suggested routes from Wilkinsburg/Regent Square to Cathedral of Learning

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pearmask
Participant
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Hey!

I’m new to Pittsburgh and to bike commuting (just introduced myself in this post too). So I’m trying to find a route from my apartment, which is in Wilkinsburg but right on the edge of Regent Square, to the Cathedral of Learning, where I’ll be going pretty much every day to do grad-student-y things.

In lieu of giving my address to the entire internet population, let’s just say I live in the office of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association at 702 South Trenton Avenue. In theory, from the maps here and Google’s bike maps, I could get pretty much the whole way by going down Forbes, especially considering that it has a bike lane…

Buuuuut: this is the first bike I’ve had since I was about 12 years old, and riding my bike on the ROAD with CARS goes against pretty much everything my parents ever yelled at me as a child in the suburbs. I’m getting less wobbly every day, and I’ve read pretty much everything possible about how to be safe/visible/predictable when sharing the road with cars, but still, the more cars there are around me, and the faster they are going, the more I shake in terror and the more my brain screams for me to hop onto the sidewalk or hide about an inch away from lines of parked cars or do something else really stupid. Until I’m less shaky, Forbes seems like an awfully large road to deal with (especially when it gets more crowded through Squirrel Hill).

With that in mind, does anyone have any suggested routes? I just want back roads with the least cars possible going at the lowest speeds possible (even trails through Frick or Schenley are fine – but preferably the gentler ones, since my bike is a hybrid with 700x32s and no suspension and can only handle so much). Avoiding any particularly scary left turns across major traffic would be nice too. I really don’t care if it is a significantly longer route – I don’t mind taking my time right now. (Eventually, I’m sure I will get used to taking a more direct route, but right now, while I’m still a bit wobbly, I don’t want to act like an idiot on a larger road and force all of the less-ridiculous bikers to be associated with me!)

Thanks SO much if you can help me! I’m trying to figure this out myself, but since I am starting with an extremely limited knowledge of Pittsburgh geography (i.e., I moved here less than three weeks ago), it’s been tricky to figure this out.


dwillen
Participant
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I don’t know many of the roads and trails over near Frick, but the one in Schenley you probably want to take is here. It shouldn’t add any extra hills to your route, and there are real, bona fide bike lanes going almost all the way there. There is about a quarter mile of road at the end of Beacon all the way to the trailhead that lacks bike lanes. It imight be a little intimidating the first couple of times. Try it on a quiet weekend first?

Google wouldn’t allow me, but there is a shortcut on the map at the end of the trail (little dirt path up the hill) and you can carefully hop on the road going the correct direction and bike along the marked shoulder over the bridge. Saves you from going around an unnecessary loop and making an illegal left turn.

Maybe someone else has some suggestions for side roads in Sq. Hill and Frick. Looks like it may add a few extra hills to your commute though.


Ahlir
Participant
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hm.

I would suggest going up Forbes, right on Dallas, one block and turn left onto Aylesboro .

Go all the way to the end where you will turn right onto Forbes; follow Forbes to Pitt campus. This avoids a steepish hill and crappy pavement, but you have to cross a couple of busy streets (a matter of waiting for a break). The next street north (Northumberland) has signals at each intersection; drop down Beechwood to get there. Northumberland has a bit more up and down.

Instead of Dallas you can go up through the cemetery and exit onto Aylesboro. No traffic.

On the way back you could go Forbes — Beeler — Wilkins to (say) Murray then right to intercept an inbound route.

Actually, I would suggest taking a Sunday morning to check out the various options…


dmtroyer
Participant
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I’m with Ahlir… there are probably 1,000 ways you can wind through Frick and Schenley parks, and google maps on bike mode is a great tool to help you figure that out, but it is not very direct and I think could become frustrating as you become more comfortable on the bike and with some traffic.


Steven
Participant
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Here’s a route that sticks to mostly quiet residential roads, avoiding Forbes entirely. See this PDF for a little more on the shortcut (aka “Great Northeast Passage”) it uses. It also avoids some of the hill that Forbes goes over.


John
Participant
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I had almost exactly that commute for a few years. I recommend Northumberland through Squirrel Hill and Reynolds through Point Breeze. Inbound, Linden -> Beechwood -> Northumberland is a little friendlier than Dallas and Wilkins if the traffic bothers you.


pearmask
Participant
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Awesome! Thank you all so much. And I will take that advice that a couple of you gave about exploring some of these possibilities over the weekend while it’s quiet – I was actually thinking I’d go explore some options tomorrow anyway, so I’m glad I’ve already got some great suggestions to check out.

And I’m fully expecting that I may decide to take a more direct route later – I’m sure I’ll get impatient as I get more comfortable (and as I start really wanting to sleep in later in the morning) – but right now I just don’t want to take on more traffic than I can handle safely.

Thanks again =)


edmonds59
Participant
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re: “my bike is a hybrid with 700x32s and no suspension and can only handle so much”

Without having any actual routing advice, I will say that the bike you selected will handle an astounding range of conditions, you will find this out as you go.


pearmask
Participant
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Yeah, I’m sure a lot of my impression of how much it can handle really has more to do with what’s going on on my end. I bought it looking for something that would be really versatile, so I know I’m partly just being overly cautious. Since I live right next to Frick Park, though, I have explored there a lot recently both biking and running, and my impression is that a few of the trails there would be begging for flats on almost any bike, and if not that, traction would at least be an issue. (Some are no problem, though.) If you can tell, there’s a theme of me being nervous and accident-prone, and I’m sure I’ll eventually feel more adventurous =)


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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From that general location, you have a couple of obvious bus routes you can utilize, but also a couple of non-intuitive options.

First, some background info. You’re coming in on the tail end of a major transit route redesign. There are only a couple of routes that still use the old numbering and routing system, but they’re the ones you’re going to see more than any other, the 71ABCD and 61ABCD. All 8 of these go east from Oakland, the 71s on Fifth, the 61s on Forbes.

Second, the best map for transit routes is not on Port Authority’s website, but TransitGuru‘s. Mike posts here occasionally as TransitGuru. Between him and me, we can absolutely overwhelm you with transit info.

To answer your question though: The 61A and 61B both get you into Oakland from Forbes and Braddock. The 71C ends a little north of you on Kelly but a longer ride. Tons of service on all of those.

A little less intuitively, you are fairly close to the Hamnett Station on the East Busway. The P3 (formerly the EBO-East Busway-Oakland) will take you straight from Hamnett to the Cathedral. Crossing the Busway at the station isn’t hard, but there’s also a pedestrian tunnel near Whitney St. Be sure to know how to use these.

Zoom that PDF map out to 400% to see the detail. Note also the 2nd chart on Mike’s page, showing departure times for every trip on every route in the system. Not even Port Authority has this info in one spot like this.

EDIT: What did I miss? Umm, oh yeah, right. Don’t bike on the busway.

And no, I don’t work for Port Authority.


rsprake
Participant
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Steven’s advice of using the Kensington / Hawthorne trail is good. That connects you to Reynolds which is a great cycling road.

From there you can also connect to the S. Dallas bike lane which will take you to the Beechwood Blvd bike lane where you can connect to Ahlir’s route.


helen s
Participant
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Cutting through the cemetery if convenient is a great option- the Aylesboro to near the end and down through Schenley park. Sometimes a bit farther is worth it in pleasantness.


pearmask
Participant
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Ah, you guys are the best. Now I just need to go explore and pick a route – it looks like I have more than enough good options to choose from.

And thanks for the advice about transit, too. That TransitGuru stuff is a godsend – the PAT website definitely left some things to be desired.

I’ll definitely try cutting through the cemetery, too, at least when there’s time – I’ve been riding over there a lot already because it’s just gorgeous.

And at least looking at Steven’s route, I will only be going about a mile more than I would if I went the shortest way, so that’s worth it right now.

Thanks so much for all the help! I’ll let you know how it goes when I try these out this week!


Pseudacris
Participant
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Welcome to Pgh! Here’s a map from another recent thread showing two shortcuts through Frick Park to get onto Reynolds. I live a few blocks from your pretend address — you’ve gotten some good tips from others here. There are many variations on the Road to Pitt!. When you get more comfortable with traffic, another nice route is to take Forbes over Sq Hill. Where Forbes curves right, heading downhill towards CMU, head left instead, through Schenley Park, past Phipps Conservatory and on to Schenley Plaza.

Pittsburgh is generally a safe city, but if you are a hard working grad student who’ll be biking home tired late at night now and then, it might be good to have a few alternate night time destinations just in case you find yourself in a situation where it seems smart to stay on your bike and keep pedaling (or, if you lock yourself out of the house or whatever…). The Get-Go store & gas station on Penn Ave @ West St is open 5am-midnight daily. The Walgreens at Penn Ave & S. Braddock is open til 10p. There are some late-night bars in Regent Square.


Steven
Participant
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And the Rite-Aid drugstore at Forbes and Murray is open 24/7, as is the Eat’n’Park restaurant two blocks south of there on Murray.


Mick
Participant
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+1 on Pseudacris’s suggestion through Fick.

Reynolds is low traffic/slow, until you get to “Downtown Point Breeze.” Then there is a block of moderate, lowspeed traffic.

I sometimes cross 5th Ave aqnd ride of the sidewalk to Dessiston, then on some variation of Howe -> Aiken -> Westminster -> Amnberson ->Castleman _> morewood -> Synagog and Church parking lots. This would put you on Fifth close to the University.

There is a block or tow where you would ahve to chose to either ride very slowly and carefulloy on the sidewal or else go play in the traffic, and you would be at the C0fL.

Then you could start your regular day of having professors gently torture you.

**

Another low traffic variation would be take the sidewalk up Forbes to Dallas, R on Dallas (probably staying o the sidewalk.) L on Aylseboro- Low/Slow traffic. L/R dogleg at Shady.

At the end of Aylseboro go up forbes a short block to Schenely drive, which will cruve around and get you to Schenley Plaza, accross from the C of L.

The Reynolds-5th route is longer, but flatter. Either route avoids traffic by adding distance

PS. There is a book called Run Faster Run less.

http://www.amazon.com/Runners-World-Less-Faster-Revolutionary/dp/159486649X#_

Take teh “Faster” with a grain of salt, but the program helps prevent injury.

Also, where you live, you could easily limit your running to trails and avoid concrete.


pearmask
Participant
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So for the past couple of weeks I have basically been using the route Stephen suggested, which has mostly been great. However, even though I’m going to keep using that route in the morning for now, I’m thinking about finding a different route back for a couple of reasons:

1) Ellsworth is totally fine inbound, but the right half of the outbound lane is pretty gross. Taking the lane helps, but I’m not always comfortable maintaining that approach when there’s heavier traffic, and riding on the right means risking hitting some nasty bits of road and finding myself non-upright. (I imagine a lot of people could handle it fine, but with my marginal riding skills and the giant book-and-laptop-filled panniers I’m lugging around, I’m not quite nimble enough to handle that situation safely)

2) Especially on the days when I have night class and am coming back welllll after sunset, when traffic is less of an issue, I’d rather find a way back that takes better-lit, larger roads and skips the trails.

I’m trying to decipher the other options here and see which one is best going outbound. Thoughts?

By the way, thanks for all the help! I’ve investigated these other route suggestions too, and they’ve all been useful in helping me figure out which roads to take to get to various places between here and Oakland.

And @mick (re: running): That book does sound interesting. Part of this is that I was genetically endowed with some nasty over-pronation that all the fancy shoes and form correction in the world couldn’t fix, plus I don’t exactly have the ideal lightweight body type of a distance runner, so even under ideal conditions, I’m more prone than most people to weird stress injuries. But switching to running exclusively in Brooks motion control shoes made it possible for me to run at all, and changing the way I train (more cross-training, verryyy gradual distance increases, not ignoring pain like I used to) has kept me injury-free for a while, knock on wood – and I will try to check out that book to see what other changes it would recommend. And, like you said, it is awesome to be so close to Frick Park – less bad pain since I’m not running on concrete, more good pain since I have lots of different hills to run up!


Pseudacris
Participant
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This route has some traffic and a moderate climb to deal with (lights and reflective vest recommended!) but is generally well-lit. You/ll need to watch your eyes and tires at night in the outbound lanes along Frick Park for branches, tree nuts and errant deer. Not hard to avoid unless you’re completely blazing through there.

If you’ve had a really rough day, you can put your bike on a 61A and get a lift home – probably for free if you’re a pitt student.


pearmask
Participant
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Thanks! I’ll try that out this week.

Yep, that 61A pretty much brings me to my doorstep. Right now I really like the ride home after a long day, even after my night class… but I’m guessing that will not always be the case, especially when winter weather shows up.


Pseudacris
Participant
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I’m also inclined to carry books & computer between work & home & can suffer pain as a result. A couple of years ago, I just decided to be a heck of a lot more selective about what I *really* needed to have with me. It has been worth the extra planning to only do some of my reading at work and some at home. Same with computing. Do you have access to an office or locker where you can leave stuff? Then you can just bike home to rest and eat.


jkp1187
Participant
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@pearmask:

Not that I’ve tons of experience yet, but I do ride in that section of Shadyside a lot (and at twilight/night). Have you thought about (inbound) just following Walnut all the way to Aiken, then getting on to Ellsworth there (otherwise following the route Steven mapped out)?

Then on the (outbound) return trip (again, otherwise following Steven’s route,) you could entirely avoid Ellsworth by going up Morewood to Castleman-Amberson-Pembrook-Aiken-Walnut.


pearmask
Participant
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@jkp1187: I hadn’t thought of that in particular, but that makes sense. I’ll try that. Perhaps I’ll use that outbound route during the day when Forbes still intimidates me and use the one Pseudacris suggested at night when Forbes is less scary.

@pseudacris: I am trying to limit what I carry, and I do have a locker, which helps. No office, though. Between teaching every day and being a student too, I can’t avoid having my computer and at least a couple of books, and it does add up with that stuff plus lunch plus change of clothes plus whatever, but it’s not too bad. And it’s definitely a lot better than it was before I moved to Pittsburgh – where I lived before, I was able to walk everywhere, which was nice except that I ended up walking around all day long with a giant backpack holding a laptop and a billion books… and after several years of that, you can imagine where the shoulder issues started getting worse. So this system, where my bike carries the weight to school for me and then my locker holds everything that I don’t need to have on my person at any particular moment of the day, may not be perfect, but it’s definitely an improvement.


jkp1187
Participant
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@pearmask Let us know what you think. Remember that most of the roads in Shadyside between Baum and Fifth are all on a grid pattern, so just by making 90* turns, you can avoid a road you don’t like. (There are a few one-way streets near Walnut, though, just to let you know.)


argylepile
Participant
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@pearmask, we must be neighbors or almost neighbors! I live on Trenton Ave. in Wilkinsburg.

I work/take classes in Oakland–I love taking Forbes straight there. The hill there and the hill back provides you with a great stress release. :) So, if you eventually feel like taking the Forbes route, I highly recommend it. Give a shout if you’re ever looking for a ride/commute buddy too.


pearmask
Participant
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Hah – there is definitely a good chance that we are neighbors! I bet we’ve unknowingly crossed paths at some point.

I have taken Forbes back a couple of times, and I agree about the stress release part. (Except doing it at night made me realize I need a better light to see all the stuff that collects in the bike lane on the part through Frick Park… I had a scary moment when I ran over some enormous tree branch at the bottom of the hill the other night… I should have paid more attention to Pseudacris’s warning about that, oops.) I’m still slightly afraid of it with the daytime traffic through Squirrel Hill and stuff, but I’ll get over it eventually. And a buddy would be nice at some point; I’ll let you know!


rsprake
Participant
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My tip for the downhill Forbes bike lane when the main travel lanes aren’t backed up is to take the right hand lane and avoid the bike lane altogether. There is too much debris and too many grates to worry about.


pearmask
Participant
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That’s probably a good call. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t just do that, especially since there wasn’t much traffic and therefore weren’t many jerkfaces to theoretically get mad at me for being in “their lane”

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