Does anyone follow "the rules?"
My question was prompted by photos in the “bloomin bikes” thread. Does anyone follow the rules of the road when riding in Pittsburgh? My one experience riding in the city limits involved a trip down a one way street in the wrong direction.
Wrong way cycling and sidewalk riding is pretty common in Philadelphia. I wonder if I’m going to encounter a lot of it when I get out with yinz.
to my recollection, there is only one guy on here who rides on the sidewalk. he rides on the sidewalk by Halkett Street in Oakland during his morning commute to avoid riding on Forbes for 50 feet because he doesn’t want to ride around the block to avoid crossing a bunch of lanes of traffic.
It’s all about education. Learn how to ride in traffic, following the rules, and both being nice and being assertive, but mainly being visible and predictable to motor traffic.
yes, of course it’s perfectly fair to look at a couple of photos and use that to make sweeping generalizations. wtf?
Sidewalk riding is pretty common on the long block of Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill that has two bike shops, but the sidewalks are relatively wide there. My guess is about 1/3 of the bike traffic on that block is on the sidewalk. But other nearby blocks seem to have less sidewalk riding.
I don’t see wrong-way cycling very often. But I expect it’s mostly confined to certain blocks where the alternative is particularly time-consuming or unsafe.
But following all the rules? I suspect few cyclists follow them all, at all times Come to a complete stop at every stop sign, instead of just slowing way down? Signal at every turn, even if there’s no one around? Always audibly signal before passing a pedestrian on a bike path, even if you know they see you? Riding safely and following the law aren’t identical.
I sometimes ride on sidewalk – particularly Friday and
Saturday around midnight with all the drunkards on the street. For example, going up Forbes from Braddock, if it’s drunk hour, I’ll be on the sidewalk even though there is a bike lane there.
Also, I live right at the west end of The Blvd of The Allies bridge into Schenley. I’ll ride on the sidewalk if I’m going to be headed over the Panther Hollow bridge so I can avoid crossing 4 trafficly lanes and going up hill to a clover leaf.
I’m fairly polite to pedestrians. For example, I’ll get off of my bike to pass someone with a baby carriage or who is walking a toddler.
I will do my best, but pedestrians don’t listen, hell, they don’t even see my when I am riding towards them on a bridge, so I don’t often say anything. I will hit the sidewalk if it is convenient for both myself and the cars, which is sometimes often downtown. I will also thank those who get their kids out of the way, as well as go slow if I see a friendly leashed animal that might cause some trouble for the owner. I avoid one-ways like the plague, but if it is an alley downtown, I will use it, hell, I see cars use them too.
The one thing I refuse to mount on my bike is a horn or bell, so that may lead to people not hearing me say anything, but oh well.
I’m curious – why would you refuse to mount a bell?
I’ll use sidewalks under certain circumstances (usually where I know they’re almost never used by pedestrians anyway). But wrong way cycling in my opinion is a really really bad idea. Your chances of getting in an accident are so much higher because cars aren’t looking for you and probably can’t see you if they’re turning onto the alley.
Limited room on my bars on the road bike and one more thing to break on the mountain bike.
The only wrong way riding I ever do is Semple between that side alley near Forbes and Bates. Ever since they paved it last year, it’s probably the best riding street in Oakland. It also has relatively little traffic compared to even nearby Atwood and McKee.
Navigating the streets in southern residential Oakland can be tricky in this regard. They’re mostly one-ways but, they’re also generally wide enough to fit a car and bike side-by-side, albeit in the door zone. For this very reason, I feel much more comfortable in the opposite-direction door zone (passenger side doors) where there is less often someone getting out and even if they do, they can more readily see you coming.
I’m not condoning reverse one-way riding, but that’s my two cents on it.
Considering how popular flockofcycles is with the folks of this board, I think its a much safer generalization to say that we all ride by the rules whenever possible (there are times when safety may warrant riding different from time to time, however).
“The one thing I refuse to mount on my bike is a horn or bell, so that may lead to people not hearing me say anything, but oh well.”
Just keep your u-lock handy and swing it about when you come upon some peds. A couple whacks with the ol’ u-lock will have them scramblin’. If they don’t get the message, oh well.
There are a few stop signs in suburban developments I regularly fly through at full speed. There are intersections that do not have stop signs where I do stop or nearly so because it is safer to do that than to proceed through it at speed as the law would allow.
There are laws that do far more good than harm.
There are laws that need to be updated.
There are traffic signs which must be obeyed.
There are traffic signs which exist mainly because someone got killed in a car, by a car.
Don’t get these confused.
I do my best to stop at every light/sign. This morning I had a few people at a bus stop look at me quizzically, because I waited for a green on a completely deserted street.
That being said, no one is perfect, I’ve accidentally run stop signs because they were behind a tree, or not used a turning signal because my hands were occupied with braking. I don’t think anyone really follows all of the rules 100%, but I like to think that those who know the laws try to as best they can, and those who (ride on sidewalks, ride the wrong way, etc) don’t know that they shouldn’t. In my small hometown, you always ride either on the sidewalk, or against traffic if there was no sidewalk. Then again, there weren’t many bike commuters over the age of 16…
I’ve found that using sidewalks should be done infrequently and for good reasons, a few of which were mentioned above. I’ve often caused myself as many problems as I’ve solved by hopping on the sidewalk. As for following the traffic laws, three years of law school and four years of practicing taught me a few truisms about how the law works. One is that if you want the law’s full protections, you need to simultaneously be obeying it. If you’re hit by a car (or hit a pedestrian) while ignoring a traffic law, the concept of comparative negligence may come into play in assessing who was at fault and the percentages of fault. The bottom line: it would be a shame to get hit by a car, have $100,000 in injuries and damages, and only be able to recover $50,000 because you were 50% at fault due to your own violation of the traffic laws. I don’t want to come across as being pedantic here, but that’s pretty much the legal reality of the situation.
that’s a pretty good way to put it, I think.
And a really strong argument to be as knowledgeable as possible about traffic laws.
There’s not as much wrong-way and sidewalk cycling here as you might expect, but there is a lot of “Idaho-stopping”. Perhaps there are just fewer one-way streets here than in Philly.
Many people who bicycle in cities do so as a replacement for walking what would otherwise be a walkable distance. (Incidentally, it seems to me that “bikeshare” programs are specifically targeted at this demographic.) If you are thinking of biking as a substitute for driving, you don’t mind going around the block, that’s the way it works. But if you are thinking of biking as a substitute for walking, then you naturally ride on sidewalks and up one-way streets.
RF: you aren’t required to use hand signals if your hands are needed to maintain control of your bicycle. And that’s just common sense, so don’t sweat it.
I used to do the Idaho Stop, but the more drivers I saw on their cellphones, the less I did that…
I sometimes Idaho stop at stop signs, but I find that red lights give me a great chance to show off/practice my trackstand. Now I don’t mind if the light is red or green (unless I’m in a hurry…).
Riding on the sidewalk, of course, is not necessarily against “the rules” unless you’re in a “business district” (300 feet frontage of businesses within 600 feet of roadway per 52 Pa. Code § 37.202).
Idaho Stop = Pittsburgh Left for cyclists. Once the locals get the hang of the concept, it’ll be smooth sailing. We’re not so much breaking the law as we are bending it for reasons of common sense.
you aren’t required to use hand signals if your hands are needed to maintain control of your bicycle. And that’s just common sense, so don’t sweat it.
It’s common sense, but I’m not sure it’s part of PA law. Looking in the statutes here, it says you must continuously signal for the last 100 feet before turning, says how to signal on a bike, but nothing about it being optional if it’s too hard. There’s nothing in the bike-specific statutes about this either.
Seems the law needs to better match what cyclists really do.
Idaho stop for bikes= Pittsburgh stop for cars.
It’s not like traffic actually stops for a 4 way stops in Pittsburgh.
I always think it’s odd when a car is clearly at a 4-way stop before me, I come to a stop, and then they wave me on.
I will ride on the sidewalk if it looks safer (some hills and certain bridges).
OK, thanks for the information. I’ve come close to an accident with a wrong way cyclist on both a bike (in New Brunswick, NJ) and in my car (here in Phoenixville there’s a woman who insists on riding against traffic on shoulderless roads.) In Philly sidewalk riding happens so often there’s a campaign against it on the part of some businesses.
Riding on sidewalks is usually “against the rules” even when it isn’t against the law, imho. Done, but rarely and with caution for short distances.
Agree with Mick and Quizbot, but still. I usually avoid the Pittsburgh left, too.
The thing about signalling requires a better keyboard, so, later.
I like what people have said so far, my experience is described nicely by the generalizations above with a few exceptions:
When I’m testing a bike, typically coming out of Dirty Harry’s in Verona, despite the signs painted by Verona on the sidewalks (no bikes, the circle/bar over a bicycle picture), I ride the sidewalk. It’s a new bicycle/new hardware/broken bicycle – I’m not hopping into ARB traffic immediately to crash AND get run over, and if I have to walk to the end of the block with the bike every time they tweak something to test it out, I’ll be there all day. I totally accept that this is wrong, and if there are peds I wait for them to pass/do their thing.
The only other time I ride on the sidewalk is described best by my thought process as it happens “where the hell am I, oh shit, thank god a cut I better get on the sidewalk”, often immediately followed by a dismount, or I’m going so slowly I’m more like a pedestrian with wheels. Coincidentally, this always follows the only times I ride the wrong way down a one way – it’s always by accident.
Stop signs – in the city it’s 100% (way too much else going on for me to pretend like I’m going to be aware enough to skip it safely) but rarely do I put a foot down unless I’m going to be waiting for others.
Stop lights 100%. Sometimes I dismount and hop up on the sidewalk (like at the top of a big hill, to take a break and get out of the way). Only times I’ve ever run them was with a group and the drivers were waving me through.
I do both sidewalk riding and wrong way sidewalk riding in 2 places:
Rarely I will ride from East End Ave to Forbes on the sidewalk in the mornings if the traffic is bad. I go slowly (walking speed), and only if 1) I can clearly see that there is no one on the sidewalk and 2) no one at the bus stop shelter.
I almost always go the wrong way on the side walk up Greenfield Ave from 2nd Ave to by the Catholic school. My rationale is that it is very wide, there is almost no pedestrian traffic and that going in the street has too many blind spots for my tastes.
Stop signs, I often do Idaho stops in Edgewood down Savannah and East End Ave. The rest of the city I come to a full stop because I’m paranoid when I’m far from home….
Most bizarre not-following-the-rules was coming back on smallman around 2 am one time, had a pgh police car/officer flash the lights and then stick his arm out the window to wave me by at a four-way stop. Very odd.
I think any cycling ‘infraction’ against the law is easier to excuse simply due to the proximity with environment. I understand the whole ‘same as a car’ arguments often used, but to me bicycles have advantages, and should receive those in the law. Hence my heavy adoption of the idaho stop, even if it isn’t legal.
I forgot to ask in my opening post if yinz have a lot of bike ‘ninjas’ around.
“My one experience riding in the city limits involved a trip down a one way street in the wrong direction.”
It was the first day of my first Pittsburgh to DC trip, and I was being led around by a resident.
I will never wear a black belt with brown shoes, or vice versa, that’s the only rule I hold as immutable. All other rules are situationally adjustable.
it says you must continuously signal for the last 100 feet before turning
This is silly. I don’t think I’ve signaled for the last 100 feet very often. We are supposed to take one hand off the bars, brake, downshift, maintain the steering over potholes/patches, change lane position, watch for drain grates of death, and be looking around for cars about to run you over as you turn — all at the same time? It might sound fine on paper to someone who hasn’t ever thrown a leg over a bike, but in practice it isn’t sensible.
I will generally signal enough until I have some confirmation from the drivers, if any. When I am turning my head and waving my arm it seems to grab the attention of even the most stubborn of drivers. Now they may not know what the signal means, but with their attention they are generally smart enough to know what is going on.
The only way I’ll signal for the last 100 feet is when I’m making a left turn, braking very little or not at all, and can just bring my hand back to my bars as I lean into the turn. Needless to say, it usually doesn’t work that way.
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Signalling. I apply the dual questions of “What information do you [=other drivers] need, and what are you going to do with it?”
They need to know I am going to get in front of them, so I signal lane changes. They need to know I am going to slow down, so I give them plenty of warning and/or time, which is occasionally accompanied by standing out of the saddle. They need to know I am going to change direction, once I am in front of them, so I tell them.
But 100 feet? Bullshit. Yeah, what they said: Holes in the street. Buckled pavement. Squirrels. Whatever. No, safety matters far more than some words written in a book. This sounds like a rule that was written by a bunch of non-cyclists 80 years ago around a big table, and nobody has ever thought to challenge it.
Visible, safely, predictable, and courteously. Nothing else matters.
Visible, safely, predictable, and courteously. Nothing else matters.
On the other hand, if bikes keep getting more popular, I think there will be a backlash where the (largely car-driving) citizenry will demand that law enforcement be draconian for bikers.
I could be wrong, but at some point bike will be perceived, quite rightly, as a threat to car culture. Or at least I hope so.
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