US Bike Route System comes to PA. Pittsburgh is still just a spur.

Via Bike Pittsburgh, another piece about PA joining the US Bicycle Route System, which was announced by the Adventure Cycling Association a month ago.

Ironically, though there’s multiple points in these pieces about riding to and through beautiful Pittsburgh on your way across PA, if you do so you’ll actually have to turn around and ride 20 miles back to McKeesport before continuing—that’s how bad the infrastructure is west of the city. There’s no safe way to get from the Point to the Panhandle on a bike, so the USBR 50 turn-by-turn directions (PDF) don’t even try.

How many USBR 50 riders will simply skip Pittsburgh, recognising that the route switches from the GAP to the Montour at McKeesport?

Campaigners have been working for many years toward a trail extending the Great Allegheny Passage along the Ohio River, from Pittsburgh up to Beaver and beyond to Ohio and West Virginia.  As trails are extended toward the City along Turtle Creek, the Allegheny River, and elsewhere, there is potential for Pittsburgh to become a great nexus of trails stretching in every direction–not just to Washington, but to Altoona, to Butler and Erie, to Cleveland, and to Columbus.  Towns like West Newton, Connellsville, and more have written of their revitalization on the strength of tourism brought by the completed GAP trail through their towns.   When will McKees Rocks, Monaca, Midland, and the many river towns in between get to see such benefits?

For a great many reasons, it is long past time for safe, accessible infrastructure for all west of Pittsburgh.

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Letters to Legislators: Speed Cameras Save Lives!

Over in Philly, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is asking folks to contact legislators to vote for House Bill 1187, a bill to pilot speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard, one of Philly’s notorious deathtrap stroads.  I don’t live in or anywhere near Philadelphia, but I still thought it was worth writing the local legislator:

This letter is to ask you to vote YES on House Bill 1187, which would legalize a speed camera pilot program on Roosevelt Boulevard, and to support future action to place speed cameras in Pittsburgh and across Pennsylvania. HB 1187 recently passed the House Transportation Committee, and will soon be debated in the full Pennsylvania House.

Roosevelt Boulevard is one of the most dangerous stretches of road in the United States.  This one roadway makes up only 0.6 percent of all Philadelphia’s 2,500 miles of streets. Yet over a 5-year period, 2011-2015, 13 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred on Roosevelt Boulevard. And 36 percent of those killed on Roosevelt Boulevard were pedestrians.

In Pittsburgh, dangerous roads with speeds well in excess of posted limits separate many of our neighborhoods; just for one example, we have a tremendous resource in the bike track at Highland Park, yet there is no safe access without a car due to high speeds and missing sidewalks along Washington Boulevard. Getting from The Hill to Bloomfield requires long, roundabout routes and unnecessary hill climbs because speeds on Bigelow Boulevard and Bloomfield Bridge are twice the posted limit, or more. Crossing through Schenley Park should be a safe, calm way to get from Oakland to Squirrel Hill, but isn’t because of dangerous speeds on Panther Hollow Road and other roads across the center of the park that have become freeway bypasses instead of park streets.

Long term, Roosevelt, Bigelow, and Washington Boulevards and roads like them need to be re-designed and engineered. But in the meantime, speed cameras have been proven to calm traffic and save lives. Please help make a safer Roosevelt Boulevard, and safer streets across the Commonwealth, a priority. Pass HB 1187 and lead the fight for speed cameras and traffic calming Pennsylvania-wide.

Bikes ‘n’ Brews, Pittsburgh Edition?

So Bike Cleveland in a couple weeks are having their Bikes N’ Brews event–basically they give you a punch card and you go visit a bunch of local breweries, and when you get back to the afterparty you get a sample from each brewery you managed to visit. It’s something like $25 and 20 miles (if you hit three) or 40 miles (if you hit all five besides the start/end brewery).  (And, again, the drinking’s supposed to happen at the end, to be clear…)

It’s kinda unlikely i’ll be able to make it up to Cleveland on Oct. 8, so i started thinking about a Pittsburgh version. Pittsburgh seems to have several more breweries than Cleveland–and the ones in town are significantly closer together, appropriately as Pittsburgh is smaller but significantly more dense than Cleveland, while the outlying ones are much further apart.  So you can get four breweries in less than two miles, but it’ll take you over 55 miles to hit all nine stops on this epic Pittsburgh Breweries tour (which is in fact missing a few, because Google Maps can only handle ten stops on a route, and I haven’t made an actual route for this yet).  Much like Cleveland’s, this event would showcase some of Pittsburgh’s long-time-favourite and it’s newest bits of bike-friendly infrastructure–and some of its areas most in need of improvement.

If anyone’s interested in making an actual event out of this–especially if you’re affiliated with one of Pittsburgh’s many breweries….–get in touch….

Since Wendy Bell won’t say it, I will: here’s how to actually contribute to Danny Chew’s recovery

Since Wendy Bell deleted several other people’s comments on her video soliciting prayers for herself^WDanny Chew, I didn’t expect mine to last long, either.  Here it is, now that it has “disappeared” from Facebook:

Danny Chew is an avowed atheist who would find your prayers laughable, but your omission of the link to actually contribute something tangible to his recovery is offensive even to those who do believe.

Since Wendy Bell has gone so far as to delete comments that included the link, here it is again: https://www.youcaring.com/danny-chew-640082

Letter: Oakland’s dangerous streets demand attention, a champion

This was written to be a letter-to-the-editor in early September, 2016, but for some reason was never sent.

I work for a small non-profit affiliated with Pitt–an international professional association for academics–which has been based in Bellefield Hall since 2010.  I’m also a 2007 Pitt graduate with a BA in Linguistics.  As a student and a staff member, I’ve spent nearly nine of the last thirteen years on campus in Oakland.  At various points, I’ve primarily driven, biked, or taken a bus to Oakland; in the last several years I’ve increased my riding and now bike to work nearly daily.  Public transit is my second choice, and through several moves since 2011 I have consciously chosen to live near a direct bus line to Oakland.

As a Pitt alum and staff member of an affiliated organization on campus, I have been and continued to be appalled at the University’s response–or lack thereof–to the death of one of its own last fall and the continuing terrorizing of its students, staff, and faculty on a daily if not hourly basis.  According to one Post-Gazette article last fall, after the death of Susan Hicks in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning, the only comment from Pitt spokesman John Fedele was that ‘the university has bike racks throughout the campus, encourages car-pooling and stresses pedestrian safety to students beginning with their freshman orientation’.  None of which does a thing to protect their personnel from reckless, speeding drivers.  At least CMU’s students and staff are getting trees between them and Forbes’ flying vehicles…

Except during special events, Bellefield is usually two lanes, and with no speed or crosswalk enforcement, many drivers speed and few yield to the hundreds of students and staff that cross the road to and from Bellefield Hall each day.  I can’t so much as walk to lunch without nearly getting hit by a car directly in front of my office.  Every day, I watch people trot, jog, and outright run across the street because drivers refuse to yield despite the painted crosswalk and cross-here signs.

As this week’s crash indicates, speeds on the roads that ring the University of Pittsburgh are dangerously high–if anything, the constant congestion which slows drivers and reduces PennDOT’s holy Level of Service is a good thing; it’s awfully difficult to flip a sedan at twenty miles an hour, and any person hit by a car is orders of magnitude more likely to survive at low vehicle speeds.

As Linda Bailey, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (an organization of which Pittsburgh is a Member City), wrote this week,

“With 80% of the U.S. population living in urban areas, we should be building streets and designing cities that work for everyone, including those traveling on foot, on bike, or via transit.… In particular, arterial streets [such as Forbes Ave in Pittsburgh], which represent less than 10% of roadways but are the site of 49% of fatalities, should be prioritized as places where we can quickly make the biggest safety gains….All levels of government must do better. Elected officials should be champions for safe street designs.”

Where is our champion?

As Noel Mickelberry, Executive Director of Oregon Walks, wrote this week,

“None of these crashes look like one another. Yet each crash reminds us that a true change to the status quo on our streets is required to provide solutions. Each person injured or killed on our roadways demands attention and action from our city’s leadership and from everyone traveling through our streets.”

Where is the attention and action from our city’s leadership in Pittsburgh?  The mayor Friday urged us to wait for Port Authority to make a decision on BRT, but as even Port Authority’s own representative acknowledged at Wednesday’s meeting, that decision has been delayed repeatedly.

How much longer must we wait?  How many more students must be terrorized before Port Authority manages to get its act in gear?  How many more community members must die before we act?

We’ve spent sixty years tossing up our hands and ceding public space to public menaces. It’s time to take our roads back for all users.

Still seeking justice for Susan Hicks: Blaming victims will not create safer streets

Yesterday marked four months since Susan Hicks was killed riding home from work. Next month, friends and others will join to complete her commute.

I want to hope that by the end of March there will be some news of the investigation or efforts to make Oakland a less dangerous place to be, but it is difficult to be optimistic.  Our local leaders try to find ways to make it illegal to cross the street while ignoring rampant reckless speeding. Our safety studies give brownie points to transportation associations who tell students to “walk safe” and “don’t be a road zombie” but don’t even comment on the lack of safe-driving messaging—nor do they have any idea why large numbers of students would want to cross the road between classroom buildings.  The university itself responds to pleas for a safer campus with bike racks, carpool marketing, and walk-safe messaging. Our bus drivers and police accost cyclists for occupying lane space, and even drivers who kill while sober rarely get more than a $500 fine and a few points on their licence.

When will we act to protect our people from those who actually do them harm, instead of blaming victims for the positions we force them into?

Windshields are surprisingly effective at deflecting fault

Today in the PG: “Viewing Oakland through the windshield of a Port Authority bus driver: Bus drivers describe dangerous behavior of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists

Oakland Transportation Management Agency called it an “Interesting perspective from the view of our local PAT drivers.”

“[Pedestrians] can’t see and they’re not looking. People absolutely do not pay attention.”

“[Cyclists] can be frustrating… We put up with the Triangle Messengers Downtown for years, but now [bike riders] are all over.”

“Drivers unfamiliar with Oakland add another layer to traffic strife.”

Apparently the problems and dangers on Oakland’s streets are everywhere but behind Port Authority’s wheels. “Interesting perspective”, indeed.

I’ll probably have more response later as this percolates further, but for now I offer this: I will be more willing to consider increased jaywalking enforcement, as suggested by one driver quoted in this piece (of, I believe, two total), to be a valid tactic when police increase by a proportionate amount the resources devote to driver behaviours that make crossing legally unsafe.

For every student who walks out in front of a bus, how many are forced to stand on the curb for minutes at a time by bus operators and other drivers who refuse or simply fail to stop at marked (let alone unmarked, though legally defined) crosswalks?

For every person who runs across in the last seconds of the blinking “don’t walk” light, how many are brushed back by a bus driver trying to squeeze through the waning seconds of an “orange” signal, or jumping the light before it turns green?

For every individual who appears to expect that “a 20-ton bus can stop on a dime”, how many have simply miscalculated the available time to cross based on the mistaken assumption that drivers will obey the speed limit?