« Back to Archive

Route 51?!?

I'm planning on biking from Erie to Pittsburgh with my almost two year old son following Adventure Cycling's underground railroad Pittsburgh spur route. From Pittsburgh we will pick up the GAP Trail and bike home to DC. I noticed from other cyclist who bought the maps for the route on ACA's website that there is a real dangerous 7.5 mile section of Route 51 where there is no shoulder and it is basically a highway. Does anyone know if there has been changes to Route 51?? It looks like the route follows Route 51 from Monaca to McKees Bridge. Not sure where the dangerous section is? I thought about taking the Montour Trail cause i have already biked the GAP and thought about seeing a new section of trail. Be great if getting off on the Montour Trail would make me avoid the sketchy stretch of road. Does anyone know if this option will make me avoid it. Thanks!! Jason
2017-03-31 19:48:24
Does anyone know if this option will make me avoid it?
Unfortunately, no.  The entire section from Monaca to Pittsburgh is atrocious--four people have died in the last four years, three of them in the section between Monaca and Coraopolis where you'd pick up the Montour. There are campaigns to have it removed from the state bicycle map and a real trail built, or at least for the suggested bike route to be moved to safer alternate roads.  See Ohio River Trail for one such effort. Perhaps if you can give some idea of your timing, others will be able to meet you and ride with you.  If nothing else, folks should be able to suggest a better option.
2017-03-31 21:54:12
Hi Jason, there is a partial alternative which reduces the risk. You're welcome to DM me for direct communication, but it goes like this: From Monaca, Route 51 south to the West Aliquippa / Henry Mancini Bridge. And that's just a four-lane, 60mph highway. At the WA-Henry Mancini Bridge, take Woodlawn Road southeast bound, paralleling Route 51. Eventually that road stops, rejoin 51 South. Take the Aliquippa-Ambridge Bridge (there's a sidewalk), and ride Merchant St and Beaver Street to Sewickley PA. There's a Starbucks. Cross the Sewickley Bridge across the Ohio River. Turn left, observe the ghost bike. Ride on the shoulder into and through Coraopolis. South end of Coraopolis, 51South will lead you to Montour MP0 at Groveton.      
2017-03-31 22:55:03
Personally, I wouldn't take the Montour Trail all the way around. Opinions vary. I'd cross Neville Island Bridge. At the south end of the island, join 51 to the McKees Rocks Bridge. Cross the McKees Rocks Bridge using the sidewalk, use Termon St and McClure to get to the north end of the Chateau Trail. Follow that to the Casino, take the bike trail across the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, then go to Point State Park. Take the bike trail across Ft Pitt bridge, take the south side trail to Hot Metal Bridge, and join the GAP.
2017-03-31 22:58:48
and if I may - two year old child? There's no way I'd take a two-year-old through that route. It's just not prudent, sir.  
2017-03-31 23:02:28
Does anyone recommend a shop in the Pittsburgh area that offers shuttle service? Maybe we could get a shuttle from Monaca to the Montour Trail. That stretch doesn't sound fun. Vannevar,are you saying you would advise against the whole Erie to Pittsburgh route or just the dangerous Route 51 stretch? Thanks, Jason
2017-04-01 08:41:17
Hey Jason, check your Private Messages.
2017-04-01 11:01:29
There's a Pittsburgh-Eric-Pittsburgh randonnée, which gives you two possible routes between here and Erie. Here's a link to the event page, where you'll find a route map. You'll note that the route gets you to Cranberry, not Pittsburgh. But there's a bus line ( that does run from Cranberry to Pittsburgh, with bike racks. So you could do that. Also IIRC it's not nearly as dangerous riding from Cranberry to Pittsburgh as that particular section of Route 51. You'd head down towards North Park, then ride in from there. If you decide to go this way I think you'll find people who can advise you.
2017-04-01 16:03:20
Straight down Perry Highway from Cranberry Twp is do-able. A bit trafficky, but there is often a wide shoulder. In any event, a damn sight safer than that stretch of 51. The section known to locals as Wexford Flats, roughly from PA910 to just south of North Allegheny Senior High School, is the only really sticky section, and much of that has a sidewalk. South of NASH, you will want to get across to the east side of the road and descend Old Perry Hwy, a pleasant 25 mph road dating to horse-and-buggy days, vs 65 mph traffic on 19 itself, which splits halfway down, and you'd need the left fork if you went that way. If you do decide to head that direction, PM me, and I'll try to meet you and guide you into town. I'm only a couple hundred yards off Perry, just south of CCAC (the community college).
2017-04-02 20:52:54
While I am sure that some excellent advice has already been given, I would like to offer something for your consideration.  This route, from Erie to Pittsburgh, Morgantown, and now the Montour, The GAP and points beyond has been around for many years and has challenged cyclists, past and present. While contemplating this ride myself, some years ago, a wise man once said, "Hell, if you're going to do that ride, why not do it in Ohio?  There are a lot fewer hills!" While our NW border with Ohio seems like an arbitrary straight line, drawn by some surveyor in colonial times, when you are cycling, there are many places where shortly after crossing into PA, the hills begin with a vengeance.  The winding roads with poor sight lines and more traffic also start to occur in the Keystone State. If hills and winding country roads are your thing, stay in PA.  I'm thinking that especially with a two-year old, it might not be.  Ohio has many roads that are straight as arrows with fewer hills and less traffic.  From Erie, go about 20 miles West, over to Conneaut, Ohio and start heading South on the several North/South backroads you can find on the map. Near East Liverpool, Ohio, you will have to start heading East and will then encounter some big climbs, but it is possible to stay on backroads in West Virginia and PA.  You may need to get on PA-18 for a bit to Burgettstown where you can catch the Panhandle Trail and head east.  At McDonald, PA, the Panhandle connects to the Montour Trail (Trail of the Year this year, hence your desire to see it, I presume). Not sure what Vannevar told you privately but his reservations about the Montour Trail might be due to the fact that in it's Southeastern portion, the trail is not finished and you will need to go on some roads to connect  the various unfinished sections with finished sections.  Near Large, PA, you would have to take on Route 51 (the bane of the existences of all cyclists who ride South of the city), for a few tenths of a mile.  There is a good strategy for heading South on 51, to minimize risk but coming North, you either walk on the grass or get out into a longer game of chicken with fast moving traffic. As Buffalo offered, if you are comfortable letting anyone know of your itinerary, I'm sure there are any number of cyclists, familiar with the area, looking for a good excuse to go out for a ride. Here is a possible route: In any event, it sounds like a great trip.  All the best.
2017-04-08 12:24:28
I never did hear from the gent, but - if I'm in town - I'm glad to offer him a minivan ride from Monaca to the Point. I hate to say the 2-year old tugs at the heart (see: Syria missiles) VB  
2017-04-09 15:50:42
@Vannevar You're the Beaver County expert.  We should do that ride from McDonald to East Liverpool, sometime.
2017-04-09 16:19:33