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$240 fine for bicycling on the busway!?!?!?

So the other day I decided to try out the busway, to avoid the lethal hell that is 51. I got on at 88 and 51 and was happily tooling along on my way to Dormont, my destination. It's flat, clean, no traffic...PERFECT! Until, that is, I was swarmed by a flock of police cars!

I couldn't believe it. Bicycles are not allowed on a road designed for public transportation?!? Okay, as dumb as that is (and in this city, I keep my expectations pretty darn low), whatever. The cop said it was "too dangerous, because of the lack of sidewalks." I asked him if he had been down on 51 on a bicycle lately.

Then they wrote me a ticket? WTF? A TICKET? I'm not even in a CAR!

When I went down to pay it (it said $23 on it), the woman consulted some kind of list, then said, "That'll be $240." I almost laughed in her face. I told her to assign a court date; I'll definitely fight this one.

2010-08-02 14:57:13

I'm pretty sure all the busway entrances have signs saying that you are not allowed to enter unless you are a bus or authorized vehicle. Good luck fighting that one; you deserve a ticket, just like any other vehicle that uses a road illegally...sorry.

2010-08-02 15:26:02

I would advise repentance in court over "this law is stupid" Not ever having been in court as a defendant though, I'm not sure if either will help

2010-08-02 15:33:47

I agree with pratt, the busway is not a public road, and while I would love to see a seperate bike lane that parallels the busways I would never be silly enough to try and bike on them.

However if this whole service cut thing goes on I would love to see the busways become bike ways on the weekends.

2010-08-02 15:36:05

"However if this whole service cut thing goes on I would love to see the busways become bike ways on the weekends. "

People clearly cant even read signs that don't allow any unauthorized traffic what so ever. What makes you think that people wont use this during the weekdays causing all sorts of problems?

2010-08-02 17:35:53

Those who can't read deserve to be punished.

2010-08-02 17:47:00

Just my 2 cents, but let's cut st.ryder (and others) some slack. It's very tempting to use the busway as an alternative to less desirable roads, and who hasn't used the bus lane on Fifth or Smithfield at one time or another, or gone down a one way alley the wrong way. Yes he was in the wrong and yes he deservers a ticket, but $240! The last ticket I got was about ten years ago but it was like $120 (speeding on an interstate). How is riding a bike on a closed busway more dangerous than going over the speed limit in a three thousand pound car? If the cops patrolled Rt. 51 with this much enthusiasm maybe you could feel safer riding your bike on it.

+1 on putting bike lanes on the busways.

2010-08-02 18:23:13

Thanks, Mark082. I've ridden all over America and bicycles are usually granted exceptions when it comes to places cars are not permitted to use. The irony of being punished for riding a bicycle on a road designed specifically to alleviate traffic is rather silly, especially with all the hooha going on these days about Pittsburgh's "Green Initiatives".

While there's no denying I'm in the wrong, a penalty of such magnitude is simply unacceptable; as mark082 pointed out, many speeding tickets are less than that. I'm not going into the courtroom in an attempt to scorn or change a law; any mental retard knows that's not the way laws get changed. I'm going to point out the incongruity of that fine, compared to those assessed against truly DANGEROUS activities, like speeding or DUI. Magistrates don't control laws...they DO control how much of a fine you eventually have to pay.

As for "all kinds of problems" it would cause having bicycles on that roadway, you've obviously never seen it. It's considerably wider than 95% of the roads you're riding now, and with almost zero traffic. And the traffic you are dealing with consists of professionally trained drivers, not morons drinking Starbucks and texting.

You're creating a much larger opportunity for problems riding down 51 on any given day, forcing people to give you right of way when they've barely got enough room to get a car through in some places. The fact that the considerably more dangerous choice is the legal one is the problem here.

2010-08-02 19:13:56

Yea, I agree that a huge fine is out of proportion with the "crime". I've seen plenty of idiots pulled over for driving down the bus lane on 5th Ave in their CAR and I imagine they didn't get a $240 ticket. For at least three of the times I've seen it, the cop get out, talked a bit, pointed, and they backed out and went on their way. No exchange of license, insurance, ticket, etc. I imagine it would be much the same on a busway if someone just said, "oh I made a mistake and turned where I shouldn't and didn't know how to get out!"

It is a bummer that we can't ride on busways, but they are built, owned, and operated by the Port Authority, and unfortunately it is up to them to decide who can and can't use them.

2010-08-02 19:29:52

while I agree that it is a considerably greater fine than speeding, it is probably considered a more dangerous act, for you and the users of the busway, than speeding...thus a higher fine.

As of Feb 2008, 85 in a 65 zone costs $152, add to that if it's a construction zone etc...where it's more dangerous to those around you.

DUI fines (and penalties) are far greater than $240

Again it doesn't matter how large or how unused that roadway is, it's not meant for public use. Period.

51 is a public road. If the busway was public, it would be just as dangerous for bikers as 51 is now. Roads designed without pedestrians and bikers in mind are inherently dangerous for both groups.

Bus lanes are far less obvious in their restrictions than the busway. So it makes sense that a police officer might let someone go with a warning when they are found in a bus lane.

2010-08-02 19:35:59

Well, thanks for all your replies. I'm surprised at the flavor of most of them, but having lived here for fifteen years, I probably shouldn't be.

We'll see how the courtroom plays out. I'm gobsmacked that the cop didn't hand me a warning and send me on my way, dwillen. That's all it would've taken; I wouldn't have gone there again. I was very polite and not in the slightest offensive; again, cops don't make laws any more than magistrates, so it's pointless (not to mention counterproductive) to be assholes to them. At least the second (and third!) cops who showed up (for backup, obviously) had the grace to act a bit abashed about the whole thing.

And as would be completely expected, their three cars parked all around me, with their lights on, created way more of a problem for the bus traffic than I did.

2010-08-02 19:56:20

If it turns out that the fine would be the same for a car going on the busway, I don't think you would have much of a leg to stand on.

Now, if the cop really stated that "it was too dangerous because of the lack of sidewalks", that just displays boneheadedness and lack of understanding on the part of the cop. He could have simply told you it is a restricted access road. Unfortunately that wouldn't help your case any either.

You could try saying you didn't see the sign, or that you're really sorry, that seems to work for drivers who run over and kill people.

2010-08-02 19:56:31

I'm sure that the fine is the same for a car or person or whatever on the busway. Maybe they give people slack for ignorance? Because I know an acquaintance who accidently turned onto the busway once. Immediately swarmed, but was allowed to simply exit. No harm, no ticket.

2010-08-02 20:05:47

I'm no lawyer, but I think your fine max's out at $10 for a bike offense.

In the pedalcycle sub chapter:

3501. Applicability of traffic laws to pedalcycles.

(a) General rule.--Every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special provisions in this subchapter and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application.

(b) Application of subchapter.--The provisions of this subchapter apply whenever a pedalcycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of pedalcycles subject to the exceptions stated in subsection

§ 3502. Penalty for violation of subchapter.

Any person violating any provision of this subchapter is guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $10.

But only the helmet sections seem to cap "penalties, assessments and court costs" which may be killing you.

2010-08-02 20:38:18

Blaming reactions to the situation in general on

"Pittsburgh" has you come off as an entitled person,

rather than a reasonable one. I would try to avoid

that in court.

When the Port Authority went on strike in the early

90's we rode our bmx bikes all over the bus ways.

As a 12 year old kid, I knew what I was doing was

super illegal and could have gotten me in lots of

trouble. And I was the type of kid who went to


Im going to smoke a bunch of weed in front of cops

cause I SHOULD be able to, I mean you can in

California! Freaking Pittsburgh!

Im going to go 80 tomorrow in the 55mph sections

of the turnpike cause the speed limit in Arizona

and I have driven all over the country... and

that is how it should be here! Freaking PA!


I would not want to be on the busway when an empty us is heading back to the garage and the driver is doing 80mph and smoking and texting and looking out for cyclists less than when he is

on the road (which is 0)

Im going to sound like more of a jerk, but for

the 250 dollars and hours you have put into this

and will put into this, you might have had the

energy to start a campaign of some sort to at

least make the Port Authority know that cyclists

may desire to use their busways.

2010-08-02 20:39:04

Yeah... I'd say you got off easy. $240 is much better than getting creamed by a friggin' bus.

2010-08-02 23:09:01

Yeah... I'd say you got off easy. $240 is much better than getting creamed by a friggin' bus.

I bet you'd be out $2400 at the very least had you been hit.

2010-08-02 23:13:18

It's flat, clean, no traffic...PERFECT!

Yeah. That's cause they only let buses on it.

Then they wrote me a ticket? WTF? A TICKET? I'm not even in a CAR!

Entitled much?

2010-08-02 23:44:28

so is it official then that we can't ride in bus LANES in the city? i have done this from the birmingham bridge up 5th towards oakland

2010-08-03 01:02:50

Were they PAT cops or city cops? Curious about that, since one can't report PAT offenses to the city. Also, FWIW, it would be nice to see the European model of bus lanes being shared as bike lanes implemented here.

2010-08-03 01:03:29

Yeah it's illegal to ride bus lanes. I think that's fair. They're meant to be express after all. If they won't allow cars, why allow something even slower?

2010-08-03 01:09:52

so is it official then that we can't ride in bus LANES in the city? i have done this from the birmingham bridge up 5th towards oakland

Yeah, this is technically illegal. Riding on the sidewalk on that stretch, however, is perfectly legal. There are several older threads about the parked cars on the sidewalk by the auto dealer and day car center, and the city is aware of this problem.

I ride the sidewalk home from work every day without a problem.

2010-08-03 01:39:38

I have to say that I am not surprised that someone decided to try to bike on the busway. It was just a matter of time. Sorry it was you, st.ryder who got pegged with the huge ticket. But, it was going to happen. The busways are just too tempting to a cyclist. I think the bike community owes you a little bit of a thank you for reminding us that yours is not an experience any of us want to repeat. So, we'll remember to stay off the busways, no matter how tempting they are. I wonder what the ticket for riding (or driving) in a bus lane is? Not something I want to find out for myself, I am sure. For the record, the ticket for parking on a sidewalk runs just over $70. That's a ticket I'd like to see issued more often.

2010-08-03 02:10:58

Another point of this issue, to me at least, is that it raises once again the demand for a decent South Hills bike path. Whether that's a trail, a decent sidewalk or bike lane is up to debate, but I think the demand is there, and frankly I don't blame someone for attempting a South Busway bike trek regardless of the legality.

I think the point the OP was also trying to make is that in many other cities, especially most in Europe, bus lanes are actually open to bike traffic. Private busways are probably a different matter, but I have the assumption that many busways worldwide have nearby parallel bike paths, which of course is lacking in Pittsburgh.

2010-08-03 02:20:30

wabash tunnel...

2010-08-03 03:21:22

I'm not sure I like the idea of a shared bus lane. Imagine how often the bus would have to pull into the other lane if commuters were using all the bus lanes. Imagine if there was an opposing bus and a bike in front of the bus trying to pass.

Now if there was a parallel bike lane, that would be cool

2010-08-03 12:51:29

I agree with Pierce, i dont even like being on the streets in town with the busses, the idea of being on a the busway when I know the busses are doing 70... no thanks.

but a bike trail/lane that ran the same route would be a good idea.

2010-08-03 12:57:53

Should have thrown your four-ways on dude. Seems like that's all the more official you need to be to drive the East Busway…(unless there are some other official markings I should be looking for)

2010-08-03 13:12:08

I was on the airport bus out yesterday morning and back in the evening. Cops out both times. I think you got caught in an enforcement sweep.

That said, riding a bike on the busway seems kind of dumb, for safety reasons. Like playing on railway tracks.

Busways are private roads; the whole point is to let buses bypass traffic (intersections, cars, bikes, etc) and to move people more efficiently. These are not "streets" even though they might look like them. By your logic, dirt bikers and ATV people should be allowed to use bike trails. And where would that leave us?

Anyway, hope your judge is having a good day...

2010-08-03 14:25:06

while i think you deserve a ticket, $240 is steep. they do those stings on cars not yielding to pedestrians, and they don't fine them that much. i think that's only $100

2010-08-03 14:28:26

with that said, if they do charge you the $240, it should go toward the fund to outfit all the buses with bike racks

2010-08-03 14:29:15

I wonder if the fine is so steep because it includes something for trespassing, not just traffic violation? Might explain why it seems so disproportionately high...

2010-08-03 14:41:55

When I was a messenger back in '93 I got 2 tickets on my bicycle that year. 1 was for riding in the buslane downtown and the other was for running a red light on the BOA, if my swiss cheese-like-memory serves me I believe the fine for both was $90.

2010-08-03 15:21:59

BD, the PDF you linked to suggests that the $10 fine only applies to violations of the bike-specific laws outlined in that subchapter. Any other traffic offenses would be at the going rate.

(Caveat: I'm not a lawyer either.)

2010-08-03 15:39:45

The last time I got a speeding ticket (on I-80 ten years ago) the fine was only part of it. In addition to the fine for the offense, there were all sorts of fees tacked on to the ticket which made it much more expensive than the fine itself. They went to things like EMS services etc. Maybe that's part of it.

2010-08-03 16:05:17

The other day my husband got a $25 parking ticket that had $30 in "fees" so the total was $55. No explanation as to what the "fees" were for. And then I paid online which was another couple of bucks for a "convenience fee".

If my brain wasn't so jarred by riding over potholes, I might be able to figure this out.

2010-08-03 16:12:33

The citation should clearly list the violation code, the cost of the fine, and all the fees. This should then be totaled near the bottom of the ticket.

If the ticket was not properly written up with this information it could be dismissed in court as a technicality.

2010-08-03 16:17:38

Four or five times, I've waited late at night for an inbound bus at Central, which is only 800 feet from the South Bank station. South Bank is both a busway and T station, so has much better service. You can wait a long time for a bus at Central.

A couple of observations:

a) It's not the buses you need to worry about killing you, it's the maintenance and police vehicles, which often do 75+.

b) Port Authority probably could put a trail alongside the South Busway, if they had an extra million or two. Consult your local newspapers for the latest on that story.

c) If I'd've been caught walking that 800 feet on the mainline busway, I probably would be looking at the same fine, or something similar. Every stop has a "No Trespassing" sign.

What I'm curious about is how much of that $240 does Port Authority pocket, and how much of it gets diverted into umpteen administrative accounts.

2010-08-03 16:33:17

@Mr. D - Yeah, I'm not sure either, but the first part of the bike subchapter says bikes are vehicles and have to obey every other vehicle law, thus pulling every other vehicle law into that subchapter. Maybe.

@Stu - It's a moot point, but wouldn't putting in a bike lane be from the well funded capital bucket and not the depleted operating one? As in there is plenty of cash to dig a tunnel under your favorite river, lay some track, and build a few stations, but if you try to get an extra bus trip out to your neighborhood the fuel and driver salary will break the bank.

2010-08-03 17:11:49

question: am I legally required to carry a state issued ID while riding my bike on city roads? never thought about this...

2010-08-03 17:30:42

Maggie, no more than you are required to carry state id to walk on the sidewalk. We're not a police state yet.

However, if you violate a law and the police would like to issue you a summons, they may take you into custody if they can't verify your identity.

2010-08-03 17:34:04

@Maggie (in response to your question about carrying id...): only in Arizona.

2010-08-03 20:16:16

Im in Madison, Wisconsin right now. The main street is only for bikes, busses, and authorized vehicles. It's amazing.

They also have a free rentals and a bike share program, but more about that in another thread when I get back.

2010-08-05 00:32:47
I would live to take my bike for a ride on S. Busway. It would make sense if PAT would install a bike path beside the road and have it connect to the West End Circle for easier bike access to the South Hills. Also, Is Saw Mill Run Blvd. any safer south of the Busway/Glenbury St.? Also, I would like to seethe East and West Busways open to cyclists during off-peak/Weekend times.
2017-03-18 23:16:20
the only "buzz" I've ever heard about opening the busway to non-bus traffic (it is already open for emergency vehicles like police, fire, and ems) is an idea floated a couple years ago that taxi companies could pay for the use of the busways as a revenue generator.  As far as I know that went nowhere.
2017-03-19 12:00:30
Riding on the busways: no thanks. Even if it was permitted, there are many places on them, particularly when going under bridges or through tunnels, where there is barely enough room to accommodate two buses, one going in each direction. Assuming the bus driver coming up behind you sees you in such scenarios (these tight spots are sometimes blind spots as well) and responsibly slows down and waits for the other bus to go by before passing you, you'd then be slowing express bus service on the busway, which kind of defeats the purpose of having it. It would have been awesome if the busways had been designed with cyclists in mind, but sadly that is not the case. Also, it would have been expensive to do so. Imagine the cost of widening the Berry St tunnel on the West Busway in order to accommodate a protected cycle track. Oof. Not an easy sell.
2017-03-19 13:17:34
Please do not hope ever to ride on the busways, except for special events. They are not designed for anything other than buses. If you want Port Authority to do something to help cyclists, here is the list, in ascending height of fruit: * Bike racks at T stations and park-and-ride lots * More than two bikes per T car, in some situations * Bikes in the Wabash Tunnel * Getting a path built along the South Busway, at least from Central to Whited Park & ride lots are usually either PennDOT or privately owned. Bark up the right tree. Also please do not advocate for taxis to use the West Busway. They nailed that one down real well for a good reason, and so far have been darn lucky. I'd like to see a trail along the West Busway, too -- one was discussed in mid-1990s planning -- but something kiboshed the idea, I forget what. Even so, it would only have gotten you from Carnegie to Ingram. The Berry Street Tunnel is barely wide enough for buses.
2017-03-19 13:23:10
Would have been nice to have a bike trail on the east busway on the railroad track side. If it was being built now I bet that would be part of the plan.
2017-03-19 14:33:01
would like to seethe East and West Busways open to cyclists
Yes, it's a typo. But I like it... But seriously. The busways are limited access for a reason. Limited access makes a lot of sense. It gives us interstates, but it also gives us bike trails. The rest we share. I'm ok with that and you should be too.
2017-03-19 18:03:05
Would I get sawed in half by biking Sawmill Run Blvd from West End Circle to Glenbury St. and taking a Y4[Something] bus back to Downtown on a weekend without special events in Downtown Pittsburgh? Is Sawmill Run Blvd any safer south of The S. Busway/Glenbury St.?
2017-03-20 00:44:30
I've also biked from Woodruff to West Liberty a couple of times. That part is no worse than Liberty Ave through the Strip. As I said in the other thread, it's the high speed section north of the Pky West overpass that's scary. I have no experience with 51 south of West Liberty, except once I did bike from the 51/88 corner up to Brownsville (a half hour before biking the length of 51 to the West End Bridge). Be visible, and take the lane. Visible as in, not just high-vis clothing, but lights bright enough to singe corneas.
2017-03-21 00:01:33
Riding that road, esp that section, is a very bad idea. It's high speed, 4 lane, no shoulder. It's unpleasant to drive.
2017-03-21 16:23:59
@StuInMcCandless, Yesterday, I biked Liberty Ave from Centre Ave to 16th St. Westbound. I would say Saw Mill Run Blvd was fifty times worse than Liberty Ave. through the Strip District.
2017-03-26 20:26:09