July 3: Join as the Mayor announces protected bike lane plans
I bused into the city 7:30ish Saturday evening, walking from 7th St at Penn to Penn at 6th St. On the good side, I saw at least eight cyclists on the Penn Ave lanes in this brief walk. On the bad side, a pair of inbound cyclists were trying to figure out how to make a right turn onto northbound 7th across the path of a bus trying to turn left onto southbound 7th. It was painful to watch. Nobody got hurt/hit, but it was really awkward for all parties involved, and snarled traffic enough that nobody else got through the corner on that change of the light.
This spotlights the failure of this design. Who goes first? Who has right of way? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if cyclists jumped the light by several seconds if traffic is otherwise clear? But isn’t that illegal? (Yes.)
Or should the cyclists yield to all inbound traffic and then hope that someone else doesn’t show up in the next change of the light? Or should they get out of the bike lane and into the cars’ inbound lane in order to make the turn?
I think these are valid, unanswered questions, pertaining to a potentially dangerous situation, that will happen over and over and over and over and over.
Treehugger article about Peduto and Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh’s mayor wants to ‘Copenhagenize’ his city, and he might succeed!
This is in no way a criticism of our in-progress infrastructure, I haven’t actually ridden in any of those yet. But I found it interesting, and might be useful to share with City planners and DPW. From the UK; https://beyondthekerb.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/cut-the-crap/
I’ve now had the opportunity to ride and drive eastbound a few times on Penn towards the start of the bike lanes on 6th St. This lane backs up very quickly at rush hour in the afternoon, as it gets traffic from the 6th and Penn, and Fifth Avenue Place garages. Yesterday, I had to wait one or two light changes at Fifth Ave and Penn before I could finally drive onto the 500 block of Penn.
I know this eastbound lane is supposed to be converted to a bike lane at a later time, but for now I think it would be good to alter some of the traffic light sequencing at 6th and Penn. Perhaps a longer green is needed for those on the Eastbound lane? If I recall correctly, the 16th and Penn intersection had a separate green for those traveling eastbound so that you could make a left onto the bridge without worrying about oncoming traffic. Of course, 6th and Penn has that all-stop to allow pedestrian traffic to cross in any direction, so that may complicate things a bit.
FWIW, this sequencing modification would also help cyclists traveling east before getting on the bike lanes, as it would perhaps make us less prone to scratch that itch and weave through cars to get to that light quicker.
@ Stu “This spotlights the failure of this design. Who goes first? Who has right of way? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if cyclists jumped the light by several seconds if traffic is otherwise clear? But isn’t that illegal? (Yes.)”
I have ridden that bike lane a few times now from the Strip down to the point on Penn. It is a very odd situation in a lot of ways. Firstly, you better be very careful of being hit from the left. I don’t think many drivers will yield to cyclists in the bike lane. Kind of an odd feel to be on the left as motorists pass you on the right and have the potential to turn left into your path. So far no one has been that close to me, but some rush up to make their left ahead of me, so I keep a close eye on my surroundings.
At the end of the bike lane what can you do to get back on Penn going towards the Point? I jumped the light once and that worked great, but not legal. I have also waited and there were so many cars that they ran the light out to red and then I went on the just turned red. Not the best way to do it. I think the safest way is to jump the light if you can, or maybe you could use the crosswalk and move over to the right? I haven’t tried that yet. I am more than thrilled to use the bike lane. Sometimes I feel like it is a dream and I can’t be in Pittsburgh, but I am. Thanks Bike Pgh and all mayors involved in helping the city grow in the right direction towards cycling. I think people are starting to realize that cycling is going to grow leaps and bounds due to massive college debt and the young folks that just won’t be able to afford cars. My son will be in the hole $100K when he is done. Talk about a tough way to start out your life. Not sure how he will afford anything let alone the luxury of a car.
I either move out of the bike lane and into the right lane half a block before the corner of 6th and Penn to continue on Penn towards the Point, or if the traffic is too busy make a left on 6th and take Liberty. In my opinion, if it’s too busy to merge out into the traffic I ain’t jumping that light.
This lane backs up very quickly at rush hour in the afternoon, as it gets traffic from the 6th and Penn, and Fifth Avenue Place garages.
I’ve noticed a lot of traffic there too. Perhaps it’ll improve as drivers figure out better routes. For instance, drivers exiting the 6th and Penn garage could turn left onto Penn and use its two (?) lanes, instead of turning right and going half a block and turning again. They’ll have to do this eventually, and if they started now, perhaps the motivation for fiddling with light timing would go away.
@steven, I agree that drivers need to start changing their driving habits around this 6th and Penn intersection. I count myself amongst those drivers, as I’m used to driving in via Stanwix to Penn in the evenings, generally because coming in through 6th was usually worse. Now, I’d bet that coming in through the latter street will probably be the way to go during rush hour (and in the future, once the bike lane is extended to Stanwix).
However, I’m not dismissing the possibility of tinkering with the traffic lights in the area. I think that will have to happen anyway.
As I was biking past Phipps this morning, on the Oakland-bound side of the road, away from the bike lane, a Pittsburgh Police van came roaring up from behind, lights flashing, siren going, apparently rushing to some emergency. A couple of cars made way ahead of me to let it pass, and as the van went by a cop’s voice came over the vehicle’s loudspeaker, in an incongruous sing-song tone: “You’re supposed to use the bike lane”! Fortunately, he didn’t pull me over. (BTW, I use the bike lane heading home, it’s just not as convenient going to work. Going into Oakland requires crossing the road three times to get on and off the path, counting the funky intersection at the Schenley Cafe as two crossings.)
Also regarding Phipps, with the bike lane in place, I thought car parking was moved to a lane between the bike path and the car traffic. However, the white line separating the parking lane from car traffic has been painted over black, and no one is parking along the road. What gives? Is there car parking or not in front of Phipps? I parked there many times last year in bad weather when I didn’t feel comfortable biking; it required a longer walk to my office, but saved a dollar an hour compared to parking in Oakland proper.
There’s no car parking there. There was at first, but then it went away for some reason. Maybe it made the driving lane too narrow. BikePgh tweeted about it, I think.
But you aren’t “supposed” to use the bike lane. No PA or Pgh law requires this. I think it’s the general impression among cops that you are supposed to. You might contact the Mayor’s office to see if they can do something about that.
I emailed Grant Gittlin, in Peduto’s office, this morning about the Phipps parking Jon. He said he would ask DPW what’s up. I did not ask him about law enforcement’s perceived bike lane use requirement, but my understanding is that Bike Pittsburgh is collecting anecdotes, like mine, to present collectively to the mayor.
So, I went to a work related social event last night, primarily because it was at one of the places ON the Penn Ave bike lane (aside – normally I and work-related-social-events are like oil and… something violently repulsed by oil). Penn Ave was friggin’ hopping, since it was also Gallery Crawl. I greatly enjoyed the bike lane, and it makes it exponentially more pleasant for the hundreds of people not biking, but sitting at the sidewalk tables. The weather was spectacular for Septembers end. Negative – dozens of bikes were locked up with tiny cable locks to nearly as tiny trees. More racks needed. Though I locked up to a sign post on the opposite side right across. I got the feeling that I would kind of like to see future racks kept on the opposite side to prevent congestion on the “pleasant” side.
At one point some service vehicle was parked blocking the entire lane, some less one-percenty people than me seemed briefly unsure of leaving the lane, but I just popped out into traffic momentarily and semi-corked. (Some people are just so stumped by “rules”. Never had that problem).
The end of the lane at the west end is surprising and “fun”, to all of a sudden be looking straight at a pair of headlights. But again, pop out into traffic and blend.
All in all a pretty good night.
On Saturday evening, as I was waiting to enter the Penn Ave bike lane at 6th st, saw a lady make a right from 6th onto the cycle track going eastbound. Apparently she missed the 2 or 3 signs in the area that say you that you can’t do this. Good thing that there was a policeman on that corner, who promptly stopped her from going too far. She seemed thoroughly confused. I guess she hadn’t been downtown in over a month or so.
Also, saw the Duquesne Tamburitzans bus comfortably parked on the lane in front of the convention center. This is in that longish area that has no bollards.
BTW, are there plans to install a taller, more solid bollard at the entrance of the bike lane? Those cones are just not cutting it.
This spotlights the failure of this design. Who goes first? Who has right of way?
I saw a sign at Seventh and Penn telling motorists to yield to turning cyclists. Looks like the city is trying to address this.
> I saw a sign at Seventh and Penn telling motorists to yield to turning cyclists.
I think those signs are posted at every intersection with signals (though at some they are on the post the signals are hung from, which puts them way off the side of anyone’s vision… most, however, I think are hung from the crossbar, next to the signals).
Holy shit ChrisZ! That is what i was afraid of. I’m not crossing traffic at a dangerous intersection to get in the bike lane only to have to use the crosswalk to get back when it ends.
These images are geared towards what are the safest, not easiest, methods of using the protected bike lanes with the intended audience being novice riders. These are up for discussion and are interim suggestions until more permanent physical design solutions become available.
Well, maybe and maybe not. In the last diagram above, it looks good on paper but in reality, no it isn’t. This is why I took the Critical Mass ride over that way on Friday.
Look at the last photo in this post (not in the thread, just this post). That was taken just Thursday evening from the exact spot that the cyclist in the diagram is shown.
It’s blind. You cannot see to cross. Between the height of the bridge structure, the statue, and the large post at the end of the bridge, it simply is not possible to see oncoming traffic. You have to ease out into the traffic lane to see and hope there isn’t someone right there heading back into the city, to mow you down.
What cyclists are doing instead is exiting the bike lane at the end of the straightaway, whenever traffic clears, and going up the down ramp from the direction of SqHill. Some take the sidewalk, some just head up the ramp against traffic.
@ stu it simply is not possible to see oncoming traffic.
I’ve come out of that place maybe 3 or 4 times a week for the last 15 years. More than thousand times, for sure.
It isn’t the best visibility, but if you found it “not possible,” you weren’t looking for a possibility.
@willardsbruce: “Caution| Walk Bike”
You can just stick that idea right back where you found it.
Walking bikes? Not even once.
The “caution walk bikes” is for liability and the countless attorneys running around licking their chops at any possibility to make money. I don’t think it is to be taken seriously by those with 1/2 a brain.
I guess, with some practice, you learn the exact spot to walk to, exact way to look. I was speaking from the point of view of someone who had never been there, never had to try to figure it out, and it was f’ing scary. I suspect that that would describe the majority of riders, particularly new riders.
And this is from someone who regularly bikes down McKnight Road in the morning.
My feeling is that liberal application of green paint can address many of these lane-terminal issues.
Here’s a maybe unrealistic suggestion for the east terminal of the Penn Ave lanes. Unless the city decides to extend the lanes to 15th (then direct bike traffic to Smallman) 16th needs a green path to Spring Way. This can be up the middle of the street (there seems to be enough room). Or maybe just run it diagonally to the curb and on to the alley. Problem is, Spring is is used by businesses along it. Last time I went up a truck was athwart the alley and I had to drop to Smallman. The sooner the lane(s) joins Smallman (or Railroad) the better.
Anyway, a work in progress.
[insert standard plea for the police to enforce speed limits:]
I had to drive somewhere today. I stuck to the speed limit (well maybe up to +5mph leeway on the 45/35mph stretches). I felt totally out of sync with the traffic. Where the f&^k are the police?
From here in the land of green paint (Vancouver, BC – seriously, they might be better off paving the road green and painting sections black), I’ve been tweeting that exact thing at our mayor (although, sadly, I suspect he may have blocked my tweets long ago after I ranted about surtrac one too many times… But anyways…)
— Todd Derr (@mr_salty) September 29, 2014
— Todd Derr (@mr_salty) September 29, 2014
You can’t really see, but in the first pic that bike lane ends in the distance, and there is a whole green lane that goes diagonally across the intersection to connect with another bidirectional track. that is pretty weird.
the second one is also a bit hard to decypher, especially without seeing the full context. (two nominally one-way streets with bidirectional tracks, but the one to my left does not continue to the right)
“…seriously, they might be better off paving the road green and painting sections black.”
Apparently this is the functional solution to make drivers aware that bikes are allowed on the roads in the first place, instead of driver education. Green paint. People.
Last night, I had the experience of exiting the Penn/9th Garage onto Penn, driving a car. I was upset about something entirely unrelated, yet managed to see the one-way sign opposite the exit, and drove in the proper direction. All with nary a thought as to why there would be a one-way sign.
There really isn’t a problem here, other than petulant children having a hissy fit.
Riding into downtown on the Penn Ave bike lane, I was stopped at a red light on 11th and Penn. There was another cyclist at the opposite end of the intersection. Shortly after, a second cyclist arrived to that end (via the sidewalk) and promptly proceeded to ignore the red light and cross the intersection in my direction. As he was riding by, I told him, “dude, don’t do that”. He answered, “why not?”. The other cyclist shortly followed this guy’s lead and ran the light as well.
Yeah, and then we wonder why drivers get pissed at us. We cyclists as whole have some ways to go, too.
yeah, and that is some completely justified anger since no driver ever runs a light or breaks any other traffic law.
fyi here is the diagonal crossing I mentioned. the far end connects to the far end of the bike lane in my first picture, by crossing the intersection diagonally. the intersection is kind of a T but not entirely; the other leg is a driveway for a hotel or office building.
although asshattery seems less here compared to pgh (especially when it comes to cars yielding to peds), there is still enough to make me wonder how this functions safely.
@salty, I’m not letting drivers off the hook here. Just saying that we have to do our part as well to earn more respect. Granted, idiots are idiots (or, as Vincenzo Nibali, 2014 Tour de France winner, said: “The mother of the imbecile is always pregnant”) and I got the feeling that Mr. “Why not?” from yesterday would probably continue to do as he pleases even if someone educated him on road rules for cyclists.
@salty did you happen to notice the light cycle at that intersection with the diagonal bike lane? Do they either have a separate signal for bikes, or an all-stop pedestrian scramble/Barnes dance?
It is just a regular intersection but the thing I just noticed is the street to my right is one way towards the right, I thought it was the opposite way. So, when the cyclists have a green at least they don’t have to contend with cars cutting across their path, which definitely makes more sense… Although the driveway is still an issue, but hopefully it is not super busy.
FWIW, they do have a lot of dedicated bike/ped lights here where the light on the main road blinks green but will turn red when someone pushes the ped button. Sometimes there are cross streets at those intersections; the drivers there have a stop sign but not a green light of their own. Seems like an interesting idea, as a way to add more protected ped crossings without adding a full fledged light. I guess it is more or less like HAWK but seems a bit more “normal”.
Riding into downtown on the Penn Ave bike lane, I was stopped at a red light on 11th and Penn. There was another cyclist at the opposite end of the intersection. Shortly after, a second cyclist arrived to that end (via the sidewalk) and promptly proceeded to ignore the red light and cross the intersection in my direction. As he was riding by, I told him, “dude, don’t do that”.
I have the same question the dude had.
If the visibility is good and there is no appraching traffic (bicycle, motor or pedestrian), it’s clearly the right thing to go through the light, rather than wait for a green light when conditions may or may not be safe, albeit legal.
@mick, while there are situations that merit doing that, it should be the exception, not the rule. Use your own judgement, I guess…
Here’ my own answer to “why not?”:
I pretty much don’t run red lights anywhere, but I guess I don’t mind that much if people do it in a safe manner (as long as they’re okay with cars doing it too). The reason I don’t do it is because I want to create a better image of cyclists, and running red lights is the thing that really pisses drivers off. Some people don’t think that they should have to worry about the image of cyclists when they ride, and I’m pretty much fine with that, too, but in the case of the new bike lanes I feel differently. We’re asking people to deal with a dramatically different road configuration, which priveleges bikes over cars in many ways. It’s hard enough to get public acceptance of this without people blatantly ignoring the law. If the backlash to these lanes is severe enough, we’re not going to get any more of them (and might lose the ones we have), so please don’t run red lights when you’re in the new bike lanes, because it works counter to the progress we are making.
How is it “privileged over cars”? I would say if bikes could go everywhere in the city with right of the way and cars would be allowed on some streets then it is privileged over cars.
The lanes took away space that was open to both cars and bikes and reserved it for bikes only, and require cars to yield in some places where they didn’t before. In the case of Penn Ave, it used to be a two way street for everyone, and now it’s a one-way for cars and two way for bikes. It’s just giving a slight priority to bikes in those spaces. Cars get priority everywhere else, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but for the moment it does in some cases come at a small cost to drivers. That’s all I meant.
The idea of not going through lights on the Penn Ave bike lane due to public perception appears to be avalid concern to me.
On the other hand, olivious drivers turning accross the bike lane are in fact a major hazard there.
If I have to go through a red light to avoid that real and present danger, I will. And that situation strikes me as more the narm than the exception on the Penn Ave Bike lLane.
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