Forbes Ave Changes Explained: Contra-flow bike lanes, two-stage turns, and more

Several new-to-Pittsburgh design features

Fifth/Forbes in Oakland has long been a target for safe streets advocates, who have been pushing for traffic calming and bike lanes in this University District for years. The neighborhood has a large numbers of students, workers, and people with disabilities who need to get to their classes, jobs and myriad facilities, often without a car. However, the streets of Oakland are notoriously fast and dangerous, creating a situation that has frequently led to tragedy, most notoriously during a week in 2015 when, in separate incidents, cars killed a Pitt professor and two pedestrians, one of whom was using a wheelchair.

A team composed of the City of Pittsburgh, PennDOT, the URA, the Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA), and the Port Authority have unveiled new designs for Forbes Ave, one of the major streets in Oakland. When the first phase of the Forbes Ave redesign is completed over the next week, the project will add bike lanes in both directions on Forbes Avenue from Bigelow Boulevard to Craig Street, as well as fill the gap in the bike lanes on Bigelow Blvd, between Fifth and Forbes. The lanes will include some features that are new to Pittsburgh’s streets, such as the first contra-flow bike lane, a bicycle signal, and 2-stage left turning boxes.

The City of Pittsburgh has been working closely with Oakland community stakeholders to ensure that ongoing improvements to the Fifth/Forbes Avenue corridor will create a safer environment for all roadway users. Next year, PennDOT will be repaving Forbes Ave, and will extend the bike lanes to Margaret Morrison St, near CMU. Additional goals of the overall project include improving the pedestrian experience, improving flow, and traffic calming.

Here are a few of the updates you can look forward to:

Pittsburgh’s first contra-flow bike lane

Contra-flow bicycle lanes are designed to allow bicyclists to ride in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic on a one-way street. They convert a one-way traffic street into a two-way street: one direction for motor vehicles and bikes, and the other for bikes only. Contra-flow lanes are separated with yellow center lane striping. Combining both direction bicycle travel on one side of the street to accommodate contra-flow movement results in a two-way cycle track.

The contra-flow design introduces new design challenges and may introduce additional conflict points as motorists may not expect on-coming bicyclists.


For now, Craig Street is the end of the bicycle facilty. Craig street is a bustling business district and a destination for many people riding bikes in the Oakland neighborhood. In the future, the bike lanes will extend through CMU’s campus to Margaret Morrison St.


Bicyclists turning left from bicycle lanes on multi-lane roadways can face difficulty from high volumes of fast moving traffic. Instead of crossing multiple lanes to access a turn lane, a two-stage turn queue box allows bicyclists to get through the intersection in two stages without merging into traffic.

Using a two-stage turn queue box is optional for the person riding a bicycle. There are two simple steps to use a turn box:

  1. Enter the intersection on a green light and wait in the turn box. Orient your bicycle to the left your new direction.
  2. Wait for the cross-traffic light to turn green then continue through the intersection.

Click here to watch our two-stage turn video for more tips.


Good question. Forbes and Bellefield is a complicated intersection where the road turns from a one-way street to a two-way street.

  1. To accommodate bicycle travel at this intersection, the City is installing our first ever bicycle signal and a dedicated signal phase for people on bicycles to follow across the intersection.
  2. For people on bicycles to turn left onto Bellefield we are installing a temporary two-stage left on the sidewalk so that someone turning left can get safely out of the path of travel to wait. In the final design, to be installed by PennDOT in 2018, a two-stage turning pocket will be cut into the sidewalk.

Remember, this is a Pilot

The installation you see on Forbes Avenue today is a pilot. Forbes Avenue is owned by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) who will be incorporating the bicycle facilities into their permanent design for installation in 2018.


Over the next year the city will be working to collect comments from people using Forbes Avenue to make improvements and changes to the design before the final installation.

Please e-mail comments to:

Sign up for Bike Pittsburgh’s newsletter, The Messenger, to get the latest news on events, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and fun, delivered straight to your inbox. Twice monthly emails, no spam.


Leave a Reply