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PUBLIC MEETING AUG 31: Forbes Ave redesign and bike lanes

All- After years in the making, CMU and the Oakland Transportation Management Association (OTMA) are ready to unveil their plans to make safety improvements on Forbes Ave, from Craig St to Margaret Morrison St. The $2.175M project will update signals, improve intersections, and add “pedestrian/cyclist safety enhancements,” according to SPC’s Transportation Improvement Program website. The current dialogue for changing the state of Forbes Ave at CMU, started way back in 2011, when CMU held a well attended public meeting calling for bike lanes, as part of their Master Plan update. Since that time, CMU and OTMA obtained a federal grant to improve the safety of Forbes Ave through the campus. Safety on Forbes Ave came to the forefront last fall with the death of Susan Hicks, who was riding her bicycle home from the University of Pittsburgh, where she worked. At the public meeting for this Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project, CMU’s planners will be taking feedback on their proposed design. Please attend to make sure that bicyclists’ voices are heard. Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting Project scope and schedule will be discussed Date: Wednesday, August 31st Time: 5:00 pm Location: 5034 Forbes Avenue, Cohon University Center, Room: Rangos 3 (2nd Floor) http://localhost/2016/08/18/public-meeting-aug-31-voice-needed-forbes-ave-near-cmu-redesign-project/
2016-08-22 10:59:43
It is from craig onward and Susan Hicks was killed before craig.
2016-08-22 13:47:56
Yes we're aware. The whole of Forbes is complex, and PennDOT is planning on repaving the whole thing from the Birmingham Bridge to Craig next year. We want to make sure that this section is in place with bike lanes to add weight to making sure the Pitt section of it does too with the repaving. So it's all connected
2016-08-22 13:57:22
Here's an update, with a bit more info from CMU: Meeting To Discuss Forbes Safety Improvement Project Carnegie Mellon and PennDOT are hosting a public meeting to discuss proposed safety improvements to Forbes Avenue at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31, in Rangos 3 of the Cohon University Center. PennDOT officials will present the two-part project, which will include pedestrian-crossing enhancements at Forbes Ave intersections, such as countdown timers and audible signals for the visually impaired, and the repaving of Forbes between the Birmingham Bridge and Beeler Street, including new lane configurations between South Craig Street and Beeler Street. The safety improvement projects, a collaborative effort between PennDOT, the City of Pittsburgh, the Oakland Transportation Management Association and CMU, are scheduled to take place beginning fall of 2017 through the summer of 2018.
2016-08-23 12:52:27
I used to bike Forbes near CMU all the time. The most dangerous part was biking uphill, eastbound on Forbes approaching Beeler. Crossing two lanes of (speeding) traffic in order to turn left on Beeler was the tricky move. If crosswalks and speed tables were installed in several places (in front of Hamburg Hall, Morewood, Devon, Beeler, and Margaret Morrison, say) that would go a long way toward reducing speeds and making this street safer for both cyclists and pedestrians. Traffic calming through road surface changes works. Look at how slowly cars drive on Forbes Ave in Market Square, downtown, because of the belgian block surface. I don't think we need to go as far as making all of Forbes Ave cobblestone, but we need to learn the lesson: putting up speed limit signs does not slow cars, but roughening the road surface does.
2016-08-24 11:08:13


2016-08-25 07:25:24
I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to attend yet or not. Seeing as PennDot is involved, keep your expectations low. Aside from their inherent motor vehicle bias, their main mission is to not impede motorized traffic. Pedestrians and cyclists are nothing but hazards to protect drivers from. "Speed tables" are going to be a non-starter, and my guess is modified driving surfaces will be also. Unless there has been a tectonic shift in the department in the last couple of years, their guidelines are more Robert Moses than Jane Jacobs, and at least 20 years behind current planning theory. Until the public somehow (forcibly) changes their mission to include pedestrians and cyclists as part of the complete transportation network, they will never take those modes seriously in their planning. If I don't make it to this meeting, someone please ask who at the state level has oversight over PennDot's operations and mission.
2016-08-25 09:04:12
My friend the traffic engineer says PennDOT is involved pretty minimally.
2016-08-25 11:51:00
PennDOT officials will present the two-part project... ...a collaborative effort between PennDOT, the City of Pittsburgh, the Oakland Transportation Management Association and CMU...
  Sure sounds like PennDOT is involved a bit more than "minimally" ...
2016-08-25 19:20:27
especially considering that they own the road and administer the grant
2016-08-26 09:42:06
BUMP. This is tonight!
2016-08-31 09:31:17
All - We'll be hosting a ride after this meeting around Fifth/Forbes in Oakland. Meet outside the building. There is a connection to the tragedy on W Carson last night. PennDOT refused to put bike lanes on W Carson, due to their reluctance to slow cars down and wanting to add a turning lane. The same could happen on Forbes Ave. This project only goes to S Craig St, but we need to make sure that PennDOT connects Forbes Ave westward to at least the existing bike lanes on Bigelow Blvd. and have a plan to continue westward. They are also repaving and adding safety improvements to Forbes from the Birmingham Bridge to Beeler in the next 2 years, calling it the "Betterment Project," which is our best opportunity to figure something out. Here's the event on facebook
2016-08-31 14:57:46
Also, there's a ride on Tuesday on to W Carson St. Info below. Tuesday, September 6 at 7 PM - 9 PM S 27th St & Tunnel Blvd, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 We watched Dennis Flanagan’s death play out in slow motion. For 5 years the community has voiced its need for a safe W. Carson St. Corridor for all. These needs were thrown by the wayside, and 9 days after the project’s completion, a person biking the corridor was killed. Traffic deaths are avoidable tragedies. They happen because decision makers create designs that prioritize automobile “speed” and “congestion” over human life. This is the same tragic story that played out on West Carson Street. We will meet one week from Dennis Flanagan’s death. Tuesday, 9/6, 7pm at 27th St & Tunnel Blvd Healthy Ride Station (Southside Works). Join us Tuesday night to change the narrative to include the safety of all people – young, old, abled, disabled, on foot, bike, transit, car: everyone.
2016-08-31 15:01:54
Does anyone have an update on the meeting?
2016-08-31 19:23:59
Well, it's over. And it was followed by a group ride down Fifth to Craft and back. Some things that I learned:
  • Forbes (continuing on Beeler) is an "urban arterial highway".
  • You will never see the posted speed limit be under 25mph.
  • Forbes will never qualify as a "school zone". The school designation is legally restricted to K-12. (and, no, pre-schools don't count either.)
  • There will never be a speed table on Forbes. It will interfere with traffic flow, on a highway. Besides, driver won't know how to deal with it.
  • The PennDOT official expressed great sympathy for the plight of the cyclist. But his job is to make highways work; accommodations for non-drivers are always of great interest to the extent that they do not interfere with car traffic. Though, yes, allowing people to get killed or maimed is considered undesirable.
  • The proposed modifications will increase traffic throughput, despite designed traffic calming and lane reduction. The main way to do this will be to eliminate the all-way ped light at Craig to harmonize signalling along the street. For some reason the all-way at Morewood will remain.
  • PennDOT is "not under" the city and does not have to listen to it, say about all that Complete Street stuff. But they will of course continue to confer with the city on decisions.
So on the whole it was not a particularly satisfying encounter. Audience concerns included things like dangers posed by busses, the apparent absence of speed abatement and more particular issues (bollards? no; bad for maintenance). The officials demonstrated great skill in dealing with the public. Having said all that, I think that at worst we'll end up with a half-loaf. I like the planned bike lanes, and the addition of stop lights. That's better than what we have now. They're supposed to "come back to the community" once negotiations withe city are done and planning is concluded.
2016-08-31 20:17:28
On a separate note: I didn't get the sense that the speakers (or questioners in the audience) were all that up on local bike-related infrastructure.
  • For example, no one could quite explain how a bike-lane / turn-lane cross-over worked. But isn't there on on Bigelow next to the Soldiers&Sailors you could tell people to check out?
  • During the bollard discussion people were referring to those on Penn downtown. But Schenley Dr, literally 2 blocks away, has the same setup.
2016-08-31 21:08:53
I didn't expect much tonight, and we got even less. We were supposed to be impressed that there will be "new" traffic signals. The old men in suits were proud of the chart showing that all intersections will pass cars with the same or less delay as the current design. There will be some segments of bike lane, class II, just a paint buffer, and minimum width. What bike lanes they plan will be criss-crossed with right turn traffic and bus pull-offs. There will be "sharrows" and Share the Road signs -- oh boy -- on portions of roadway where they couldn't figure out how to work in a bike lane. Concepts like Green Lane and Bike Box, and actual physical protection never crossed their minds. Continuous bike lanes through the Pitt campus and into town were out of the scope of the project for various questionable reasons. Peds will get Piano Key markings. No talk of real traffic calming or enhanced pedestrian experience. My sense is that the result will be quite the opposite. I was offended that the effort presented tonight was void of any imagination or urgency to solve the serious problems faced by vulnerable users of the corridor.
2016-08-31 21:24:54
I must agree with jdgPGH - I was offended as well. . The idea that there was detailed study and design behind the proposals that we saw is somewhat laughable - it looked like something a reasonably clued-in group of CMU or Pitt engineering undergrads could have put together as a class project. On a perhaps far-fetched note, is there any possibility of bringing that stretch of road under city and not state control? This clearly seems to be one possible way of cutting the knot. Ironically, as I was biking out on Forbes after the meeting, saw a PGH city police car on Beeler. It looked like they had pulled over a couple of bicyclists. For what, I'm not sure.  
2016-08-31 21:35:09
  • Transferring the street to the city implies transferring a significant financial burden; it's unlikely to happen. It would be better (though probably harder) to change PennDOT doctrine re urban highways.
  • I don't know what happened on Beeler, but as we were waiting at Morewood & Forbes for the ride to start, a cop car stopped and an officer approached the group. It turned out (as I understood it) that they would be following the ride to make sure there wouldn't be any trouble, providing protection. You know, doing their job.
  • If you've been to enough to enough of these meetings you realize that those people's job is to act the way they do. If they don't they'll get fired. You need to look at the proposals and decide whether, on the whole, there's a benefit. If there is then try to accept it. Then keep agitating for more. Eventually you end up with something that you're happy with. Yes, it's a lot of work. But otherwise you typically get nothing.
2016-08-31 21:58:41
  well, given that such a transfer would save PennDot money, there might be some way to work out some details that might leave both sides feeling better about things.  Not that it would be easy...
2016-08-31 22:01:04
"Curb to Curb" rebuilding happens only once every 20-30 years. If you miss the opportunity to make the kind of changes that can only be done during this major operation, you will have to settle for being limited to very small improvements for a generation. In my opinion, if they do keep acting the way they do they should be fired.
2016-08-31 22:25:27
The thing that pisses me off the most is the treatment of crosswalks.  If I may, the consultant stated that they made pedestrian improvements by eliminating "all pedestrian" cycles at the crosswalks and will instead use pedestrian head-start sequences that will allow cars to turn into the crosswalks while pedestrians theoretically have the right of way.  Yep.  That's so much safer for pedestrians than having a Barns signal.    These guys are surely concerned for our safety.    
2016-08-31 22:36:50
Marko - Love what Wikipedia has to say about the Barnes crossing: "It was first used in Canada and the United States in the late 1940s, though it has since fallen out of favor with traffic engineers in the United States, as it is seen as prioritizing flow of pedestrians over flow of car traffic."
2016-08-31 22:47:57
I was encouraged that PennDOT had bike lanes in their proposed design at all (this is progress, and the result of BikePgh and others in the bike community) but disappointed that they are not planning to put in delineators (plastic bollards) to make these protected bike lanes, not just paint-on-the-road. We need to insist that these be protected bike lanes. Here is one of their slides: proposed intersection of Forbes & Morewood. Note the bike lanes in yellow-green. Note the bus turnout on north side of Forbes for inbound buses, and how buses will be crossing the bike traffic. Audience members brought up the issues around the bus turnout on the south side of Forbes, off the right edge of this diagram (or maybe they chose not to draw it in because it's such a problematic detail). I've biked uphill from near Hamburg Hall to Beeler many times, and one of the dangerous maneuvers is dealing with buses that are stopped with their rear ends blocking the existing right lane of traffic. Although PennDOT plans to lengthen the bus turnouts, I don't think their design will eliminate the bikes-dodging left-around-diagonal-buses problem. A better design would have the outbound buses stop at an island, moving the bike lane to the right (south) of the stopped buses.
2016-09-01 10:56:14
I couldn't be at the meeting. I'm really glad to hear about bike lanes connecting the Forbes lanes past CMU to Craig. As I understand it, bike lanes to Craig are part of the BRT plans (assuming that happens). So, eventually, you would have a continuous more-or-less safe route past CMU all the way downtown, along a central, highly traveled corridor. That's a big accomplishment.
2016-09-01 11:46:42
Marko – Love what Wikipedia has to say about the Barnes crossing: “It was first used in Canada and the United States in the late 1940s, though it has since fallen out of favor with traffic engineers in the United States, as it is seen as prioritizing flow of pedestrians over flow of car traffic.”
If I could edit in Wikipedia, I'd change that to: "as it is seen as prioritizing flow LIVES of pedestrians over flow of car traffic.”  
2016-09-01 12:13:22
The PG Article... "Some said they believe that type of planning led to the death of a bicyclist on Tuesday in an accident on West Carson Street. Advocates had pushed for bike lanes to be part of a project there that finished this month, but PennDOT didn't include the lanes because studies showed changes instead needed to be made to avoid rear-end and turning crashes." They must be bad at studies, considering they just recently redesigned and rebuilt west end circle and now it's the most dangerous intersection in the county.
2016-09-01 12:25:32
They could tell you how many cars go through this area daily, but conveniently didn't have any numbers handy for bike and pedestrian usage.  It's a shame, but not unexpected given the track record of considering other road users.
2016-09-01 12:32:01
Apologies in advance, but I don't know how that mealy-mouthed piece of shit apologist Dan Cessna sleeps at night.
2016-09-01 13:23:53
On a less fractious and more productive note (had to get that out, or I was going to rip my hair out), PennDot's "mission" needs to be changed at the state level to include the complete transportation network, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and accomodations for mass transit, not just "highways". Letting PennDot get off the hook by saying oh we only do highways, is complete bullshit. They have made it clear that the concept of a complete transportation network is going to have to be shoved down their throat by force. That (repugnant human being) Cessna is right, cities have no oversight over them, that needs to happen at the state level, people need to contact state senators, representatives, and Wolf, to kick PennDots ass. This is the time, a person has just died due directly to PennDot's irresponsible failure to provide safe transportation facilities for the entire public. And there's an election in November.
2016-09-01 13:54:59
@edmonds59++ Yes, remember PennDOT is a state agency. They are responsible to the state legislature and the governor. The priorities are being set by them to favor motorized transport. So we end up with abominations like the West Carson Street and Boulevard of the Allies developments, which excluded all other traffic. But organized political action can change this. Remember we're electing not just a President, but a significant fraction of the state government, too. Now would be a good time to ask any state politician where they stand on including bike and pedestrian access in PennDOT plans.
2016-09-01 14:09:26
Related, somewhat:
PlanPhilly: East Falls asks PennDOT for 'radical' changes to make Henry Avenue safer ...Back in 2012, PennDOT released an initial report for improving safety along the six-mile long corridor that runs from the top of Strawberry Mansion up to the Cathedral Village retirement community in Roxborough. But as soon as PennDOT’s plans became known, the East Falls Community Council’s Traffic Committee made it clear that their community wouldn’t simply accede to any old strategy laid out by the state.  They rejected the modest plan, saying they wanted cars travelling through their community to move substantially slower (perhaps even at the speed limit of 35 miles an hour). PennDOT’s 2012 recommendations were not likely to generate that effect. Currently several intersections on Henry Avenue are prone to car crashes—some of them fatal—because they are not designed to induce slower speeds, even in places where pedestrians are likely to cross. The road is four lanes and enjoys few traffic calming features, despite cutting through the heart of Philadelphia University’s campus. (hmmm, sound familiar...?) … “I don’t want to dump on them, they’re well meaning, and I hope they will take us seriously when we say, yes, we really want this radical change,” says Meg Greenfield, a member of the Traffic Committee. “They asked if we didn’t care that it would be slower. We said no, we want it to be safer. Do this as a model for the future instead of sticking to the status quo. Make this something special that you can hold out to people as an ideal for the future.” … “Henry Avenue is a major vehicular corridor in that region,” says [PennDOT consultant Bruce] Masi. “Some people on the East Falls Traffic Committee view that as a local road. That really isn’t its function.”
2016-09-01 19:33:16
Just short of 2 p.m., there are now > 100 comments on that article. The usual suspects, the usual blather.
2016-09-02 13:55:55
Here's how I feel about this week's events: A lot have been going on in terms of bike safety this week. A cyclist, Dennis Flanagan, was killed just after PennDOT completed Route 51 project which they claimed "would improve bicycle safety". In reality, PennDOT failed to do so for not installing bike lanes. Instead, they added a turning lane which is used as a passing lane by motorists and encourages speeding. It is very likely this factor caused the death of Dennis Flanagan. Coincidentally, PennDOT held a public meeting on pedestrian/cyclist safety enhancements for Forbes Ave the day after the crash. In the meeting, PennDOT claimed Forbes Ave is an "urban arterial highway", which implies their main goal is to allow motor vehicles to travel as fast as possible with pedestrian and cyclist safety as an afterthought. As if foretelling another tragic failure with PennDOT's Forbes Ave project, a car rolled over on Forbes Ave the day after the meeting! http://localhost/message-board/topic/public-meeting-aug-31-forbes-ave-redesign-and-bike-lanes/#post-331929   PENNDOT HAVE BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS!
2016-09-02 15:11:17
Many US city planners have the misguided belief that cities or towns need more "stroads" (see the video below) for prosperity. Unfortunately, it actually reduces the productivity as the businesses can only be accessed by customers with motor vehicles, and most space are taken up by parking lots which are empty most of the time. A better design is to have streets that encourage people to use alternative transportations as depicted in Pittsburgh's Complete Streets Policy:
2016-09-05 15:12:43
I've just written a letter: I sent this to my state senator, state rep, Gov. Wolf, The Mayor's office, Dan Cessna, and PennDOT HQ. I've included links on my page to contact all those folks so you can do the same.
2016-09-05 19:52:41
2016-09-06 09:59:24
BikePGH put a note on facebook: "Submit Your Comments about the Forbes Ave Redesign by Monday, Sept 26 Alert! There is a one week window to submit comments on the Forbes Ave Redesign project. This project will change the face of Forbes Avenue, and quite possibly set the stage for how traffic in the rest of Oakland will behave. Learn more about the project and how to submit a comment here: "
2016-09-20 23:47:54
I wrote PennDOT & OTMA a letter following those instructions. Synopsis of my recommendations for Craig-to-Beeler section: a) Bike lanes must be protected; paint isn’t enough. b) Use bus stop islands, and route the bike lane outside that. c) Keep car lanes narrow, do real traffic calming. Speed kills. d) Extend these bike lanes all the way west through Oakland. Don’t stop at Craig St. e) Do not remove the pedestrian all-walk phase from the Craig St traffic light. f) Speeding cameras that issue citations. Make it sting!
2016-09-22 00:24:47
I've been on a slow email exchange with PennDOT. I started by sending Dan Cessna the letter on my website. PennDOT sent me back what I considered a form letter, so I asked a simpler set of questions: 1) Does PennDOT consider incorporating bollards when designing bike lanes? (Like the type used on Penn Ave downtown) 2) Where can I find the non-vehicular usage data that was collected on the Forbes Ave corridor? 3) How is the Functional Classification of a road determined? Where is this rubric located and defined? 4) Does PennDOT object to adopting a complete streets policy? Could such a policy be adopted at the district level? The Short answers were: 1) PennDOT will follow the city's lead, and the city is developing standards right now but hasnt' finished. 2) It's on the OTMA's website. I poked around and I think it's here: But these reports are Over 5 years old... wasn't there newer information gathered? If no one here knows I'll ask PennDOT. 3) It's complicated 4) PennDOT wants to get better about listening when people ask for Complete Streets but has no plans to adopt it as their own design guideline right now. District 11 cannot act alone but must follow state guidelines. For an answer to (3) especially, please read the full response on my website Clearly I will have to do a lot of research to understand Functional Classification, although I have several preliminary issues with the answer: - How can speed limit be a determining factor, when the ability to set the speed limit is constrained by the classification? This is circular. - What does it mean for a road to carry "a high proportion of urban travel"? Are there any roads in Pittsburgh that carry rural travel? - I am very bothered that pedestrian use has no bearing on the classification of the road, although I could be wrong. And I wonder if bicycles are included in "vehicle mix"
2016-11-02 00:21:43
Ted, kudos on your rational dissection of this thing. Thanks.
2016-11-02 09:38:00
Ted, I really appreciate your following up on this and keeping us informed.
2016-11-02 09:38:08
Thanks for topping this. I suppose it's worth mentioning the latest developments. The City has committed to installing bike lanes from Craig St to Bigelow Blvd, which was our short term ask. Since they invested so much in bike lanes on Bigelow, Schenley Dr, Ohara/Bayard, it only makes sense to connect the 2 blocks to the CMU section of Forbes where they intend to install bike lanes. Other developments include: Port Authority has selected a consultant and plan to introduce the City's preferred alternatives for the BRT project early next year. This means that the City can move forward on bike lane development between Oakland/Uptown/Downtown Also, The City has committed to hosting public meetings for PennDOT's Betterment Project, which PennDOT says that they were not required to have. This project will be making minor improvements along Forbes, from the Birmingham Bridge to Craig St. It's unclear what these improvements will be, but they've alluded to better crosswalks, bump outs, etc.
2016-11-02 12:36:36
Oh, and for #2 - The way i understand it is that penndot did indeed to the counts 5 years ago. they apparently recorded video and manually counted the cars, bikes, peds. I'm not aware of newer counts that penndot did. Port Auth may have their own more recent counts in their research for the BRT. I'm not sure what their scope was, like whether they counted at CMU or if they are just using penndots data.
2016-11-02 12:43:49
This is really awesome. What is it like to finally get movement on this after, what, fifteen or twenty years of advocacy?
2016-11-02 13:07:59
I think one thing PennDOT struggles with, especially at the management level, is language when talking with active transportation advocates.  It's admittedly new to them, and most DOT folks that far removed from actual design work, which isn't all that different from a lot of industries.  I don't think their consultant did them any favors in that regard at the public meeting, either.   Functional classification simply establishes hierarchy in the street network.  Local streets feed into Collector Streets which feed arterials.  I'd be almost certain that they actually used their preferred classification method of identifying roadway "typology" before selecting design criteria for the project, or at least should have; this essentially is a way to design for the specific context through which a project is located instead of one set of rigid criteria for the entire route.  This is outlined in their Smart Transportation Guide, which is actually pretty solid.  This section of Forbes should probably be considered a "Community Arterial" in an Urban Core.  The speed factor isn't actually based on Posted Speed but "Desired Operating Speed", although for existing streets it's common to use posted as a shorthand.  It's ridiculously hard to get a speed limit lowered, but this is more of a bureaucracy thing than any.  It took JSK  a decade to get the speed limits lowered in NYC, and her transpo dep't was clearly in favor.   Pedestrian and bicycle use isn't explicitly factored into Functional Class, but this isn't really a factor since designing for bikes and peds is absolutely still possible regardless of functional class.  The recommended criteria for community arterials, for instance, has 5'-6' bike lanes and 14'-22' sidewalks.   Protected infrastructure will be a battle and this is absolutely something they should be more flexible accepting but FWIW, they approved the only parking-protected bike lanes in the state as part of the E Ohio St project.   Hope this helps answer a few Q's.
2016-11-02 16:10:46
they approved the only parking-protected bike lanes in the state as part of the E Ohio St project
The E Ohio St lanes are a pleasure to ride and are a vast improvement over what was there. We need more of that.
2016-11-03 11:54:30