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:

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?

Letters to Congress: Cuts on TAP?

Via People for Bikes and the League of American Bicyclists:

Congress is considering three amendments to the transportation bill that would significantly reduce federal bike funding by cutting two critical programs, the Recreational Trails Program and the Transportation Alternatives Program. If they pass, these amendments will make it much more difficult for communities to build bike infrastructure. Please tell your representatives to oppose the amendments from Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL).

Rep Carter’s amendments would make biking and walking projects ineligible for certain types of transportation funding and allow road and bridge projects access to funding currently designated for walking and biking improvements; Rep Yoho’s amendment would make the Recreational Trails Program ineligible for any transportation funding. In Pittsburgh and in many other places, park corridors and other ‘recreational trails’ are forced to stand in for actual transportation infrastructure, and the significant source of funding for bicycling and walking.

The League of American Bicyclists has their own, slightly different letter you can send; I went with the PfB one mostly because their email showed up first. I also recommend Caron Whitaker’s post for the Bike League for more on the Transportation Bill which is currently pending in Congress.

Dear Representative ________,

As a resident of your district, I am writing to ask you to oppose three amendments to the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act—Rep. Carter #68, Rep. Carter #69 and Rep. Yoho #158. These amendments undermine the bipartisan agreement on federal funding for popular, cost-effective bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects that communities rely on throughout the country.

These projects are helping a growing number of communities nationwide to quickly and efficiently address daunting transportation challenges such as road congestion and the high costs of providing parking.

The federal investment in bicycling has already produced significant results. U.S. bicycle commuting has nearly doubled during the last 15 years. In 2014, nearly one in three Americans pedaled a bike–making a total of more than four billion rides.

Given that half the trips Americans make are four miles or less (a reasonable distance to bike if the route is safe and appealing), bicycling is likely to keep growing and keep producing tangible benefits. The federal government must continue to keep the door open to support modest community investments.

The benefits of this federal spending go far beyond transportation. Bicycling generates more than $81 billion annually for the U.S. economy, $10 billion in tax revenue, and supports more than 750,000 jobs. New bike infrastructure often increases nearby retail sales and spurs residential, commercial and retail development.

As you are likely aware, in Pittsburgh we recently had three people killed by drivers in less than a week, a woman waiting at a traffic signal while biking home from work and a wheelchair user and his partner who were crossing the street from one bus to another. Just outside Washington, a Maryland couple were killed by a drunk driver last week while on a bike ride together. It would be a tremendous slap in their faces to eliminate this funding–indeed, their deaths and those of the other thirty thousand people who will be killed by US drivers this year show just how critical it is that we increase dedicated funding for safe spaces to walk and bike across the country.

For these reasons and many others, I hope you will oppose these amendments (Carter #68, Carter #69 and Yoho #158). It is important for communities to have the opportunity to invest in bike infrastructure projects and reap the important economic and safety gains that follow.

Please: send your own message to your Representative via People for Bikes or via the League of American Bicyclists.

Even when they’re right, since when do bus drivers get to enforce traffic law with 22-ton vehicles?

Bike riders & pedestrians and public transit should be allies, but in Pittsburgh the Port Authority of Allegheny County (still known by an old acronym, PAT) has lost nearly all possible goodwill in the bike community because their administration apparently enforces schedules instead of safety, so their drivers prioritize getting-there-fast over driving safely. Additionally, PAT’s independent police force is so lax, some drivers apparently feel they can get away with anything—and traffic enforcement in Pittsburgh in general is so lax, some drivers apparently are beginning to think they need to do it themselves.

A couple months ago, another Pittsburgh cyclist riding on Liberty Avenue in the outer Strip District was nearly hit by a bus driver passing dangerously close. Then the driver told him “this street isn’t for bikes. you can’t ride here. You have to get on Penn and ride on a bike lane.”

Aside from being patently false—not only is there no bike lane in the area described, there is no requirement to use a bike lane even when they do exist—this driver apparently thinks they get to enforce the law on other road users by endangering their lives with 44,000-pound vehicles.

While I’ve (knock wood) never been hit, I’ve come closer to being crushed by a Pittsburgh bus than by any truck or passenger car—I’d say more of my near-incidents have been caused by PAT drivers than by any other group. Port Authority should loosen their schedules so drivers aren’t flying around congested areas at high speeds and endangering pedestrians and bikes, but they must strongly step up driver education and enforcement of red-light, pedestrian yield, and bike safety regulations, before someone gets hurt or killed…again.

“How many more people are we going to bury before we act?”

Please join me in signing this petition: Mayor Peduto—Commit Pittsburgh to Zero Traffic Deaths.

I quoted Adam Shuck’s Eat That, Read This in my last post, but I’m going to do so again anyway: “Our lives, rather than an automobile-dominated status quo, are worthy, and that is something that should be fought for on the level of local, state, and federal policy.”

I am sick of watching students forced to scamper across four-lane roads to get to class because we refuse to enforce speed and yield laws. I am tired of seeing paddle signs and protective barriers battered and flattened after repeatedly being run over by dangerous—distracted, drunk, or simply incompetent—drivers. I am disgusted at the levels of harassment, threats, and abuse I and other bike riders endure on a daily basis.

“The aggressive, careless way that people drive on Pittsburgh streets is a constant threat to human lives.” As another friend wrote on Facebook, “This is bigger than cyclist vs car, or ped vs car. This issue affects everyone who tries to leave their house.” Even drivers who have the temerity to follow the law and keep their speed below posted limits or stop for pedestrians at crossings are tailgated, honked at, threatened, and harassed. Even those who never leave their house may be unable to simply enjoy their home and its surroundings without worrying whether an out of control (and often rhetorically driverless) vehicle will come crashing through their life.

“The mass delusion of Car Culture has inured us, paralyzed us, captivated us to understand traffic violence as accidental rather than the result of poor decision-making, careless behavior, and our shamefully misbuilt environment. These are patterns of error that we need to fix.” “We know that road traffic is a deadly and daily threat. Why, then, do we not do more to counter it?…Some might argue this is the price we have to pay for mobility and freedom. We think not. There can be no moral justification for the death of one single person. You should be able to move freely – and feel safe at the same time.…The road system needs to keep us moving. But it must also be designed to protect us at every turn.

As Daniel Klein notes, some of the city’s issues–which are not only cultural but infrastructural–are complex and will take years to fully solve.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t start now. “Let’s hope that no one else has to die before our leaders and communities come together to implement some common-sense safety measures on our most prominent arterial streets.”

Last weekend’s candlelight vigil and memorials for Susan Hicks, killed on Forbes Avenue, is followed by tonight’s vigil for the couple killed on Centre Ave is followed by Saturday’s memorial ride for Taylor Banks, a Beaver County cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver in Monaca a year ago.

How many more people are we going to bury before we act?

It’s time for Vision Zero in Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County, and throughout Pennsylvania.