Impending track closure near Panther Hollow Lake

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MaryShaw
Member
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Please please please if you’re going to bike on the CMU campus, be very courteous to the pedestrians, even if they’re head-down in their smartphones or weaving without watching! I regularly have to make the case that bicyclists and pedestrians can co-exist on these walkways, and I’m pretty sure there are some folks who would like to ban bikes from the sidewalks and tell cyclists to park their bikes in the garage.

Cyclists and pedestrians have shared these walkways civilly for decades. If you want to bike here, please don’t mess up a good thing by antagonizing the pedestrians.

Wean Hall is pretty mellow about bikes in the elevator — I don’t personally know about CIC.

Actually, it’s probably not a great idea to advertise cycle routes through the campus without touching base with CMU — a good contact person would be Karen Brooks, the designated cycling coordinator.

Anther route from westbound Forbes is to duck into the Electric Garage (former Exxon station) just west of the bridge over Neville, exit out the back onto Flossie Way, and go over to Filmore without getting tangled up on Craig. This is not so good eastbound because it requires a left turn out of the Electric Garage.

Also, this shouldn’t have to be said, but don’t ride bikes on the sidewalk on Craig St, especially the block near Forbes. It’s a business district so it’s actually not legal to ride on the sidewalk. Besides, the sidewalks are congested, and the local residents get really, really irritated.


gg
Member
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I see the POS RR put in new signs and put up some “caution” tape to warn us WE WILL BE PROSECUTED! It was nice the community helped make that pond so nice. Of course the POS RR that could care less about the community puts up signs to scare us. Wow, 8 trains going slower than molasses in January is such a worry. Clearly there is some ego maniac that hates people running that line. He just wants to make life miserable, because he is miserable himself. People have been crossing there for decades. Probably a century, but of course some big shot wants to flip everyone off. A-hole!

On a bright note I was riding down the Nortfolk Southern line from Sharpsburg and the employees waved at me. I gave them plenty of room to go by and of course they were nice. Shame we have such an a-hole on that little slow line in Panther Hollow. Probably some newbie.


ericf
Participant
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@marko82 wrote:
“My guess is that AVR’s lawyers or insurance company or RR regulators are looking to limit any safety exposure the company may have. Having people (walking, biking, etc) near active tracks is a huge liability for them and they are actually trying to keep you safe by keeping you away.
Bitching on a cycling message board is not going to change a thing. If you dont like the closure – contact the company, contact your local and state representatives, etc. That’s how grownups change things.”

You are right on the money. All it takes is for one pansy ass wannabe whose daddy is a lawyer to trip and fall while portaging their artisinally patina’ed custom cruiser over those tracks and the owners, lessors, the city, etc will be sued in a New York heartbeat.

If you look at the scene objectively, people crossing those tracks the way they are is going to result in injury sooner or later. As soon as the severity of the injury and or the litigiousness of the victim reaches a certain point, there will be lawsuits. Not to mention, the potential for a severe injury is pretty high if you consider what you will land on even from a simple trip and fall.
I can see 2 reasonable fixes already mentioned here, either an at grade crossing, or a trail from Boundary Street along the other side.
I don’t know which would be easier to get implemented, and maybe there are even better ideas.
Does Bike PGH have any kind of script we can use when contacting officials i.e. , a list of talking points?


gg
Member
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Yeah people have been crossing those tracks for 100 years. I guess the good times are over.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Again, there is nothing that can be said against the lake crossing that cannot also be said about the Neville/Boundary crossing, except that the currently legal one is actually less safe to cross. Just make the lake crossing legit.


eMcK
Participant
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I bet this will all be forgotten in 6 months.

Same thing happens in Sharpsburg/Etna/Millvale. The RR access road was blocked, RR police harassed people. Then they went away.

Same thing here. Unless they build a fence for a mile or so on each side, there won’t be a long term change.


jonawebb
Participant
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@eric, I tend to agree, but it doesn’t hurt to keep pressure on city council, the mayor’s office, and Bike/Ped coordinator, and CSX. All of these should be concerned if a fence was built. And we have a lot of power, right now, in Pittsburgh. Hiring constables may be the best they can do, and I don’t think they’ll want to keep paying for that forever.


eMcK
Participant
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If we stop riding it for a month, and the RR goes away, we can go back to riding it until the next time someone at the RR gets all worried about risk assessments.

If we involve others, I think the odds of a fence going up increases dramatically.


PIT2MAD
Member
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The only thing I can say is they better build one hell of a fence. Where there is a will there is a way.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desire_path

Even with a fence, it’s easy enough to cut a hole that continuously needs to be repaired. Not that I am advocating for such vandalism or trespassing, I’m just saying it’s not sustainable to patrol it with Homeland Security every day, and if the slightest opportunity exists someone will take advantage of it, and plenty more will follow.

Being new to the board and reading this entire thread before responding, I’m surprised no one has brought up the other rogue crossing between Saline Street and the lot at the end of the jail trail. I seem to remember this being newsworthy a few years ago for the same issue, but it’s been over a year since I’ve been down there, did they ever close it off? I have ridden that area a handful of times and always chose to carry my bike that way rather than the absurd legal entrance.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Yes, that one is getting attention, too, just not as much as this one. Somewhere back in this thread there was a reference to it.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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The railroad people put some orange plastic fencing across that gate (near Saline St), but it didn’t last long.


PIT2MAD
Member
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There is definitely some crazy hyperbole going on here, and I will even venture to say it’s not half as big a deal as most of you are making it out to be.

Cutting Schenley Park in half? Hardly, have you ever looked at a map of the place?

All the work done to restore the lake? They are in the very early stages of this work, all of which has been implemented upstream of the lake to capture more stormwater. The lake is the same algae filled mess it’s been for years, the path around the lake is awash in puddles and mud during any wet periods, and the boathouse and ice skaters are phantoms.

Cutting off access to Oakland…um, how exactly? I bet the vast majority of Pitt students have no idea where those steps at the end of Bouquet lead. If they are heading to the park, they are taking one of the bridges almost every time, most of all because there’s nothing to see down in the valley, and you have to climb back up when you are done.

For trail riders who want to get from the rivers to the park, it poses a great problem. To me, the idea of remedying this by using the Bridle Trail connector is misguided as the main draw of this crossing is that it avoids a steep climb, you can enter the park in the valley and have a very gradual climb out of it, which none of the other options can provide. But I don’t even think this cracks the top 5 as far as critical issues…in other words, the pro bike movement will continue in full force with this administration in this city even if we occasionally have to take one step back for every so many steps forward. It will suck for those that use this regularly or actually rely on it but life WILL go on.


jonawebb
Participant
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It is a big issue. Maybe the rhetoric was hyperbolic, but without that connector there’s no good way to go from Eliza Furnace trail to Squirrel Hill. The other way, via Greenfield Ave, is much steeper and traffic-filled. I was very comfortable showing my sons, when they were younger, how to get to the Eliza Furnace trail via Schenley Park using this path. I wouldn’t have been nearly as comfortable showing them how to get there via Greenfield Ave.
And of course, with the Greenfield Bridge closed, this path is even more important.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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The only other trail alternative is captured on video on the second page of this thread. It is not an option. [link]

Another viable option is to ride straight down Panther Hollow Drive, taking the lane, both directions. A few cyclists feel comfortable doing that, but not many. See also: biking McKnight Rd, Saw Mill Run Blvd, Liberty Ave through the Strip, Penn Ave through Point Breeze, or West Carson Street.

But just imagine the shitstorm that would result if we started getting a couple hundred cyclists a day biking between Squirrel Hill and Oakland or Downtown via the main park road at rush hour.


dfiler
Member
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Jonawebb, exactly this is an important connector for people trying to go from the eastern parts of the city to downtown. I used to be able to get downtown without riding on busy streets. That is no longer possible due to cutting off the duck hollow trail and panther hollow / junction hollow connection. The RR might be limiting their liability, but only by putting us at more risk.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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@dfiler: I agree. Well said: “The RR might be limiting their liability, but only by putting us at more risk.”


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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First person to get hurt biking on an alternate route needs to include the railroad in the inevitable lawsuit, on the justification that said person would not have been there if the lake crossing had been available.

Maybe we need to get people to make depositions in advance, now, so it can be on record that people are being more than inconvenienced, they are being put at risk, by this closure.


gg
Member
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PIT2MAD is a troll following me around. Keep that in mind when reading his posts.


eMcK
Participant
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This thread is a wonderful example on why many people stopped posting on here.


gg
Member
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Stu: First person to get hurt biking on an alternate route needs to include the railroad in the inevitable lawsuit, on the justification that said person would not have been there if the lake crossing had been available.
Maybe we need to get people to make depositions in advance, now, so it can be on record that people are being more than inconvenienced, they are being put at risk, by this closure.

More risk without a crossing than with one, that is for certain. Good points folks.


gg
Member
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“This thread is a wonderful example on why many people stopped posting on here.”

Why, because people are upset they can’t keep off the roadways and have a pleasant ride along a nice lake and wonderful woods, instead of riding on the street that has no shoulder? I don’t get it.


stefb
Participant
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No, the poor design of the message board and the unfriendly user interface is why many people stopped posting here. Or at least I don’t bother to check often.


PIT2MAD
Member
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gg while I am flattered you think I am following you around, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I have been around for a while, and I still think of you as hcurtis.

I am a bike rider and I am sympathetic to 99% of your causes but I like to play devils advocate from time to time to get a better idea of the argument being presented.

Case in point: this thread. I have used this crossing and I fully support its remaining open in some form or another, but you are suggesting things that simply aren’t true so I used my post to question the validity of some of them.

Call me a troll now if you want, but I’ve been posting at the other place for years now it’s just that every time I make the mod mad I have to change up my names. I promise we agree on more than you think and I’ve backed you up plenty of times in the past.

I am very curious to what makes you think I am trolling you, I’ll have to review some of my other posts under this name to see where I may have offended you. I was the one that referred to you in a post that led you to the skyscraper page, if that helps ;-)


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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Someone asked about the ramp to the UPMC parking lot on Saline–the plastic fence is (mostly) gone, but they’ve installed a permanent, metal truck gate at the top.


helen s
Participant
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I stopped to speak with the guy in his truck there around noon today. When I asked if he got overtime for working on weekends, he said he did not know. When I asked how much he got paid, he said he “could” not tell me that information.
I did see an official looking jeep like vehicle parked on the side of the Panther Hollow lot next to the tracks. Not sure if this was related or not.
When I checked out the possibility of riding towards the lake from the CMU enclave they have created for construction and facilities use, there is an access road on the west side of the tracks, but nothing on the east side to allow access to the lake.
I did see at least 4 construction workers crossing the tracks next to the new building construction. To be fair, the railroad security people should be stopping them also. It appeared there was a fence constructed to prevent this, but that section was not vertical.


abf
Member
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It seems like AVRR is also giving the cold shoulder to the city…

Peduto: East End commuter train plan derailed


MaryShaw
Member
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From Elly Fisher of OPDC:

OPDC is convening a meeting to identify solutions for bike and pedestrian safety in Oakland. This week’s tragic deaths are our call to action and it’s important that we work together as a community to identify solutions that we can then work through the Oakland Task Force and the Oakland Green Team to garner public support and advocacy.

The meeting will be Wednesday, November 4th at 1pm at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple Street. Please let me know if you can attend.

If the PH lake RR crossing stays closed, that will throw more cyclists onto SqHill and Oakland streets. So this is a piece of the Oakland puzzle. At minimum, losing the RR crossing makes the Oakland problem worse.


dfiler
Member
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I hope CMU implements the neville avenue trail soon, as mentioned on page 45 of their 2012 master plan.
http://www.cmu.edu/cdfd/documents/2012-imp.pdf

It doesn’t help everyone affected by the RR crossing closure. But it does make Neville a bit safer for people rerouted that way.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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Didn’t CMU just build a new parking lot in the space where that Neville/Boundary trail was proposed to go?


MaryShaw
Member
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Thanks to alert cyclists who monitor the City Planning Commission agenda and attend hearings when necessary, the plans for CMU’s Neville St parking lot were altered to preserve space for the trail between the parking lot and the railroad tracks.

(The time to get this sort of change made is before the permit is issued, not after they start moving dirt)


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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“First person to get hurt biking on an alternate route needs to include the railroad in the inevitable lawsuit, on the justification that said person would not have been there if the lake crossing had been available.”

This may be the most asinine comment that I’ve read on this message board since I started reading it about 8 years ago. Such a lawsuit against the railroad would be frivolous to the point of being an ethical violation by the plaintiff’s lawyer.


dfiler
Member
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I wouldn’t give it good odds at all, but it isn’t without precedence. There are some rather old laws that are seldom exercised. Unfortunately our country doesn’t give much credence to historical right of ways. Here is an interesting read about common law on right of ways in England.
http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06026.pdf

It is similar to squatter’s rights. Squatters rarely win but it isn’t “asinine” or an “ethical violation”.


MaryShaw
Member
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You might be thinking about acquiring title by adverse possession. See http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-can-claim-property-based-adverse-possession-pennsylvania.html for a description of the PA situation.

A couple of problems: the 21-year statutory period, the bit about exercising actual control, and the requirement for “exclusive possession”.

More pertinent here would be an easement; in Pennsylvania this would be “An easement by prescription (also known as a “prescriptive easement”) arises from the continuous, notorious, adverse use of a driveway or similar path across another’s land for a period of twenty-one years. As a result, if one were to continuously and openly use a path across another’s land for a period of twenty-one years or more, without the permission of the owner, then at the end of that twenty-one year period, the trespasser would have a right to continued use of that path as a matter of prescriptive easement.” http://www.wolfbaldwin.com/Real-Estate-Articles/Easements-and-Restrictive-Covenants.shtml

I also found references to implied dedication, in which the “easement” would be held by the public, but not a PA-specific version.

I think the show-stopper in any case would be the 21-year and continuous use requirements

Oh, and there are probably some special considerations because a railroad is involved

IANAL, of course


dfiler
Member
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I wasn’t suggesting that squatter rights applied. Only that there are laws most people aren’t familiar with and that are seldom exercised. Sometimes landowners can be forced to allow continued travel through their private property. But yeah, IANAL.


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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“I wouldn’t give it good odds at all, …”

You are confusing two different issues. The commentary that I characterized as asinine suggests that if the railroad prevents trespassing on its property and a cyclist is injured in the course of taking some other route, then the cyclist should sue the railroad, presumably under a negligence theory (any other theory would be even more asinine), and argue that the injured cyclist “would not have been there [on the street] if the lake crossing had been available.” This is not even close to a viable legal basis for a claim under any body of American law. Among other reasons, the railroad has no “duty of care” (part of the burden of proof in a negligence claim) to someone who is injured on city streets by a third party. Also, the cyclist’s injuries would not have been what the law calls “proximately caused” by the railroad’s actions, particularly where the railroad was trying to protect itself and the public by barring passage in the first place. If a lawyer advanced such a theory in a lawsuit and I represented the railroad, I would seek monetary sanctions against the lawyer, maybe report the lawyer to the PA Supreme Court Disciplinary Board, and maybe sue the lawyer personally, under the Dragonetti Act, for wrongfully engaging in frivolous and unethical litigation. All that and more is why the commentary above is completely uninformed and asinine.

As for getting a court to grant an easement by adverse possession across a rail line, good luck with that. I spent many years as a lawyer litigating easement and property disputes with railroads in state court, federal court and the federal Surface Transportation Board, which is a regulatory agency and tribunal (administrative court) governing railroads. If you wish to know what the law really is, read the statute and case law providing that the vast majority of state and local laws governing or affecting railroads are “preempted” (a fancy way to say null and void) by one of the sections of the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995. It is in title 49 of the U.S. Code, or Google “ICCTA preemption.” Hope this helps.


dfiler
Member
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Thanks for the info. It isn’t clear on the internet who is making baseless claims of certainty and who actually knows applicable laws. They aren’t always intuitive.

So it sounds like an easement of some sort doesn’t have precedence when dealing with railroads in the united states. That is unfortunate.

I’m not sure if public or political pressure would have much of an effect either. Railroads don’t really care what the public thinks. They’re not dealing with consumers and are relatively low profile in the media anyway.

An at-grade crossing would be nice but a bridge might be the only solution. Funding is the hard part.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Can anyone direct me to the bicycling message board that used to be at this address? Thanks!


Jacob McCrea
Participant
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I don’t know what happened to all of the discussions about actually riding a bike. I learned a lot from them and would like to see a lot of those old commenters return. Most of that has been replaced by people complaining about infrastructure in and leading to the east end. I don’t live there and not much of what’s discussed here is relevant to me anymore. But I do try to chime in when my knowledge, typically of legal or mechanical issues, might advance the discussion. Sorry if that’s an affront to you.


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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@jacob – no, i’m not offended. And i’m relieved I’m not the only one who has recognized the shift on this board. Thanks!


jonawebb
Participant
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Infrastructure is important! And a lot of people here live in the East End. But there’s been discussion of it in other parts of the city; for example the Wabash Tunnel discussion.
I appreciate Jake’s clarifying comments on the easement issue. I suspect that the only thing that will stop the railroad from building a fence there is if they need city permission for a construction permit. I hope they can’t get that. But it seems they can have constables as long as they want to pay for them.
Complaining about people not discussing things in a forum where anyone can start any discussion they want seems counterproductive to me.

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