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Louisa St redesign: Bike rails on stairs? Bike Boulevard? public meeting: 5/2/13

Be part of the creation of Pittsburgh’s first Bike Boulevard The City of Pittsburgh and the Oakland Planning and Development Corporation (OPDC) are looking to re-envision Louisa St in Oakland. The idea is to make it a neighborhood centric street, creating a pleasant and safe walkway and bikeway through the neighborhood. There are lots of ideas on the table, including Pittsburgh’s first “bike boulevard,” street-scaping, lighting, etc. There is also a staircase where they are looking to brighten up and beautify as well as installing the city’s first bicycle rail, to help people with bicycles ascend and descend the steps. But they want your input! Join the public meeting and give your ideas. Thursday, May 2 7PM at the Oakland Career Center, 294 Semple St http://localhost/2013/04/30/louisa-st/
2013-04-30 14:25:51
Looking at the street, urgh. I guess it's a street that doesn't get much use, with those stairs in the way, and this is a way to give it new life. But I sure think the very same (or less) effort converting Joncaire so it was a good way to get from Bouquet to Boundary would be more useful. With the money left over you could mark Boundary so it's a bit safer for cyclists...
2013-04-30 14:40:00
But those steps are so beautiful, why would you want to change them?! I used to live at Mckee and Louisa, and this project will greatly, greatly benefit that area. Louisa is sparsely used by cyclists and walkers because it's so poorly designed -- but it could be a main artery through my beloved South Oakland.
2013-04-30 14:46:11
I don't really see why a cyclist would take Louisa, with its staircase, when there are relatively flat roads like Forbes and Fifth nearby that have more direct connections to the east and west. I guess it's useful if your destination is right in South Oakland, but I don't see many cyclists using it as a through route. But perhaps the question facing Bike Pgh is not "What street would make the best bike boulevard?" but "The city is redoing Louisa, want bike needs considered for it or not?" In which case, yes please.
2013-04-30 15:30:45
I agree with Elmo! Louisa St might not be a bike-thoroughfare right now, but if designed to accommodate bikes, etc, it would be a way & a destination... Plus, this is a public-meeting, so maybe if better ideas are out there, bring them!!!!
2013-04-30 15:40:49
Agreed with @Steven's analysis. It could be something if it gets connected to more. Is there any way to wind between buildings somehow and connect to Roberto Clemente Drive, or not realistically?
2013-04-30 20:01:33
But perhaps the question facing Bike Pgh is not “What street would make the best bike boulevard?” but “The city is redoing Louisa, want bike needs considered for it or not?” Steven - yes. this project is originating from the Oakland community and the City. We were asked to help provide ideas and to help do outreach to the cycling community. Of course we want to support any bike/ped improvement. The ideas floating around are to kinda discourage cars from using the street, and creating a bit of a park-like atmosphere with street furniture and plantings, etc. There is a lot of talk of "creating a place." I think if this project goes through and is successful, it could extend to sennot st, and possibly be replicated on other streets in the city. Is it the first street where i'd like to see bike boulevard happen? probably not. but the oakland community is gung ho to do something creative and innovative here, the city is on board, so i think it's important to support this however we can.
2013-04-30 20:01:50
especially if we want to see this kinda stuff and thinking in other communities where they aren't even thinking on these terms
2013-04-30 20:04:45
Actually, since you mentioned sennot st, let's please at least throw the one block of Atwood into the mix and then you do get something more continuous and slightly useful... to a cyclist even (but only if you create a reasonably wide (so cyclists going in opposite directions don't have to negotiate who goes first) shallow ramp alternate to the stairs (realistically this won't get a lot of use if people have to get off their bike)). Of course, the story continues with network effects galore the more you build on, and there are a lot of great candidates in the area, but that discussion would take up too much space.
2013-04-30 21:01:00
I'd love to see this connected to sennot by putting directional sharrows on atwood and meyran between sennot st and louisa st, which would connect that to the walkway between pitt campus buildings (which is one of the busiest crosswalks in oakland).
2013-05-01 07:31:36
The stairs are a big thing on this street. I don't really see much traffic going through here since it's only a few blocks long and has a staircase in the middle. I don't know how ADA regs would affect any changes to this. I'd love to see a bike channel on both sides of the stairs, with a wider staircase. Even better would be a few switch backs, which are probably expensive and may not fit in this space. Even a ramp that covers the whole distance would be nice if it was a reasonable grade, but I think ADA maximum grade is something like 14 percent, which could be hard to accomplish in the space they have to work with. Here's what the stairs look like now.
2013-05-01 08:15:57
Like Benzo said, the stairs inhibit traffic, so the street isn't really a main thoroughfare for cars. While I don't use it now, I'd certainly use it as a way to get from Schenley into Oakland. Head down the Boulevard to Bates, then on Coltart and use Louisa to get to Forbes. Nice to see the city and the folks in Oakvegas are looking to change this area. It has some real potential.
2013-05-01 08:26:24
As a resident of south oakland for 11 years, i've never used those stairs with my bike, and don't ride between Halket & Coltart either, although that may be more related to where I'm headed instead of the street's condition. Between McKee & Atwood, I'll ride for a block on occasion, but generally its crossing Lousia along one of the other streets. I'll support thier decision to build & revamp the street, but I'm not sure how it will impact or change my riding habits & patterns. Then again, there are a number of city planning projects that don't make much sense to me. *cough* northside monorail extention *cough*.
2013-05-01 08:57:27
I may go to the meeting. It appears that people will make use of the redesigned street, which is an improvement over what's there now, anyway. I'm glad people are thinking in terms of improving bicycle access in Oakland, which sorely needs it, even if this isn't the first project I would have picked.
2013-05-01 09:20:18
I have a friend who commutes to magee, I think this could make getting there much easier if the staircase were made cycle friendly. I work in oakland, but I doubt I'd use it much, mostly because It doesn't take me anywhere I need to go and I really want to avoid having to get off my bike to traverse stairs. I still think it's a nice idea.
2013-05-01 10:36:03
I went from one end of Louisa street to the other and back last night. It won't be a through fare for bike traffic. No matter what they do to it. Doesnt' go anywhere and has a set of stairs in the middle. End of story for that. The last block on the Southwest end is Belgian block. I like that in general - nice aethetics and traffic calming. It sucks for bikes. Still I wouldn't want them to get rid of it. The stairs have a cemented block slope next to them which I pushed my bike up. At the top I had to push through undergrowth and lift the bike over a guard rail. That could be fixed easily enough for very little money. On the other hand, the slope is so steep I doubt that it would be acceptable for general use as a walk up incline. Slightly more money for a bike track up the stairs - even so, I doubt it would get much use. Still a nice gesture for the bike community, even if mainly symbolic. The area around those steps might make a nice micropark though - Tearrace a flat spece about ahlf way up and put a picnic table there, it might be a nice place to have. Probably become a hang out for underage drinkers and such, though. Making the rest of Louisa into some kind of green space might be nice - possibly awesome - but wouldn't do much specifically for biking.
2013-05-01 11:07:59
@ benzo I have a friend who commutes to magee, I think this could make getting there much easier if the staircase were made cycle friendly. Nice idea in theory. But doubtful - unless he lives on Atwood and enters Magee through some side entrance that I missed when assessing that end of Louisa for exactly that possibility.
2013-05-01 11:10:42
i just like this project on a pure urban design level.
2013-05-01 11:43:51
I could see this as part of a way to get from near the Carnegie Library to that part of Oakland, or Magee Women's. There aren't really good alternatives in that part of the city. One thing I'd worry about is the Belgian block. I suspect people have a sentimental attachment to it, or it would have been paved over by now, but it really doesn't work as a riding surface.
2013-05-01 11:55:34
I just walked this street during lunch and the first thing that I noticed was that some streets do not have stop signs and only have marked crosswalks on 1/2 of the intersection. It would be very easy to add 4 way stop signs to all of these intersections (or give right of way to louisa st users with 2 way stop signs stopping cross traffic). I don't mind a bit of belgian block, at least it's typically not full of potholes and mounds of poorly packed cold patch. Magee also has an entrance on halket st, just north of louisa. Not sure how my friend gets in to work though. I think this leads to the underground parking garage though where there are some bike racks. Not quite sure. Update: According to bob's maps, that is the garage entrance.
2013-05-01 11:58:59
erok wrote:i just like this project on a pure urban design level
I think that's the nugget, really. It's not going to revolutionize Oakland. It's not a primo location. But it's going to be a first landfall demo-site for some concepts that are seen in other cities but new to the Burgh. Love the bike-ramps on both sides. That's going to be huge. Given the nature of Oakland, I'd make the ramps wide enough to accomodate roller-suitcases (new multi-modal vision statement!) for student moving days. This is going to be great, whatever details they decide to go with. This is another notch in the future. (sorry for seeming positive, I know it's uncharacteristic of me)
2013-05-01 18:07:56
The stairs do seem wide enough to walk a bike up or down using a ramp without being too crowded. It would be a squeeze to do it when someone else is coming up/down the stairs (which currently isn't much of a problem). I'd like to see a handicap style curb cutout at the bottom and top of the stairs (as opposed to the bridge from ellsworth ave to the parking garage which makes you hop a curb on one side - that just sucks)
2013-05-02 07:14:45
The parking barriers, guard rail, and sidewalk rails at the top make me think I should be expecting a truck to be flying full speed at the end of this street on a weekly basis. I thought it was overkill till I remembered the cars crashing in to buildings thread, but some of that definitely needs to be removed to make a direct path for bikes to enter the staircase. It's a bit tight trying to make that 90 degree turn at the top of the steps.
2013-05-02 07:18:23
The stairs should be made the full width of the ROW and made into a little micro-park in and of themselves, with plantings and possibly a ramp incorporated. Like a little Oakland "Spanish steps". For whomever asked, handicapped ramps are 1:12 max slope, in other words, for every inch up, 1 foot out. We're talking a long ramp here. But not impossible. Unfortunately, soccer practice tonight.
2013-05-02 07:26:39
I really hope ADA requirements don't kibosh the whole idea. ADA makes perfect sense for a lot of places -- most, in fact -- but not all. ADA's purpose was to allow people in wheelchairs access to get in and out of buildings and buses and other public facilities with the same relative ease as people not in wheelchairs. But it was also developed 20-some years ago when hardly anyone got around by bicycle. OTOH, the steps are infrastructure from 100 years ago, when people's primary means of transportation was feet, supplemented by the occasional trolley car. I want to see lots more structures like the walkway on the north end of the Fort Duquesne Bridge and the connector from the North Shore Trail to Herr's Island. But not here.
2013-05-02 08:38:30
The safety history of Lousia isn't the greatest, there is a ghost bike on the corner of Meyran. But anything that improves the ride quality of life ain't a bad thing.
2013-05-02 10:49:32
(or give right of way to louisa st users with 2 way stop signs stopping cross traffic) planners say this is definitely on the table. Another problem this project is trying to address is that the steps area seems dangerous, esp at night. they really want to do some stuff to at least make it feel like a place that you wouldn't want to hang out if you were a sketchy person or college kid getting drunk and breaking bottles.
2013-05-02 15:23:39
@ erok they really want to do some stuff to at least make it feel like a place that you wouldn’t want to hang out if you were a sketchy person or college kid getting drunk and breaking bottles. How might that be different frrom a place you wouldn't want to hang out with if you were a peaceful person looking to be outdoors on a nice evening?
2013-05-02 15:37:01
"How might that be different frrom a place you wouldn’t want to hang out with if you were a peaceful person looking to be outdoors on a nice evening? " I'd start by getting rid of the dumpsters
2013-05-02 16:41:38
Also don't let some toolbag claim the entire end of the public right-of-way with spray paint as "Private Parking" (per Google streetview).
2013-05-02 19:29:10
I wonder how this meeting went? Any updates?
2013-05-03 06:49:39
I was there. It was mostly an introductory meeting to the plans, to get community feedback. They don't have a design yet. The next meeting is May 30, where they will have a design. The idea is to create a "bike boulevard" with lots of signs, traffic calming, and cross streets signed to stop (no stop signs on the bike boulevard itself). There were about 20-25 people there, including speakers. Paul Rosenblatt of Springboard Design gave the talk. Pat Hasselt from the city was there, along with people from Oakland Planning (OPDC). They will not be taking away on-street parking (this was a big concern to the residents). They will also not be making Louisa one-way or changing the direction of any of the cross streets. There are lots of options for street furniture, trees, painting or lighting the steps, maybe food trucks, kiosks, etc. They will be putting LED lights and improving the lighting of the street. A big part of the plan is to clean up the area, to make it look cared for, taking care of the dumpsters and weedy sections next to the steps. We talked a little about the Belgian block on the west end of the street. They are aware of the issue with bikes and are looking at smoothing, partial paving, etc. Joncaire St also came up -- it sounds like there are definite plans to rebuild the city stairs there and add bike rails on both sides (the Louisa Street steps are only wide enough for one bike rail). Comments etc. should go to OPDC.
2013-05-03 07:13:40
Thanks for the summary jonawebb.
2013-05-03 07:37:56
jonawebb - you ran out so quick, i was going to introduce myself and meet irl!
2013-05-03 08:25:29
Hey, that was you! I sort of guessed -- you looked sort of erok-like.
2013-05-03 08:52:49
i kinda want to know what that means...but i kinda don't too
2013-05-03 09:16:27
I was at the meeting last night, along with Erok. In the new design, the bike boulevard will start at Coltart -- it doesn't include the Belgian block section of Louisa near Halket. And they've done layouts for parking in the plaza next to the top of the steps, and planned which trees to plant with Tree Pittsburgh. There's also a tree and some benches planned for the space at the top of the steps. And there will be "domes" at the intersections on Louisa street to slow car traffic -- like speed bumps but bigger and more gradual so they don't slow down bikes, and circular so they work for traffic in both directions. The big decision last night was between three designs for the steps, which were: 1) Rebuild the steps with a handicapped ramp (which would involve a lot of switchbacks); 2) Leave the steps where they are, and add terraces and space for planting along the sides; 3) Leave the steps where they are and put art on the sides. In all three designs there will be a bike rail added to the steps. The handicapped ramp is the most expensive since it requires completely rebuilding the steps. The crowd tended towards the terracing, since they like green space, and aren't too fond of public art. But there's a lot more maintenance required because someone will have to take care of the plants. We discussed how that might work, with maybe some community groups or schools planting plots, etc. The next steps are to flesh out the first two options -- handicapped ramps and terraces -- with thinking about maintenance of the gardens. BTW -- this is all design. There is no funding source identified yet.
2013-05-31 07:40:20
Update via OPDC: Louisa Street enhancement plans move forward
DPW reported Mackin Engineering Company will complete engineering drawings of the preferred design for the new Louisa Street steps. ...there are also near-term improvements planned. DPW plans to install a runnel, a narrow ledge that allows cyclists to roll their bikes alongside the staircase, and a stop sign on McKee Place at Louisa Street.
2013-09-18 15:26:27
They installed the runnel.
2013-12-11 16:53:59
These would be great on the stairs around Keystone Metals/the Glenwood Bridge Maybe when I'm 70 PennDot will start adding bike infrastructure
2013-12-11 17:00:14
Adult Me wants to push a bike up that so badly. 11-Year-Old Me wants to roll a Hot Wheels car down that so badly.
2013-12-11 22:10:53
It's hard to imagine anyone using that other than to show they can. It's a shame it couldn't go someplace useful. Like Pierce says -a t the end of the Glenwood bridge would be great.
2013-12-12 01:44:07
Hell, 11 yr old me wants to ride down it.
2013-12-12 07:43:10
Mick wrote:It’s a shame it couldn’t go someplace useful.
Louisa is the only street south of Forbes to run all the way from Atwood to Halket. Putting the runnel there to make the street more accessible to cyclists actually makes some sense. And since this is, I think, the first runnel in the city, a short set of stairs is a good place to start.
2013-12-12 09:22:04
edmonds59 wrote:Hell, 11 yr old me wants to ride down it.
so does 36 year old me.
2013-12-12 10:56:22
I really like that the city is trying out a few things here. By trying them in an out of the way location it will allow the designs to be tweaked and refined without an instant backlash and letters to the editors. Of course it won’t get as much use here either, so I think it is important for cyclist to go out of our way and try it out and give feedback. BTW, is the runnel installed right? Pulling up some photos on the google shows it’s more often located way over to the side - almost under the railing, or in the middle of the stairs from side to side. In its current location it looks like it would interfere with a person walking up/down the right side.
2013-12-12 11:02:34
they were probably wary of the high railing interfering with handlebars, but didn't want to "block" the staircase by putting it in the middle.
2013-12-12 11:10:01
I used it a couple days ago, going down. I actually found it quite difficult, though the fact that the steps were covered in ice didn't help. It's too close to the railing to be able to get between them, so you have to lean over the bike to reach the railing, or hold the bike and not the railing---but the ramp is so steep, the bike tries to run away, and the steps are so covered in ice, I felt like I was going to fall if I didn't hold on. It was very hard to fight both the ice and the weight of the bike at the same time; I ended up leaning the bike over against the railing, grabbing the seatpost under the saddle with my right hand, and holding the railing with my left... it felt like it would almost have been easier to just carry the damn thing. Also, there's no ramp across the landings, so if you're not holding the 'bars, the bike will try to steer one way or another away from the ramp.
2013-12-12 11:13:37
hold the saddle with the left hand, squeeze the rear brake with the right. instant semi-mobile railing/steering and speed dampened bike. it works hiking down trails in the woods tat are considerably less friendly than tis set up so i assume it would work well here too.
2013-12-12 11:16:38
Please continue to give feedback here. DPW wants to know what people think and if any tweaks can be made. specifically, if they did move it closer to the railing, would it still work?
2013-12-12 16:17:40
I might use this tomorrow for fun. As it stands now, it looks like I'll have to use it at a slight angle so my panniers don't rub up against the rails, so if it were further against the rail, that would be even more an issue, but I'll test it to see I agree that Louisa doesn't look like much of a thoroughfare, but it would be cool if it were closed off to car traffic and used as kind of a ped boulevard, kind of like market square, minus the annoying traffic going pointlessly around the circle
2013-12-12 16:56:09
@ Buffalo Buffalo Were you going anywhere that this was a good route? Or were you just doing it to do it? I'm not asking this to be snarky. (or, more accurately, I'm not asking this JUST to be snarky.)
2013-12-12 16:58:11
Mick wrote:Were you going anywhere that this was a good route? Or were you just doing it to do it?
I was going from work (in east Oakland) to a show at PPU's Pittsburgh Playhouse on Craft, so while it wasn't the most direct route (since i still had to get around the hospital), it wasn't entirely out of the way, either.
2013-12-12 19:02:01
When are kids gonna destroy it grinding down it on skateboards/fruitboots?
2013-12-13 13:09:43
i just checked it out today. it could be moved in a few inches, but don't really think it's all that necessary. going down it, i found it fine to just hold onto the seat and walk down the steps. i didn't have to battle ice on the steps tho.
2013-12-13 15:56:07
I used it on Friday and say it could be moved a couple of inches out more. With my panniers, first they rubbed the rail sign and then would rub the concrete. It was easier going up than down, but I only have a front brake ATM. As far as Louisa St goes overall though, I'd like to remind people that one of the Louisa cross streets is where our first (I believe) Pittsburgh ghost bike was placed. I think Louisa st still gets a lot of commuting cross traffic
2013-12-14 21:13:22
Upon rereading, I think Erok meant "move in" as in away from the rails, whereas I said "move out" meaning moving out from the rails, but essentially we're saying the same thing. Move the runnel more towards the center of the stairs. But I also agree that it's not really a big deal if it isn't moved. If I were using it everyday, I might be more keen on it being moved, but since I don't, I'm like "eh"
2013-12-15 10:07:51
My pedals kept hitting the flat sections of sidewalk when pushing my bike up on the louisa st stairs, it's a bit easier than carrying my bike though. Not really sure that much could be done about that though.
2014-03-10 09:09:46
Blue lines are stairs, red is the path... you can figure it out.
2014-03-10 09:26:17