Advice for a student? A route from Shadyside/Fifth Ave to UPitt campus
Hi, I’m new to the area! I’ve been looking around at bike maps and I haven’t been able to figure this out very well…What’s the best way to get from Shadyside (I’ll be living along Fifth Ave) to UPitt?
Distance wise, going straight along Fifth Avenue from Shadyside straight to the UPitt campus area is the most direct route. Is this doable or is biking along Fifth Ave not advisable?
Welcome to the area!
I’m a fairly new cyclist too, in Shadyside. I’m definitely not brave enough to tackle 5th Avenue. I usually go Ellsworth until it hits Neville, and then Bayard the rest of the way to Pitt’s campus. However, Ellsworth is several blocks out of your way, so there is probably a better way to go.
there are side streets that run through shadyside all along pitt that are quieter than fifth. i usually prefer fifth because the speed and ease and lack of stop signs, but i’ve been doing this for a while and i am comfortable taking the lane with cars passing me.
one thing you can do is take side streets (e.g. howe, westminster, castleman, even ellsworth isn’t too far away) to devonshire, then cross fifth and go up the private lane to the cmu parking lot. then cut through cmu and head right on frew street to schenley drive, past the library and toward your destination. this is the way my gf, who is pretty petrified of road riding, chose to get to the library from shadyside.
5th is definitely rideable, but traffic does move fast through Shadyside. There’s often a big backup around Neville St. but traffic gets calmer after that (the limit drops to 25 and the road becomes 4/3 lanes one way).
Your main other option is what Richw said, some combination of Ellsworth and Bayard. It’s not really that far out of the way and that’s the way I used to go when I had the same commute.
If you want the calmest possible route, you can head up Sq. Hill through the park or CMU, but that is definitely going out of your way.
Fifth Ave is doable, but trafficy. There are times when I’ll do the sidewalk on fifth – but there are plenty of pedestrians too, so that is sometimes either really slow, somewhat inconsiderate of me, or sometimes both.
A calmer route is (assuming you are east of Aiken) north to Howe street, dogleg right and left to Westmister or Pembroke. Then one block is the wrong way on a one way street (if you are fastious about traffic laws, you could get off and walk, it’s a short block), after that block the road is two way. From Westmister, right on Amberson and left on Castleman (from Pembroke is L then R).
Left on Morewood, Right through the Synagog parkihng lot. Left of Devonshire and right through the church parking lot. From there, I take fifth in.
Coming back the pattern of one-way streets is different, but they usually aren’t a problem.
Riding this is a lot less complicated than it sounds after you’ve done it once.
If you are going to the buildings along Ohara Street (Chem, physics, engineering, Western Psych, the med school, Petersen sports center) it makes sense to go north to Ellsworth, right on Devonshire, and left on Bayard (which becomes Bigelow, which becomes O’hara)
When I used to live on 5th and Negley I took 5th into Oakland, but now I usually take Ellsworth. Parts of Ellsworth can be tricky too.
If you go on some group rides (Flock of Cycles) you might get some experienceconfidence, which would come in handy on either route
What time of day do you want to do this? I ride 5th inbound almost every day and could meet you at 8 or 8:30 ish for moral support and examplification.
Thanks for the replies! Are all of these suggestions routes where I have to share the roads with cars? Are there bike lanes?
In the suburbs where I’m used to biking, I sometimes take the sidewalk and I’m generally good with being considerate…is that a possible option? Will there be a lot of pedestrians between 7 and 8 am?
Bike lanes are just one way of sharing the road with cars. And statistically, roads are safer than sidewalks. Honestly, I see students riding on the sidewalks along 5th Ave, and it scares me. (I saw a guy riding no-hands on the sidewalk yesterday. Too scared of traffic to ride in the roads, but not scared enough of cracks in the sidewalk?)
As a regular on this board, I am delighted that we are getting these sorts of questions. For every one of the newbies who’ve posted, there are likely 50 more who don’t or won’t, yet have the same questions.
Dinorage, in general it’s not a good idea to ride on sidewalks, but OTOH riding out in traffic can seem, and be, dangerous. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Short answer, yes, at 7-8a there will be plenty of people on sidewalks, but there will also be a lot of cyclists out in the street.
Since I don’t live in the city (I’m way north, as my board-name implies), I won’t guess which streets have bike lanes and which do not. The important things to remember are that you are traffic, you have every right to be out there, but also that you need to be visible and predictable. Those, more than anything else, will keep you from being hit. How you learn that is why we (the rest of the veteran riding community) are here. Learning how is half the battle; getting comfortable doing so is half of the rest.
If you have not already done so, please read Bike-Pgh’s Bike to Work Guide, which should help you with a lot of the basics.
And keep checking back here, on this thread and others, for info you can use anytime & every time you get on a bike!
The routes are definitely something I’d have to get used to, then…Maybe the local roads mentioned above are better for riding in traffic at first?
Do I need are more “hardcore” bike for a daily commute? The one I have is a 20″-wheel, but commuter-oriented (not BMX), bike. It comes in a folding version but mine doesn’t fold. Do you think it will be too hard to go as fast as traffic? I’m not familiar at all with the flow of traffic in the area! I also own a mountain-style bike…
you won’t go as fast as traffic, especially on fifth. but that’s just fine. if they have room, they’ll go around you. if they don’t have room, don’t try to give them room.
as far as the routes, the roads that run parallel to fifth (that aren’t ellsworth; howe, kentucky, castleman, westminster, pembroke) will have virtually no cars on them at all. the sorts of roads you would let your kids ride on, if you have any.
other than that, you’ve got lots of cars going fast (fifth), a reasonable amount of cars, with a reasonable amount of respect for cyclists (ellsworth, streets heading away from fifth).
there aren’t really any bike lanes in shadyside or oakland. there are occasional sharrows in the area, and plenty of roads you can ride on without fear. it’s a good ride to get used to riding in traffic.
i would echo the folks saying you shouldn’t ride on the sidewalk. perhaps the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike is ride at a relatively high speed across an intersection on an upstream sidewalk. i see this all to often in the area around cmu and pitt. and yeah, there are plenty of pedestrians around those parts.
but again, it’s a good area to learn how to ride in traffic.
I live in Sq Hill and commute to Oakland often. One time I decided to take 5th. This was morning during rush hour. The cars weren’t scary but I was stuck in traffic. I am not the type of rider to ride up between lanes of cars. There wasn’t room on the right to go around safely. So I was stuck on 5th, in traffic, waiting. For a long time.
Since I come from Sq Hill I cut through the park. But if you are coming from 5th I would def take side roads, it will be faster.
On fifth from Central catholic to St Pauls, pedestrians go faster than cars. The average speed of traffic from Wilkins to Dithridge during rush hour is probably about 10 mph. That SHOULD be totally amenable to even novice cycling. It seems odd that it isn’t, and I’d like to figure out how to reduce the peak speeds to be closer to the mean.
perhaps the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike is ride at a relatively high speed across an intersection on an upstream sidewalk … after dark, without lights.
Side roads all the way; the sidewalks will be crowded with walkers plus people waiting at bus stops in the morning. FYI, some of those side roads in Shadyside are one-way as you get closer to campus. Please don’t go the wrong way on a one-way street, cars don’t know to look out for you and it’s easy to get into an accident.
I’m also more than happy to ride in with you one day, or maybe better, ride some optional routes with you at another time of day and see what works. PM me if you’re interested.
ellsworth -> neville -> 5th -> head toward the cathedral when you feel like you are tired of dodging jagasses who aren’t happy with “only” 3 other lanes.
i usually hit the sidewalk between heinz chapel and and the cathedral and see how far i can manual and then work my way down to the corner of forbes and bigelow.
I’m a big fan of the side roads all the way too. There are many cyclists who ride down fifth the whole way, but it just seems too stressful.
The extra couple of blocks out of the way are totally worth it for the relaxation.
FYI, some of those side roads in Shadyside are one-way as you get closer to campus. Please don’t go the wrong way on a one-way street, cars don’t know to look out for you and it’s easy to get into an accident.
incidentally, a few of the one-way roads in shadyside are one way because (i believe) residents don’t want traffic from busy streets riding down their road. pembroke is a perfect example of this. it is one way toward aiken for about a block, from st. james, two ways for the rest of the street. residents drive both ways on these streets oftentimes, and it is quite reasonable to bike the wrong way on them.
Yes, it’s exactly designed to keep people out of “their” neighborhood. I’ve always respected the one-way signs and taken 5th or Ellsworth instead, but if the residents are driving both ways, I find that really offensive. I’d love to have a city-maintained private road in front of my house too, where can I sign up?
The stop signs on Amberson are a similar case. I stop at 99% of stop signs but I have no qualms blowing through those ones. People won’t drive the speed limit so instead of enforcing it they put up a couple of stupid stop signs to slow down traffic. Of course, some people in cars just blow those too, but for the most part they probably achieve their real purpose of getting people to slow down.
The street in front of my house is one-way for a block, and the only people I see violating that are cyclists. Even the people who live right on the end of the block go all the way around, as far as I have seen.
My path from Panther Hollow Trail to Dippy involves traveling the length of Filmore. For one half a block, from Craig to about the doorway to CMU’s police office, it’s one way toward Craig. I just take the sidewalk and am very slow and careful. I suppose I could just blow right down the street against traffic, but there are a lot more cars than pedestrians for that 100 or so feet.
Now if they just had a staircase with a bike tire ramp up the back of the Carnegie Museum complex, we’d be set.
^Stu, you can get from Craig to the back of the museum complex via the parking lot entrance on Craig St. There’s a pedestrian bridge somewhat hidden behind the parking garage elevator shaft that drops you right next to the lecture hall in back of the museums & library. You can do the whole thing with no stairs: I just dismount if pedestrians are present.
 to the OP: If you brought 2 bikes with you, just try each for a few days and see which you like better for your commute. The mountain bike *might be better in winter. Your commute seems pretty short: if you keep both bikes in good shape, it might be fun to ride one instead of the other in case of a flat tire (or boredom).
@Pseudacris – I think I know what you’re talking about, but I was trying to get from, say, the wooden railroad trestle area on S. Neville/Boundary to the back of the Carnegie, without having to touch Craig or Forbes. IMHO this is the third-most needed set of bicycle steps in Pittsburgh, #1 being Duck Hollow Trail to Second/Irvine, and #2 Jail Trail to Birmingham Bridge.
Stu, there are stairs on Joncaire that do what I think you want.
Hey, I live and work in the area. Fifth can be pretty busy but it is used by a lot of cyclists so drivers tend to pay a little more attention there.
Ellsworth could be your best bet.
@Ahlir there are stairs on Joncaire …
Are those steps open? They were closed off at some point- not sure if that was temporary or not.
@Stu somtimes I ride up the sidewalk @ Joncaire. It’s wide enough you can dismount for peds. Sometimes it has glass. Take a hard right at the top for Schenley Plaza.
You can also cross the rr tracks, take a right/U turn up through the CMU parking garage and wind your way up another hairpin turn to Frew. Kinda steep, though.
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