effective measures are taken, history is likely to continue to repeat itself. How many more bodies must pile up until something is done?
It is an absolute shame that in many parts of our area, there is no safe way to ride from some suburbs and from some outlying communities into the city. A sorry situation for a city and metro area that considers itself “most livable”.
It would be so easy to express outrage. Frankly, I’m tired of outrage. How do we get from outrage and repeated memorial services to action on the part of people who operate pens and bulldozers?
Isn’t that about where our memorial ride for Taylor Banks started?
I am struck by how little news coverage there has been about this fatal accident. On Thursday we learned there was an accident, victim was life-flighted, traffic was delayed on Rt. 51 and driver of the truck was uninjured. Friday an obit was published in the Beaver County Times, and nowhere else that I can find.
Who was the driver? Was he intoxicated, distracted, sleeping at the wheel? The rear bicycle light was still flashing as the media filmed the bike being loaded into the back of a truck. It was a bright blinking light. Will the driver face any consequences?
It was a fatality, so there was surely an investigation. Where will it be published, and when? What was the root cause, when and how will PennDOT address it? Three fatalities in just over 2 years on this road. Arthur deserves better than to be just another data point on a chart of tragic events.
Stu, the Taylor Banks ride started in Monaca, stopped at the scene and returned to Monaca. We never went quite as far south as the new crash location.
I’m trying to figure out a route for a Ride for this location / zone,
I’m thinking about something like this.
Start in Leetsdale or Edgeworth. Ride Beaver St. to Ambridge.
Cross the Ambridge-Aliquippa Bridge, taking the lane.
Ride north on 51 to the 2014 Taylor Banks location.
Ride south on 51 to the 2015 crash location, dedicate the ghost bike.
Continue south on 51 to Emily Jankart’s ghost bike at Sewickley Bridge.
Cross Sewickley Bridge, taking the lane.
Use the proposed ORTC route under the bridge and out to Beaver St, back to the start.
jdgPGH, well written. I commuted all last year and through June this year along this road, as I mentioned in the other thread I always took the lane during that stretch but never felt unsafe. Arthur strikes me as a serious, competent cyclist; I find it very hard to believe he did anything squirrely that a car, four feet away, couldn’t have avoided. As you said, where are the updates?
I am Arthur Bell’s brother. I want to thank everyone for the concern they have showed towards my brother and for the safety of future riders in this area along route 51. I just wanted to share some more information about my brother. He has been a serious cyclist for probably more than 30 years.
He was 14 years older than me, so when I was younger he often took me along on many of his bike rides and bike vacations. When I was 16 we biked down the pacific coast with a tour group called Cycle America. He biked to work taking this route probably 2-3 times a week, and always said he felt safe except for that particular area near the bridge. I don’t think he could have taken more safety precautions. He wore a florescent yellow reflective vest even during the day, had a rear light, and a pretty significant headlight.
In speaking with the police, we did not get any indication that the driver was in any way negligent, but we are waiting on the police to approve and release a report to us.
He was a very special person, and we miss him dearly. Please, let me know about any plans to memorialize my brother, or any help you may need in forwarding safety efforts in this area.
I am deeply sorry for your loss. I hope you find peace through this tragedy.
I found your brother’s obituary on a FB site that copied it without the subscription needed on the timesonline page.
A mechanical department manager at Astorino and spent his time volunteering at the Children’s hospital for terminally ill children. Your brother sounded like a top quality person and his life didn’t have to end this way and this soon.
Thank you for reaching out to us. We are all saddened by this loss.
I too am so sorry to hear of your loss. Your brother sounds like he was someone we’d all be honored and privileged to know. Thank you for posting.
Brian I feel so sorry for you and your whole family; your brother Arthur sounds like he would have been a great guy to know and someone we all would have enjoyed riding with.
So sorry to hear about your brother.
That is the worst section of road to ride on, but like Jon Webb said, that is a road that we use several times on rando rides to head out toward ohio.
I once was taking the right hand lane and had to bail to the shoulder when a big white truck wasn’t moving over to pass. I can’t wait until the Ohio River trail is complete so I don’t have to take 51 anymore. It would be nice to bike to see my parents in Monaca more.
My condolences to all of the Bell family. I wish there was more to say than that… but words can not express my desire to steal a backhoe and/or an armed tank and just go rage crazy on sr51 right now. I’m truly sorry for your loss.
Greetings, all. I am the guy that was interviewed the day of the accident by WPXI and told him to mention the state law as part of his story. I was there right after Art was transported away. After everyone left, I went back. I stepped off the lines and it was about 150ft from impact to where he ended up. There was significant blood still there and they marked where his head rested. The ghost bike is another few yards south of that. The truck continued at least another 150ft before stopping. Scratch marks from the bike were clearly visible in the pavement. I found Art’s chin strap that was cut away and recovered that, cleaned it up, put it in a box and gave it to his dad and brother at the funeral home. It was still clipped. I didn’t where a suit, I wore a cycling jersey. The section of of south of the Ambridge Bridge has a huge shoulder that is typically covered with gravel, ash and glass. I have ridden that road for over 20 years and never road to the right of the white line unless necessary. People generally have moved over to create space. But you can’t trust that anymore. I imagine Art was riding the line like we all do and even more so as he heard the truck approach. The dent on the hood of the truck was on the passenger side. There is no way, no matter how dark, with all of the reflective material and light that visibility played a role, as the police were postulating….unless the truck’s lights were not on or the driver was distracted. Very sad this is…again. You may remember my friend Mark Parker who was struck in Fox Chapel a few years ago. I have an idea and I’m gonna do some research and see what we can do to bring this to the front of the mind of every one behind the wheel. I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time, this is Steven Fisher’s email at WPXI- firstname.lastname@example.org. Why don’t you all send him a note of thanks and ask him not to let this one go. And while he’s at it, bring up Taylor Banks while he’s at it. I here there is still no explanation to the family on that one either? As it turns out, I was on the scene of that one right after it happened as well. Too weird, too sad and too important to let these tragedies fade into oblivion.
I don’t want anyone to think I’m blaming the victim here, but I would take the lane there — and have. There are two lanes in each direction. The safest (and perfectly legal) way to ride is to take the right lane, so that drivers have to pass in the left lane, and don’t try to squeeze on by.
Even better would be to somehow get the municipality to clean the shoulder; it’s wide and smooth.
Jon, read my post. I had to bail when I was taking the lane cause a driver wouldn’t move over into the empty left lane to pass. It was terrifying. I don’t know what the solution is.
@stef, I agree it’s a terrifying road with no good solution. Still, I think it’s better to take the lane and worry about the rare driver who doesn’t understand the lane-changing technique than to ride to the right and have drivers frequently squeeze on by — or be completely ignorant of your presence, which is what I’m guessing happened here.
I was riding back from a brevet one night, blinking like crazy, with the road practically empty, and had a driver slow down when he saw me, pull up behind in my lane, and, then, after I guess threatening me for a while, finally change lanes and pass. It’s hard to understand the psychology sometimes.
Again, NOT blaming the victim; for future reference, if you have to ride this road.
Claiming the lane helps catch driver’s attention but it’s far from being a guarantee. Open road hypnosis can be disturbingly deep. The shoulder sweeping would give a meaningfully better option, but the ohio river trail is the only thing I’d really call an answer. Shame on the state for not having taken action based on the fatalities the two years prior. Here we are again. I’m so sorry for this man and his family.
@skalman, thanks for the additional info. I’ve been checking local news sites for more coverage of this – but I’ve found nothing.
How very sad that a man loses his life in such a senseless way and society barely takes the time to notice. Hopefully we can organize a memorial ride of some sort to bring media attention to this dangerous stretch of road, and put pressure on PennDot and local government to make this corridor safe for ALL road users.
BTW, except that I live on the complete opposite side of the city, and feel, frankly, that crap on the side of the road is in no way my fault, I might be motivated to Adopt a Highway and clean the berm there myself. Might save a life or two.
We are working on a ride. It may include the two other fatalities in recent years, and also provide a review of the alternate ORTC route.
Between the Sewickley-BeaverAve-Ambridge bridge shuffle
and this route through the industrial park – both are paved and fairly bike friendly – you can avoid10 miles of the 15 mile RouteA risk zone.
(this back route provides an alternative which avoids the last two fatal crash locations)
Just signed up for the message board because of this…
I live in Aliquippa/Hopewell. I ride 51 a lot. Mainly because it’s the only way to get north and south conveniently. I regularly ride it to go to meetings and for fun. I typically say that 99.99% of drivers are awesome on this road. Rarely a close call. I went to a meeting in Wexford today and rode the part between Aliquippa and the Ambridge bridge. The south bound side berm is now meticulously swept and cleaned. Too bad someone had to die for that to happen. There is no berm northbound. Just two lanes with jersey barriers inches away from the white line. It was hard to feel comfortable and have fun today.
Vannever, thanks so much for that route. That will be a real help going northbound.
The plans to build a bike path would be amazing for those of us who use 51 a lot. Until then, what? I am very interested to hear what Skalman is thinking. I was wondering today if it would be helpful for PennDot simply to paint the right hand lane with bike symbols and share the road writing (sort of like through Robinson). It wouldn’t cost much and it would be something.
Demand, repeat, demand, nothing short of lowering the speed limit to 35 mph. If Mr. Bell was dragged >150 feet, speed was a factor. If the driver did not see a cyclist in time, speed was a factor. When Taylor Banks was hit, we determined speed was a factor. When Emily Jankart was hit, though she was doing something a bit unusual, she would have been seen and likely avoided if the driver was going slower. Hence, speed was a factor.
Legal speed. I am not blaming anyone for exceeding the posted limit. I am saying the posted limit is too high.
Thirty-five. This should be what we fight PennDOT on. Plant a flag in the ground and defend it. It will be as welcome as a bucket of cow manure at a wedding reception, but too bad. You want to go faster, use 376. You want to go from way over here to way over there, use 376. If you’re just changing towns and this is the most direct way, then fine, use 51 but go 35.
Okay. Here is what I am thinking. 1000 of the 4 Feet Please, Share the Road, It’s the Law signs. This would be of the political sign variety, bright yellow with black lettering. They can be put anywhere you can push a step stake into the ground, nailed to telephone pools, zip tied to whatever. I have a company that will provide a quote within the next couple days. I have called Edgar Snyder marketing who MAY be able to pay for all or part of the cost. We have them shipped to a location and we all grab some and start the awareness campaign all over the place.
Edgar Snyder marketing has also suggested interviewing me for a blog that they would attempt to make go viral. For those who don’t know me, I was the guy interviewed by Steven Fisher of WPXI. I am the same age as Art Bell, 54. Been cycling literally all but five years of my life and have competed in races. Been hit four times, once by someone who ran a stop sign and I flew 20ft, hit a street sign and bounced another 10. I’ve been grazed by a bus, clipped by an extended truck mirror and cutoff by someone making a left hand turn, not to mention a few pedestrian cutoffs downtown.
Anyway, that’s it. I think someone mentioned Woodland road, which rides parallel to 51 for quite a ways. There is some newly section for new construction going in, but the rough parts are rough. I plan on using it exclusively when I can. However, if I am crossing the Ambridge bridge, it’s not really an option without a dismount and climb up the hill. I don’t 35mph ever happening on that road. Might Art still be alive if he was hit by a 35mph truck? I don’t think it was speed AS MUCH as the potential for a driver not even looking at where he was going. THAT is my bet.
this is a non-trivial portion of the Beaver County mentality:
(the road happens to actually be a state bike route)
Not everybody. Just some.
As we all know, it just takes one.
However, if I am crossing the Ambridge bridge, it’s not really an option without a dismount and climb up the hill.
If you’re southbound from Monaca heading to Ambridge, the Woodlawn route suggests that you stay on Woodlawn, ride under the Ambridge-Aliquippa bridge, turn onto Route51 in Crescent.
Possibly, the eventual delivery of ORTC will include a two-direction bike lane on the southbound shoulder from Crescent to the Ambridge bridge. So (if this happens) you’d cross 51 where it’s 35mph, then ride contraflow (north) on the (hillside) shoulder of 51 South to the Ambridge bridge.
That’s certainly adding to the distance, but it’s the only maneuver we can discern to not ride with 55mph cars on Route51.
Inevitably, the northbound route does the same two-step in the other direction: Sewickley to Ambridge, cross the Ambridge Bridge, turn left onto the 51South bike lane to Crescent, cross 51, turn left onto Woodlawn – go back under the Ambridge bridge – and continue to Monaca. (I recommend Yolanda’s pizza). It’s not pretty but it works.
Not saying anybody should, don’t want to get into anybody’s practices, just identifying a different way to look at the situation.
Stu, you can demand a 35 mph speed limit and maybe even get it (doubtful) and it will make no difference. Cars routinely do 70 along the stretch from Monaca to south heights and the speed limit is at most 55. Frankly as a driver on that road 35 is ridiculous. Better we spend our energy on alternatives like the ORT.
Could a biker continue north on Woodlawn Rd. the whole way to the end of the Woodlawn on 51 near Monaca Rd.? There is an overpass where Woodlawn goes way up over 51. There are barriers at that entrance location from 51. Cars couldn’t pass through, but my bike could. There is no center barrier on 51 there, so you could access the north bound lane. If you were going to Monaca, you’d only have about a mile of road and the speed limit does drop to 45mph. Anyone tried that?
Is it that the limit is unenforceable? Where can a cop sit to do his/her job, if there is no shoulder? That makes it a road design problem, thus we’re right back in PennDOT’s court.
I’ve been saying for over two decades now, if you had to use something other than a car to get from A to B, how could you? What’s preventing you? Well, if mixing with 70 mph traffic is OK with you, then fine, go right ahead, but I don’t think that’s a valid option for the majority of cyclists.
I say we fix the road, and jam it down the public’s throat if we have to. This can’t be safe for motorized traffic, either. Oh, and build the trail, too.
Another idea: More/less permanently place a set of traffic cones and a flashing arrow narrowing traffic to a single lane, if only for 50 feet, along the worst stretch for speeding. Precedent: When the West Carson Street project was being discussed, and they were arguing for two outbound lanes to handle traffic flow, a small landslide caused the curb lane to be closed for months. Guess what happened? Nothing. No backups, even at rush hour. I bet they could do the same here.
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