Help pick the bike route signage the City uses!!
I like the idea of giving two options if it is appropriate, a direct/hilly way and a flat way. If the sign lists “minutes” rather than miles, even better. List two ways, give the times, and put a hill icon next to one. That is what way-finding is for, yea? You can do this up to a point…if there are two dozen things listed on each post, I see it being impractical.
Equally useful (and far less high-techy…maybe) would be a 6″x8″ placard below the sign that has the map on it. Less maintenance with the same benefits.
When my grandparents first moved here in the 70s(or when the belts were first put in place, whichever makes logical sense), grandma drove all around on each one, having fun getting to know the area. At some point, they were complete loops. I think they still are, just perhaps choice signs have been removed by vandals.
I use them constantly. I work on the red loop (which sign helps me not turn too early), I live just off the yellow loop (helps me get from South to East without a convenient highway). I’ve used them when I didn’t know where I was going (“ok, there’s a green loop sign, and I need to be east-ish, if I follow it it should intersect something I recognize… yay! I’m not lost anymore!) and to judge distance to where I was going (radially, being on the green loop is closer to “civilization” than being on the orange loop, so I chose highways accordingly).
They are horrid if you are looking for the fastest way to get somewhere, as they include no highways and were never intended to find specific locations. I’ve found them most useful when the only way to get from A to B that I knew of was to go all the way back in to the city again, and I wasn’t in the mood for that (and I have no GPS).
I think bike chains around the city would be fun, and easy – just a sign. No promise of flat riding (we’re in Pgh, not Florida), just a loop.
edited to add – we need more bridges over the Ohio, glancing at the Bike pgh map, it looks like we’d have enough to get two chains (including the McKees Rocks Bridge) before we get too far in to the boonies to be reasonable, maybe Sewickly bridge is just off the map but there’s not much West of here.
I don’t think the Red Belt was ever a full loop. It’s good riding all the way from Ambridge to Tarentum though…
the only belts that are complete loops are blue and purple. i saw a wqed special on the belts.
apparently red, green, and orange don’t do full turns – shows how loose grandma is with particulars, and how north/east centric I am.
Bike chains would still be cool.
I stand corrected. And my point has been underscored. These things are for those that don’t know their way. If you live in Pittsburgh, know where you are going, and you are prepared for the hill that you have to pull to get there, do you need the sign to tell you which direction and how many miles it will be?
Morningsider, I’d say yea. I’ve lived here for 2 years now, and I still have to look at a map to figure out how to get home from some areas. I usually go really round-a-bout ways where I know I won’t get lost. If there is a direct, bike-friendly route, I would love for there to be signs.
This is infinitely more important for those who have always lived in PGH, know their way around, but haven’t biked in their adult life. Imagine if your route from Shadyside to Greenfield in your car is through Squirrel Hill? It is the way my other half takes in her car, vroooom up Negley. Whenever I get in the car, I drive down 5th and go through Schenley park, because thats the way I go on my bike.
These things should be a recruitment tool for new cyclists. “Hey, it only takes 10 minutes to bike to ____ from here? Cool!”
ok, so don’t point any up Negley or Rialto, but if you’re an out of towner and bold enough to go exploring on a foreign city’s streets (a la that SF guy from a thread a few weeks ago), probably you can handle a hill or two… never said anything about miles to get there (belts don’t have miles or destinations).
This is seperate and distinct from the planned signeage, though, I apologize if my idea of an adaptation of a road navigation system that others find mostly useless but I have a strange fondness for has derailed the conversation.
But I still can’t see the options!
Right. Again, you identified the things I was trying to advocate. My question may have confused things. I asked if you already knew where you were going and were prepared for the hills, did you need the signs. For those, whether from Pittsburgh or not, that needed more options, they should be there.
It is mostly a recreation thing, rather than a commuter route, but it is perfect for people visiting from out of town who want to ride bikes.
Maybe they could incorporate Bob’s bike map (http://pdfs.bobsmaps.com/eend_bike.pdf) for this.
Why does that map show Penn as “Mostly Cycling Unfriendly?” Don’t the sharrows make it “Mostly Friendly?”
Explain to me how putting some sort of decision tree on a road sign is going to be usable or understood.
It seems you haven’t ridden in a city with a wayfinding system in place. it is really useful, helps alleviate stress, and makes sure you stay on the more bike friendly streets, which aren’t always the most direct, obvious, or main arterial. a big part of riding in this city is knowledge of the roads. ie which ones to take and which ones not to take. once you learn the better roads for cycling, it completely changes your experience. the idea of this is to lower the learning curve. i don’t know what else to say beyond that.
I’m not too worried about the design of the sign, but the placement within the right-of-way. Signage in the city a atrocious. Too high on a utility pole, too low and obscured by vegetation. It’s horribad.
Yeah, I was riding on the blvd of the allies today, sorta by accident. It was stressful. Not that a wayfinding system would have prevented that for me, but maybe for someone who was simply trying to get to Squirrel Hill without being clever.
@erok–I think the comment about a decision tree was an argument against a complex sign with multiple route options for the same destination, rather than against a directional sign in general. I don’t want that point to get lost (whoever made it) because I think it’s a good one. These signs need to be fairly simply and easily grasped as you ride by them to be effective. (Plus, if it’s easy to understand, a person zipping by in a car at 35 mph (as if! okay 50mph)can see the sign they might think “hey, I should try that on a bike some time.”
+1 what jeffinpgh said. I was initially responding to a suggested “kiosk,” and then something that sounded like a decision tree. You’re right, I’ve never ridden in a city with a “wayfinder” system, so I don’t know what that is. Regardless, signs need to be practical and easy to use. My position is that if you put too much information on them they stop being useful and simply become confusing.
@erok – on the off-chance there are other readers of this thread who might benefit from the information, perhas you might more ully explain what a “wayfinder” system is. From what I can glean, it sounds like it is more than just a signage system, and if so, perhaps conflating the two is muddling the discussion.
here’s an example in portland
and the original blog post about it.
On nice weekends there should just be friendly, smiling, attractive, young, bike pgh bicycle guides riding around to help people and hand out Bike Pgh maps and info.
I would do it but I look more like a cop.
i also agree that signage in this city is atrocious, but 80% of the signs don’t apply to me, so when you’re riding it’s easy to filter out all but the relevant ones.
@erok – me too.
(So if that’s a wayfinder type sign, how is that different from “Squirrell Hill 3 miles? Is it just the addition of the minutes? And for what it’s worth, i still think that type of signage would be hard to do because of all the wacky twists and turns our roads take.)
Here’s one of my favorite example of bad signage. Years ago there was (perhaps still is) a sign on Beechwood Blvd near Brownshill/Hazelwood. It was brown in color, about 15 feet off the ground, and said “Pittsburgh Zoo” with an arrow pointing up Beechwood in a general sort of way. Good luck with that though, because I don’t recall seeing any other signs. And when you finally twist and turn your way all the way to Mellon Park and Fifth avenue, what then?
I think the key to Wayfinding signs is that you find them at places where you need to turn, you find one every so often confirming you and on the right route and etc. If you have confidence in the signs you can enjoy your ride more. These signs are not going to be used by people from here who know where they are going. They are going to be used by people from elsewhere (which could just mean the burbs) who are trying to see our city by bike, or new arrivals who want to use a bike to get around but are somewhat confused by all the “wacky twists and turns our roads take.” I think both minutes and mileage are useful–they no doubt use some sort of standard speed to devise the timing (12mph?). Some people find it easier to work with times, some with distance. On a long route in a system, you’d pass several signs and be able to make mental adjustments on your own.
edit–and like @sloaps said, the signs themselves are placed so that you can see them!
i think another user group is longer term residents who do know the city a bit, and are picking up biking for the first time. even for a long term resident, there’s a good chance that you don’t know how all of the non arterial streets connect
in a way, you need to unlearn what you have learned (sorry for the gratuitous yoda quote), and learn different ways of getting there.
i lived here for years, and would take fifth to penn to get from oakland to the food coop. that sucked. then i finally learned some of the back roads, it was all of the sudden pleasant and fun.
erok – I’m a “third-grouper” as well, and it does take some time to transition from simply following the car routes I am accustomed to. One thing I think might be worth looking into – and separate from this signage question – is formalizing some of the cycling routes across town. Routes that not only get you from place to place, but also do so safely, on roads or streets with sharrows or dedicated bike lanes, routes that take advantage of existing trails, etc.
I’m a little slow, now that I’m thinking of it in these terms, maybe this is just the “beltway” idea repackaged for bikes.
Another, more practical, example: say you are on a nice long ride on a predetermined route (a chain, if you will) and you have to abort for a family emergency or an appointment you forgot. Well, what now? Sure, I know Oakland is 3 miles in that direction, but can I get there faster if I take this road and climb the associated three hills?
I know it can’t be implemented for a family emergency I may or may not have in the future; but I think the real estate that goes along with a sign post is valuable and could be very useful.
….”Pittsburgh Zoo” sign…
I think the key to Wayfinding signs is that you find them at places where you need to turn, you find one every so often confirming you and on the right route and etc.
It would be easy to put up a few signs.
Without continuity to one’s destination? Useless.
But they would look nice.
Getting a useful system of signs that would help people would require considerably more thought, work, and expense. Someone would need to think things out to get get signs placed where a newby would look for them. It would require some regular checking for missing or invisible signs.
I*’ve been in Pittsburgh since about the time they spoke French at Fort Duquesne, and I still need to study a map to get to Monroeville, North Park, South Park, or Robinson “Town Centre.”
I walked around Squ’ill before I learned to drive, and am still stuck driving the same routes (though with all the stop signs, it’s probably only faster in rush).
++ on the continuity. I LOVE the river signs that went up a while ago, I think that Bob guy helped with them. Exactly THAT for cyclists would be fantastic, adding the mileage would be ridiculously helpfull. If I’m in a car looking for something, I now have confidence that I’ll find one of those signs in the right place at the right time – I look for them.
If the same thing happened when I was on a bike, I would probably no longer show up an hour and 40 minutes late for things b/c I underestimated timing and couldn’t find the Jail Trail entrance.
Maybe I’m cynical, but here’s what I imagine happening.
1. The city will not release the actual numbers from the poll, and claim C won.
2. C will be turned down in some committee for its uselessness.
3. We won’t get any signs.
Wow, look at that beautiful clean smooth pavement in that P’land picture. I’d kill for some of that.
In their bike presentation, the Portland people showed a slide of their lack of bike infrastructure in a low-income neighborhood. It was brand new, smooth pavement 4(?) lane road, ADA curb cuts for the sidewalk, modern pedestrian signals on the lights. I think more than a few of us giggled.
@dwillen- were they trying to show where they still need to improve thus the laughter becuase their bad was better than our good? Or were they making the point that their infrastructure is so good that even the bad is good. or something else? surely they must know what truly “horrible” infrastructure looks like.
I can hear the excuses…
“but Portland doesn’t have the extreme weather we have here in Pennsylvania, that’s how come our roads are so bad comparatively. It’s the extreme weather.”
That’s always been the excuse I’ve heard for why our highways are washboards up to the political boundaries of the state, then smoothe out for miles. I’m sure that’s as good an excuse as any.
Or maybe “if we put in decent sidewalks, pedestrians would just abuse them, walking all over them everywhere, using them up”?
at least we have top of the line sports facilities.
@ejwme- the other excuse about the roads that I have heard is that since PA had highways first, ours are older and therefore in worse shape.
yes, that’s the problem with sidewalks- it forces everyone to acknowledge that there are pedestrians. I was in a no sidewalk town last weekend and it made me very sad to so SO MANY peds and bikeres on the shoulder. They would be traveling in both directions too some salmoning and some not so you know they would have to stop and go around each other. I’ve never seen so many people walking in a place designed for cars.
I think they were showing they still had work to do, but yea.. their example of bad has better pavement than my preferred cycling corridors right now. The road might have speeding cars and be bad in other ways that the picture didn’t get across.
Tabby – that excuse is horrid too! Maybe if roads had an 80 year life span, the “ours are older” would work… But I’m pretty sure that a survey of roads in other places 10 years older than ours would not reveal a meaningfull average of decay consistent with our same roads in 2000. or 20 and 1990. maybe 90 and 1920… but that proves it’s a maintenance issue.
The sidewalks… that’s just shamefull.
But it’s not safe to assume that they know what truly horrible infrastructure is – I’m quite sure there are places with worse infrastructure than PGH who would also giggle when we complain. Anywhere in West Africa comes to mind, but I’m sure there’s places in the US (Detroit area probably, those roads were abysmal). It’s all relative.
Belts – Purple, Blue, Yellow and Orange are complete circles. Green and Red are (northerly) arcs. Developed in the 1950s, the idea was to help people get around the city rather than through it. Blue approximates the city line of Pittsburgh. The others are at radii of multiples of about 3 miles beyond that.
How well they were accepted — and how well any bike signage we come up with will be accepted — is subjectively variable by person. Some people will get lost while being led by hand. Others can navigate through a strange area without any help at all. When I came to Pgh in 1982, I found the Belt System very helpful in getting around, and still do.
There is no perfect system. I think all we need to do is try.
Purple, Blue, Yellow and Orange are complete circles.
I was lost southwest of the city in a car once. I found the Orange Belt and knew I would be OK if I followed it.
I encountered a sign “End of Orange Belt.”
Wikipedia gives a good explantion. The Orange Belt was once complete.
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