forbes bike lane frustrations
So, I feel like maybe this has been hashed out before, but the thread didn’t turn up in a quick search, and I needed to vent about it.
Edit: Oops, this is absurdly long. My bad. I should really wait until some time has passed before venting about these things.
I was coming home via the bike lane on Forbes by Frick Park, headed downhill (i.e., from Squirrel Hill towards Braddock Ave.). Since I have to get in the left lane to go straight across Braddock at the bottom of the hill, and since the bike lane narrows and ends so abruptly, I normally merge into the right-hand lane of traffic really early, before the curve that precedes the end of the bike lane, and then try to grab a spot in the left-hand lane when traffic there is clear.
One other option for dealing with that bike lane is, of course, to stay in the lane until it ends, but then I am:
A. stuck trying to fight my way across two lanes of traffic stopped at the light to get into the left-hand lane, which never works out well (cars think I’m cutting in line or whatever and are not eager to let me get in front of them)
B. if traffic is not already stopped to the left of the bike lane due to being lined up for a red light, I’m stuck trying to merge with 35mph traffic while I deal with the bike lane narrowing to almost nothing, and obviously no one is eager to let me over, and then I still have to get in the left lane… plus there’s the issue of the curve that precedes that point, which makes it hard for cars to see me merging and makes it hard for me to see if cars are coming.
SO I never stay in the bike lane until it ends unless i absolutely have to, and I didn’t today.
So as I was approaching that curve, riding in the right lane, a car going probably >40mph suddenly buzzes around me, honking. Not being in a great mood for being terrorized, I yell and curse at it, blahblahblah.
We get a red light at the bottom of the hill, and I hop up onto the sidewalk to try to confront the driver. I walk up and ask, “Are you the person who just honked at me?” Fancy dude and his wife roll down the window.
I try to talk (no cursing, no yelling), but he snaps something to the effect of “Are you aware that there’s a bike lane back there? It was for your safety that I did that.” (Okay, so for my safety, you were speeding and buzzed me and put me in danger. Thanks, bro.)
I try to explain that the bike lane ends and that I have to merge out of it, and that I’m not legally required to be in the bike lane no matter what (unfortunately forgetting to add the “and I needed to do that especially early to be able to merge into the LEFT lane” aspect). The dude and/or his wife snap something to the effect of “well, you do realize that where you were, the bike lane hadn’t ended yet, right?”
To make it more obnoxious, wife adds, “He bikes too,” combined with heavily snarky tone and refusal to make eye contact with me instead of looking at her cell phone.
I try to explain how it would be dangerous for me to wait until the very last second to merge, especially with the curve there, and then the light turns green. He interrupts me with some reiteration of what he was saying before, amounting to demonstrating that he thought I always had to be in a bike lane if one was available. As he drives away, he says (still with exceptionally snarky tone), “Well, I hope you’re safe.” ARGHHHHHH. Gee, sir, I never realized how much drivers really cared when they buzzed me. Now I see that they were just trying to keep me safe. Why, thank you!
Okay, I’m done now. But how do you guys deal with that bike lane (especially being in my position of needing to get in the left lane)? I hate filtering, but maybe some approach involving filtering is what I need to do there so that I can stay in the bike lane until it ends… but drivers just get so edgy at that intersection sometimes that filtering makes me nervous. I usually don’t have issues when I merge early, but the issues I do have tend to be these high-speed, particularly-dangerous interactions, so I’m open to new ideas.
Also open to new ideas about how to deal with these confrontations. I don’t think I accomplished a damn thing with fancy dude and his pretentious wife, despite trying to be reasonable.
And one more thing: Is there any hope of the design of that bike lane ever being improved? The uphill bike lane on Forbes is wonderful, but the downhill one is certainly less than ideal (starts right next to the stupid little Beechwood connector that I hate so very much, ends with the weird “let’s just taper off into nothing suddenly” situation…)
Anonymous 06/03/2012 at 6:11am #
Let me start by saying I feel your pain. I ride that same stretch frequently, and I always feel uneasy about the way that bike lane ends.
Along the curve you mentioned, there is a sign or two that indicate that the bike lane is ending, and that you should merge. Technically, the bike lane ends before the bridge over Frick Park, where the dashed lines are, and those signs do indicate that you should merge well ahead of that point. By the time I reach that bridge, I usually have taken the lane, but I start searching for an opening in traffic well ahead of there. So I think you are totally right to merge before the curve.
As I see it, part of the problem is that those yellow signs warning you to merge are completely obscured by tree branches. The other part of the problem is that there is not enough warning to drivers that cyclists will be merging (I’m pretty sure all drivers ignore yellow signs). This is compounded by the signs that indicate which lanes are right-turn only, straight only, and left-turn only also being obscured by trees. The result is cyclists and motorists alike are all left scrambling for their desired lanes just when they hit the halfway point of the bridge (where the signs finally come into view), and then there’s the traffic light to deal with.
I would start with a basic 311 complaint to have the tree branches cut, and then make a second complaint that the area in question is not safe in its current format. If the branches get cut, then motorists like the one you encountered couldn’t deny that they were warned about your intention/need to merge.
Maybe this intersection would be better if the bike lane extended all the way to Braddock and into a bike box?
I think you did exactly right as far as merging.
As for the conversation, you might have mentioned the new four foot law. Sounds like he failed to pass you at a “prudent reduced speed”. But it’s hard enough just overcoming the adrenaline enough to have a coherent conversation in such situations. Kudos for having a reasonable conversation, even if it maybe didn’t sway this particular guy.
To the “he bikes too” remark, I think the proper response would be, “Well, how would you handle having to make a left on Braddock, especially since the bike lane ends way before the corner?” (even though I realize you’re going straight there, just to simplify the question)
Chances are excellent that this couple does not live in the Regent Square area, but uses Forbes to bypass Parkway traffic.
FWIW on the north end of town, the same thing potentially occurs on Brighton southbound (downhill), but there isn’t a bike lane there, just sharrows. Still, horns and cars passing on the right while cyclists get ready to make a left onto W North, is pretty common.
It’s a spectacularly beautiful Sunday morning, I had an indescribably good nights sleep, and just reading your story has me wanting to beat the living shit out of someone.
God bless you for confronting the driver, but you have to be so so careful. The possibility for unhappy ending are too great. And the chances of changing the thinking of some dickhat wannabeaHallMonitor driver through rational conversation are slim. I have no problem with flipping someone the bird or swearing at someone, if they decide to stop, they become the one who starts the engagement.
Regardless, you were a vehicle operator with the legal right to the road, and you made a decision as to how to handle a particular situation. It is all vehicle operator’s responsibility not to kill other people on the road, regardless of circumstances. It is not their job to teach other people their opinion of traffic lessons by means of potentially deadly behavior.
This driver was simply an asshole, bottom line. I would have had some very special words for the stain in the passenger seat as well.
It’s terrible. I feel your pain as well. I drive that stretch a bit and people pass me at well over 45 mph.
One night before the city repaved certain sections I was taking the lane and speeding, I believe my speed was 38 mph at the time. I took the lane because there was no traffic, there was lots of debris in the bike lane and I was going fast enough. Did I mention there was no traffic?
There was a car driving behind me for a bit, then I notice them change lanes and the driver honk at me rudely before they pass me. It startled me. I make it to the Braddock intersection and of course there she is behind three other cars, waiting at the light. I asked if it was her that honked at me. She rolls down her window, “you have your own lane.” I said, “you do too, just go around.” She says while shaking her head and rolling her eyes, “You HAVE YOUR OWN LANE.” It didn’t end well.
In most cases now I go around it and take Dallas to Reynolds and through the park which dumps me on the wide by very fast Braddock. I don’t love Braddock and I really don’t like the Forbes and Braddock intersection but I haven’t had any trouble there.
That road sucks ass. The speed limit should be 25 but people already drive 50 with impunity and I think stu hit the nail on the head, it’s a bunch of assholes bypassing the parkway and continuing their shitty behavior down Braddock as well.
If I were king I’d get rid of that idiotic beechwood connector, reduce the limit to 25, and make it 1 lane in each direction (with real bike lanes of course).
I always advocate for communication, so good job.
I’ve also had the pleasure of interacting with several people who said that blaring their horn at me was for “my safety” and they thought I should be somewhere else besides in the lane.
Despite the fact that they didn’t apologize or agree with you on the spot, I think the next time they run into that situation they’ll be less likely to use their horn and more likely to use their head and try and figure out what the cyclist is doing and why
i hope you’re right peirce, but it sounds to me like these are those people we shouldn’t even bother trying to reach. the only thing that happens is we get angry. i usually do my damnedest to not engage. i’m probably a happier person as a result.
Thanks, guys — I think I just needed to hear that this guy was, in fact, an asshole, and that my approach to that intersection actually did make sense. For some reason I don’t encounter many other cyclists there, probably because I’m often coming home at weird times, so I wasn’t sure what other people did in that situation.
I wish I had thought to say something about the “prudent reduced speed” and asked Mr. He Bikes Too about what he would do if he had to be in the left lane, but between my adrenaline rush and the guy’s eagerness to interrupt me and the fact that the light turned green, I didn’t get those points in. But I’ll have a well-rehearsed speech now in case this ever happens again.
@jay: Good ideas about 311-ing the tree branches and stuff. I don’t think those signs would have made a difference for this guy, as he clearly didn’t think there was ever any reason for a bike to be in the lane before the very end of the bike lane, but I think the gesture of pointing these things out via 311 is worthwhile anyway. I’m going to dream about bike boxes now… man, that would be an awesome addition there.
@edmonds: Didn’t mean to ruin your Sunday morning This was the first time I’ve ever legitimately confronted a driver (edit: okay, the second, I guess), and I don’t know whether I would do it again, but I had just gone out for a ride to try to cure a bad mood and was extremely irritated that things went sour in the last quarter mile of my otherwise-lovely little adventure, so I guess I just lost my mind there for a second. I missed my chance to get in the left lane to go home since I was too busy yelling/shaking/regrouping, so I figured I might as well hop up onto the sidewalk and try to figure out what the hell this guy had been thinking. And since there were plenty of other people at the intersection to see the interaction (including a couple of drivers and a motorcyclist who passed me safely and politely and saw this guy pass me unsafely), and since the guy was at the front of a line of cars at the light and wouldn’t be able to stay and escalate the situation once the light turned green, I figured the risk was somewhat mitigated. But… TL;DR: you’re right, and I don’t think I’ll confront a driver like that again anytime soon. I’m not exactly confident about my odds in a physical altercation with a driver under the influence of testosterone.
@salty, I’d live in that Kingdom of Pittsburgh.
Anyway, considering how many times I’ve ridden that same stretch of road, usually in heavier traffic than yesterday, this is one of a very small number of times that people have given me trouble about taking the lane, so I guess I should just be thankful for that. But this still reinforces my decision to stop taking that route home on weekdays, even if my alternate route takes twice as long.
And on the communicating-with-drivers front, I guess my results have been pretty good. I think this is probably around the fourth time that I’ve actually had a chance to say something coherent to a driver (other than the uncountable times that I have just yelled at closed windows to make myself feel better), and the other times, I think the drivers might have actually gotten the idea.
Once a girl nearly left-crossed me when turning into her driveway, and I actually walked up to the end of her driveway as she was getting out of her car and (fearfully, not angrily) said, “You just scared the shit out of me. PLEASE be more careful.” She said she didn’t see me and seemed sincerely apologetic. She also seemed terrified of me, which I felt sort of bad about since I would probably be really freaked out if someone approached my driveway/house in that situation… but it’s not like I’m an intimidating physical presence, so I didn’t feel thaaat bad.
And I’ve had a couple of other interactions lately where drivers just weren’t paying attention and never realized I was there, and I had the opportunity to yell something friendly-ish like “You almost hit me; please be careful” at their open windows, and at least one of them looked genuinely surprised/concerned and will maybe be a little more aware from now on. Meh.
It’s possible that this driver is simply uninformed about changing traffic law. There used to be a requirement to use a path, if present.
§ 3505. Riding on roadways and pedalcycle paths. (scroll to bottom)
Note that section (f) was repealed in 1998.
I ride that stretch most mornings and always merge into the middle lane before the light, but generally when I’m there traffic is pretty light.
Basically, whenever a guy honks and buzzes you when he’s passing, he’s being an asshole. I used to spit at people like that — roll right up and spit on their window, or into their car, if the window was open. But I don’t do that anymore, or curse, either. I just let it slide. I find it is better for my soul if I let it go.
BTW, I 311 various problems on that stretch frequently, especially the occasionally blocked storm drains, and get results, so it works.
@stu: That wouldn’t surprise me.
I feel like I’d probably want to double-check whether or not a law had been repealed fourteen years earlier before I decided to “teach someone a lesson” about said law using my motor vehicle, but this guy and I seemed to have different approaches to life.
@jonawebb: Yeah, it’s usually not so bad when traffic is light. Even when traffic is heavier, I usually don’t have too much trouble, although it makes me nervous. I guess this was just not a welcome re-introduction to that bike lane since I haven’t been riding there in that direction much lately. Traffic was actually pretty light, which is why I went that way, but it just takes one jerk…
I’ve had luck with 311 around there too (including one incredibly fast response for a couple of street lights that weren’t coming on at night), so I will 311 this stuff.
I think I’ll also make a point of bringing this up at the MOVEPGH workshops for the East End in August.
While I never advocate beeping at a biker (it always scares me), you can at least acknowledge that if the city went out of its way to make a bike lane for you, and you are a driver observing that the bikers aren’t using the bike lane, then there’s a problem in the driver’s mind.
I’m not defending him. I mean, if he would’ve just slowed down and accepted your right to merge, he wouldn’t get home any later.
But, I used to not be a biker and you have to know that these drivers don’t see the biker’s perspective. And I might’ve been inclined to think to myself “you know, here’s a biker who’s not even using a bike lane that the city made for him. This from the people who get so angered when cars use a bike lane.”
It’s just the perspective of a driver. One time I was downtown and ended up pinning a biker against a truck. I honestly didn’t even see him, because I have not been trained to look for bikers. It’s not as if I meant to do it or wouldnt have given him room if I saw him, it’s just that if you’re not used to looking out for bikers, you don’t have their perspective in mind.
In that intersection, if it’s busy and fast traffic, you can stop and walk your bike down the sidewalk and use the pedestrian lights.
Yeah, we should just accommodate driver ignorance – it’s not like a 2 ton metal block piloted by a driver that’s angry or oblivious through absolutely no fault of the cyclist can hurt or kill you. “Get off and walk” is not a solution as much as an admission that the road needs to be redesigned.
I also hate this spot and pass through it frequently. The lane ends too close to the curve for comfort. I pass through it differently each time, depending on the density of traffic & likelihood of drunk drivers &tc. It’s hard to get in that middle lane during rush hour, so I cut over as soon as I can, preferably while there’s a red light ahead to diminish the possibility of someone gunning for the yellow light and overlooking a cyclist in the lane ahead.
I’m wondering if more paint could help in the merge zones….such as the ones where cyclists cross traffic on the birmingham bridge.
They should end the bike lane sooner with dashed lines and paint sharrows in both lanes until Braddock. At least that will be a visual to drivers that the 1 ft shoulder on the bridge is not a bike lane.
That’s the cheap solution.
We’ll have our traffic engineer take a look at this and offer some recommendations on how to improve it.
It was slightly improved outbound when they repaved but it still ends suddenly and has you entering a 35 mph traffic lane while going uphill. If you’re lucky the light at Dallas is red and everyone is slowing down.
Yeah, rsprake, I don’t mind the uphill part towards Dallas. I still take Forbes uphill to work every day and have basically never had a problem at the end of that bike lane. Since I’m always going kind of slow up that hill, I occasionally do just end up stopping and waiting at the end of that bike lane to let a wave of cars go by before I grab a spot in the lane, but that doesn’t bother me there since the lane stays reasonably wide, the sight lines are just fine for me to see approaching traffic, my speed is naturally lower, etc. (In contrast, doing something like that at the end of the downhill bike lane sort of makes my life flash before my eyes.)
Anonymous 06/04/2012 at 3:41pm #
@italianblen “It’s just the perspective of a driver. One time I was downtown and ended up pinning a biker against a truck. I honestly didn’t even see him, because I have not been trained to look for bikers. It’s not as if I meant to do it or wouldnt have given him room if I saw him, it’s just that if you’re not used to looking out for bikers, you don’t have their perspective in mind. “
Tell me you are not serious. If you read Driver’s Manual and/or Code — it stressed everywhere that you have to pay attention to about everything. I understand that you may think differently than motorcyclist/bicyclist, but not to see them?
BTW I consider filtering traffic as a bad practice. I check my rear mirror and side mirrors about 1-2 times per minute. Always, on a freeway, in a city. But there still is a gap for at least 30 seconds when a bicyclist could try to filter and if there is not enough space (parked cars, end of lane, etc) something bad could happen.
The PA drivers manual (last century at least) mentioned that you should not beep at bikers. It was one of the few times bikes werre mentioned in it.
Also, I avoid the Forbes Ave bike lanes between Braddock and Dallas. I typically go out and back on a Friday evening.
Going out, I take the lane. If there is MV traffic behind me, I’ll go into the bike lane, but then I have to slow WAY down because of the possibility of debris.
Inbound, it’s usually about midnight. Some little stripe on the road isn’t protection from drunkards (and I assume every driver at that time is blind drunk), so I’m on the sidewalk.
Sometimes I worry – the substantial curb there isn’t much protection from a drunkard, although better than some line in the road. There is the occasional car wreck trash – and sometimes whole wrecked cars – next to the stone wall there, maybe 8 feet from the road.
I’m not trying to be anti car, and maybe there’s a reason, but why are there two lanes on Forbes at that point? It seems to me at Braddock there’s an arguable reason for some turn-only lane(s), and at Dallas there *might* be a reason for a left turn only lane, but in the middle, two lanes seems to just provide a place for traffic to sit at 5PM and perhaps at 7AM (going from memory when I used to travel through there twice a week or so, a while ago).
So other than to provide a traffic jam a convenient (and park-overhanging, blech smog) parkinglot, why are two car lanes needed there?
I’m not saying that would solve any of the cycling issues mentioned above, I’m just curious. It never makes sense to me when a two lane road, suddenly and for seemingly no real reason, becomes a 4 lane road only to return to two lanes one to two blocks later. Forbes is guilty of this between Maggie Mo and Morewood too.
And Scott – does your traffic engineer need cupcakes, or an alternative yummy baked good to help them think about how to solve such conundrums? I’m not trying to sway the results, but sometimes baked goods can spark useful ideas. Especially baked goods with bicycles iced onto them. Flavoring suggestions are appreciated.
Anonymous 06/04/2012 at 7:46pm #
“does your traffic engineer need cupcakes, or an alternative yummy baked good to help them think about how to solve such conundrums? I’m not trying to sway the results, but sometimes baked goods can spark useful ideas. Especially baked goods with bicycles iced onto them. Flavoring suggestions are appreciated.”
+5 for this. Does the engineer subscribe to any special diet (e.g. vegan, pescatarian, paleo, Atkins, etc…)? Does his bike need a tune up?
I’m also confused about the need for four lanes on Forbes between Beechwood and Braddock. When it’s rush hour, it does seem to only allow room for cars to just stack up while waiting for the light to change. But when it’s not rush hour, the extra space seems to encourage drivers to “put the hammer down” and speed past the cemetery and community garden space, making it more dangerous for cyclists using the shoulder/ghetto/bike lane.
Forbes totally needs speed humps if it keeps all its lanes. I bet I could depict speed humps on a cake, and have gluten free baking skills.
I made some killer vegan chocolate chip muesli cookies the other day and would gladly trade many, many pounds of them for some speed humps or other traffic calming on Forbes. (I don’t know if I could make them into bikes, but they could look like speed humps, or maybe they could be car-shaped as a diplomatic gesture.) For something like a legitimate lane reduction plus a bike lane and bike box to get cyclists all the way to/across Braddock safely, I would pretty much be willing to quit my day job and become someone’s full-time cookie slave.
I’m no traffic engineer, but my basic reasoning and problem-solving skills are telling me that the only imaginable “benefit” to having two lanes for that single mile of road is that it makes it more fun for cars to race each other between red lights. It seems like a case where they put in four lanes just because they could, not because there was any good reason to do so.
Considering how wide that road is compared to the width it actually needs to handle its car traffic, there is amazing potential for that downhill bike lane to be something really nice and safe… I can only dream.
I would also just like to register my extremely negative feelings about that two-lane section of Forbes around Morewood, since ejwme brought it up. I have never had a good experience there and avoid it like the plague. Last time I rode it (to get around the Schenley Drive closures for CMU’s buggy race thingy), I came thisclose to getting flattened by a delivery truck. Might have been the single most terrifying moment of my life.
hmm… that (perhaps those two) portions of Forbes may have been vestigal leftovers from that 1960s plan to turn some odd roads into big highways… I can’t find the thread. Ever since somebody posted that, I’ve tried to see too-wide-roads as thankfully failed preparations to create a highway there.
But simply because we’ve made a mistake in the past, doesn’t mean we have to keep repaving and repainting the same mistake now that our plans have changed.
mmm… vegan musli choc-chip cookies.
Anonymous 06/04/2012 at 8:57pm #
@ejwme I like speed bumps at Settlers Cabin Park. There are pretty wide. I would say 3 feet. And not that high. When you go over them slowly you fell it like a big wave. But if you go over 20 mph then your car flies and hit ground hard. I saw a lot scrapes and oil there — some people completely destroyed their mufflers, some damaged transmissions and front ends.
Anonymous 06/04/2012 at 9:06pm #
“But simply because we’ve made a mistake in the past, doesn’t mean we have to keep repaving and repainting the same mistake now that our plans have changed.”
You mean we don’t have to keep doing something simply because it’s tradition?
> For something like a legitimate lane reduction plus a bike lane and bike box to get cyclists all the way to/across Braddock safely, I would pretty much be willing to quit my day job and become someone’s full-time cookie slave.
I’ll help. If we’ve got enough cookies, I’m willing and able to contribute brownies and banana bread (and berhaps other things that begin with b…).
“you know, here’s a biker who’s not even using a bike lane that the city made for him. This from the people who get so angered when cars use a bike lane.”
The same case could be made for all of the freeways this guy wasn’t using if we accept as a possibility that he was bypassing the Parkway traffic.
(On “if bikes should remain on bike only paths, cars should stay on parkways”)
Dang that’s genius.
But there is no easy way to communicate that to car drivers.
I used that argument against someone who passed me aggressively on Liberty Ave a couple years ago. I believe he laughed and told me to fuck off.
Sometimes I like to take the most charitable possible point of view of a situation and see how it works out. From that point of view, the driver, who is a cyclist himself, was alarmed and surprised when he saw you taking a dangerous action, which he thought you might not be aware of was so risky. Perhaps he felt he had to take evasive action to avoid hitting you. (Remember, this is the most charitable possible interpretation of what happened — I’m not disputing your recollection of the facts.) So he honked to alert you to the danger and veered around you to avoid an accident. Then, when you caught up with him, he was so flustered/angry at your reaction — you were angry with him, instead of thanking him for avoiding the accident which he thinks you almost caused — he reacted the way he did. And his wife pointed out that he himself was a cyclist, but she was so upset by the near accident that she couldn’t even look up from her cellphone.
I’m not saying your interpretation is wrong at all. But I find it a useful exercise sometimes to twist the scenario and see how it might have looked from the point of view of someone who, perhaps ineptly, was trying to do the right thing from his own point of view.
I make some mean waffles, if your engineer is a breakfast person.
That section of Forbes by the bridge definitely needs work. It transitions so badly from separated bike lane to immediate merge with traffic going 35-45mph. There’s no right way to do it, but some paint giving a visual cue to drivers and cyclists indicating the merging lanes would be a help.
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