MAY 17: ATTEND THIS PUBLIC MEETING ON CITY’S SHADYSIDE TRAFFIC CALMING PROPOSAL
This is on the BikePgh main page (https://bikepgh.org/2018/05/14/may-17-attend-public-meeting-citys-shadyside-traffic-calming-proposal/), but since I never see that I’d post it here as well.
This Thursday 6-7:30 pm at Liberty Elementary.
Also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PGHDistrict8/posts/1469699793140584.
Notes from the meeting.
Kristen Saunders discussed the goals of the DOMI (Department of Mobility & Infrastructure) effort and the different types of bike infrastructure. The overall goal is to connect Oakland and East Liberty through Shadyside, which is important because Ellsworth is the second most heavily traveled bike route in the city according to the bike survey (47 cyclists/hour versus 60/hour on Penn Avenue downtown). She handed out maps for us to draw our own ideas on how to do that.
Here are some slides from the talk:
The different types of bike infrastructure
Here she talked about the ways different amounts of traffic affect the appropriate bike accommodation, mentioning that Ellsworth has the wrong kind; too much traffic for sharrows.
Fifth Avenue accommodation
Bike infrastructure on Fifth Avenue would require taking away a travel lane.
Baum or Centre accommodation
Baum or Center doesn’t connect Shadyside and has the same traffic problems as Fifth.
Ellsworth would require taking away parking for a bike lane.
Neighborhood street concept
A neighborhood street concept that could be implemented on low-traffic streets.
She then tried to open the meeting up to smaller meetings, where we would give feedback on stations spread around the room, but the crowd was having none of it. People were loaded for bear. Many of them had lived in Shadyside since the days in which it was the center of Pittsburgh’s industries (which I could believe, as the lead smelters that used to be in the area had left their mark), and had been parking in front of their houses since time immemorial, which is their natural right, guaranteed in the US Constitution, look it up. They were certain this meeting was merely cover for a plan to shove parking restrictions down the throat of poor politically powerless Shadyside residents, benefiting us nasty helmetless bikers, who blast through red lights. It was quite a time for a while. Eventually Kristen, and Erika Strassburger, the council representative, got the crowd calmed down and we started filling out our maps and discussing things at the stations.
I hope the next meeting will be a bit calmer. People may be aware, now, that Ellsworth parking removal is not the only option. They perhaps learned that they are being listened to.
Of the four proposals, I think the neighborhood streets concept is the most viable. I would expand it and make it more a “bikeable neighborhood” concept. Many streets in Shadyside are bikeable, not just the ones on the DOMI map, and I think bike accommodations (such as contra-flow lanes, bike lanes or sharrows where appropriate, bump-outs to slow motorized traffic, signage and road markings guiding cyclists) could make Shadyside not a bad neighborhood at all to travel through, and without removing parking AFAICT.
I think avoiding streets with stop signs at every or nearly every intersection would be a good idea. Jancey St., Chislett St., and Morningside Ave. have tons of stop signs along them which make it much more difficult to legally use these streets en-route to East End communities like Squirrel Hill, Oakland, Point Breeze, East Liberty and Shadyside from communities in the Allegheny Valley, like Aspinwall, Sharpsburg, Upper Lawrenceville, Etna, O’Hara Township, and Blawnox. Ellsworth Ave east of Negley Ave. is also riddled with stop signs.
The reason I mention these streets in Morningside is that climbing One Wild Pl. might be tough for novice cyclists as it is a very long hill with a switchback near the top. Climbing Baker St and them taking a left onto Jancey St. could be easier for cyclists who are not strong enough to climb One Wild Pl. Descending One Wild Pl. should not be a problem as long as the brakes are in good condition.
Avoiding stop signs allows cyclists to keep their momentum while traveling and not have to expend the extra energy accelerating from a full stop.
The flip side is that stop signs calm traffic which can make riding safer.
The combination of stop signs all over the place and implementation of the Idaho/Delaware stop sign rule, would make Ellsworth darn close to ideal for cycling.
The city is not authorized to make changes locally to state traffic law, so even a trial of this would have to have Harrisburg clearance. Don’t hold your breath.
@edronline, Excessive stop signs actually increase mid-block speeds because drivers want to make up for the time lost at a stop sign which is unnecessary 85% of the time. Couldn’t the City install exception signs under the stop signs for bikes similar the “Stop, except right turn” signs? Installation of roundabouts at the busy intersections and one or two-way stops at the less busy intersections. The eastbound stop sign on Ellsworth Ave. at Carron St. is necessary due to poor sight lines around the building that flanks the sidewalk.
In my experience, Ellsworth is the most obvious and effective east-west route. West of Neggles, it’s sufficiently roomy. The commercial district from Neggles to Spahr is so low-speed already that motor vehicle traffic isn’t inconvenienced by sharing/surrendering the lane. The Spahr to Shady “tunnel” is tight, but (eastbound) it’s only a couple blocks before it widens out and cars can pass.
While I’m sure some small improvements can be made, this smells to me of activists trying to forcibly jam cycling-specific infrastructure in where it’s not needed or politically practical. There are much more dangerous sections of road in town that should be higher priorities to address, where we’d get better return for our expenditure of political capital.
Saunders is following some standard rules for bike accommodations here, based on the traffic volume. By those rules, Ellsworth would need a protected bike lane. The sharrows there are inappropriate.
In my experience, between Negley and Spahr, the traffic is slow enough because of parking etc. to not be a problem. West of there, things speed up, and you run into confrontations with drivers who want to take advantage of the wider lanes.
I like the ideas that have been floated here about limiting the need for bikes to stop at turns etc. in the neighborhood street idea. I think ideas like that, together with the other ideas, could make Shadyside a very viable biking neighborhood. And for us experienced riders, who are comfortable in traffic, there is always Ellsworth, with or without sharrows.
@zzwergel is right, I was wrong — fewer stopsigns means slower traffic. Sorta counterintuitive, but I found a california government white paper that references a study. Also, fewer stop signs = less gas used, too, since less hit the gas/hit the brake.
I learn something new every day. :)
I think if the old Aspinwall railroad bridge is not going to be open to bikes and pedestrians, a small pedestrian bridge should be built across the interchange at the southern end of the bridge. A sidewalk or paved shoulder on the southern/western side of Washington Blvd. should also be installed from One Wild Pl. to Negley Run Blvd., running behind the interchange. Also, installing a chain-link fence on the barrier between the road and sidewalk so motorists cannot throw garbage onto the sidewalk would be a good idea.
@zzwergel – appreciate the info and feedback, but please keep on topic of the thread or start a new one.
What about the European yield and priority signs instead of three and four way stops? Would that do any good? Paris has at most one stop sign in the whole city.
LTE in the PG, seemingly related to this meeting:
Totally agree with Ornoth. I go out of my way to specifically ride through Shadyside because it’s already safe. It’s surrounded by the 3 most dangerous neighborhoods for cyclists in the triangle (Point Breeze, East Liberty, and Oakland.) If you want to avoid the East Liberty business district, you either have to cut through Shadyside to South Bloomfield or take Hamilton / Frankstown to E Liberty Blvd, then Negley to Penn.
I live in Point Breeze / Squirrel Hill North and I feel like I have to trade distance for safety. Penn and Fifth Ave are both pretty much “straight shots” downtown from my house, but I can’t ride on either of them because they’re so unsafe. I won’t ride on Penn between Negley and Wilkinsburg, or Fifth anywhere East of the Birmingham Bridge. The only real risks I experience on Ellsworth are potholes and potential for getting doored between Morewood and S Aiken. I think the reason Ellsworth is so heavily used is that it’s the safest East – West route in that area. The other reason is because all the residential streets in Shadyside end at S. Aiken instead of continuing to Morewood or Neville.
Usually my commute to work zig zags through Shadyside like: down Shady, left on Howe, right on Maryland, left on Ellsworth, (right on S. Aiken, Liberty, Smallman) or (right on Negley, pass Baum Blvd Aldi, Friendship Ave, Penn.)
Then on the way back, to avoid climbing Shady during rush hour, I’ll do S. Aiken to Ellsworth, Maryland, Howe to the dead end, trail through Bakery Square apartments / Mellon Park, Beechwood Blvd, Reynolds. Reynolds is frustrating because every time I climb it and go back down to S Dallas, I’m reminded that if Penn was safe, I could have just ridden on flat.
As Ornoth said, it just seems like there are a lot of neighborhoods that are way worse off safety-wise than Shadyside.
I am pretty comfortable biking in East Liberty. If you need to get to Trader Joe’s or Performance Bike from, Shady Ave., turn right into the left lane of Penn Ave. and turn left at the traffic light. Motorists can change lanes to pass if they are not turning. If you are not comfortable with that section of Penn Ave From southbound Maryland Ave,
- R. Walnut St
- L. Highland Ave.
- R. Centre Ave.
- R. Broad St.
- R. East Liberty Blvd.
- R. Penn Ave.
- R. Village of Eastside
Thanks zzwergel. I didn’t think about the fact that E Liberty Blvd pops out right there. Probably could just ride the sidewalk into the shopping center at that point.
IMO putting protected bike lanes on Fifth, Baum, and Centre are all better options than changing anything about Ellsworth. You could do something like Ellsworth & Shady pedestrian bridge -> Spirit St. -> Highland -> Baum / Centre. I wonder if it’s possible to connect the other ped bridge from the top level of the parking lot down to Centre with something bike friendly too? I’ve definitely just ridden down the ramp through the Whole Foods parking lot from there before. It’s not that bad.
I say go big and do Fifth Ave though. It would be nice to have a more direct route to Oakland than Amberson / Bayard.
I think the LTE has a point. Let’s rethink those bike lanes off of narrow neighborhood streets and straight onto our major roads. A Baum Blvd road diet makes a lot of sense to connect the bike routes on Millvale, Liberty, Negley, and soon Euclid. But it wouldn’t be fair to exclude people on the other side of Shadyside, so we should probably reconfigure Fifth Ave at the same time. Both of these are four lane undivided highways that only carry 10-11k cars per day. Fifth has heavy left turn volumes and Baum has dangerous weave/merge areas around intermittent on-street parking. These are classic road diet candidates.
Can’t figure out how to make pics work so here’s a Baum Blvd Road Diet
What is the current bike count on Ellsworth Ave, 5th Ave. Baum Blvd. and Penn Ave. between of Centre Ave. and 5th Ave? I think Putting sharrows on Baum Blvd between Euclid Ave. and Highland Ave. would also help with cyclists trying to reach the Highland Ave. business district in Shadyside.
@zzwergel – I’m not sure, but that area might get addressed when they do the big redesign of Penn Circle north and west when they convert that to two-way traffic patterns. I’m still not sure of the timeline for that project though. I know there were some initial community meetings but haven’t heard much since then.
Since Ellsworth Ave. already has a large amount of bike traffic, It would be worth studying the Ellsworth Ave.”Bikeshead”. Taking bicycle counts along Ellsworth Ave. between major intersections at peak times would be worthy of study. Counters should be installed on Ellsworth Ave. at Clyde St., Moorwood Ave., Aiken Ave., Negley Ave., College St., and Emmerson St.. Bike counts on Penn Ave. should be conducted at regular intervals between 40th St. and 5th Ave. (Point Breeze). The volume of cyclists in these areas can be used to determine where to place new bike infrastructure on other main streets like Baum Blvd., Highland Ave. 5th Ave., and Penn Ave. between 5th Ave. (Point Breeze) and Brushton Ave. Placing sharrows on Jancey St. and Chislett St. in Morningside would also be a good idea.
FWIW, I was mostly talking about that section of Baum you mentioned, as it intersects the penn circle project.
Look at this YouTube video about stop signs.
Pay special attention around the 4:10 mark.
I got this email from Erika Strassburger:
We are writing to address the proposed Oakland-Shadyside Connector project that has recently caused concern in the Shadyside community. We are working together to create a safe connection for all modes of transportation and for people of all ages and abilities between Oakland, Shadyside, and points east. We would like to thank you and fellow residents, business owners, and community stakeholders for sharing ideas and suggestions regarding this connection over the past month.
We have heard your concerns about the proposals presented and about the process so far. In response, we have made the decision to take a step back, regroup, and begin the process again in the future. We have a tremendous opportunity to address a number of traffic and mobility issues in this corridor, and we look forward to working with you through listening sessions, meetings, and other methods to find consensus.
To be clear, no changes will be made this year. We will announce plans for a new community process as soon as we are able. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, or comments.
Erika Strassburger, Pittsburgh City Council Member
Karina Ricks, Director of the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure
I’m wondering if the city could do better with the rollouts of these projects. First the downtown bike lanes. Now this. The backlash was predictable. But they always seem to be reactive instead of proactive.
I’ve been commuting through here for 2 months now, after a job change. Going Bloomfield/n Oakland to bakery square. I take Ellsworth from Morewood to Summerlee and then zigzag through the neighborhood to the bakery apartments/park on Penn/Fifth. The biggest issue I have had has been the commute home, after rush hour, and specifically at the lights on Negley and Aiken. It is a pleasant ride as long as motorists are not on your back wheel or squeezing past on the right for a turn. I ride the center of the lane the whole time because my life is more important than their speed. There are other options for motorists traveling e/w in a hurry. But at Aiken I have been told that they hope I don’t die (with sacasm) and threatened multiple times by motorists turning right on to aiken towards centre. The back streets are more enjoyable to ride because low motorist use and I can often get away with Idaho stop, but are not as direct. Baum/centre would be a better focus than Ellsworth in my opinion. I don’t see the desperate need to improve this, as taking the lane is still feasible. I’d rather not force bike lanes through the small streets and instead just improve the way motorists/cyclists interact in Ellsworth via education and signage.
Yes, the idea of zigzagging through the neighborhood was discussed at the meeting. It made the most sense to me, too, though there are a few points where you necessarily end up competing with cars. And the ever-present threat of taking away precious on-street neighborhood parking makes it tricky to implement. But I think it’s the closest thing there is to a plan that the neighborhood might go along with.
I don’t think Baum/Centre or Ellworth address the DOMI’s plans without a dedicated bike lane. There is just too much traffic to meet the standard they’re using. This doesn’t mean it’s not a viable route for someone who’s used to traffic, as we are, of course. It just doesn’t work for an inexperienced rider.
City planning in general tries to be pro-active, working with local groups etc. to develop plans. But it’s very hard to get people to engage until something is on the table. That’s what this meeting was supposed to be about, engage with people, put some ideas out there to get discussion started. It was an early planning meeting, that’s all. But the idea of bike lanes on Ellsworth riled everybody up and poisoned the discussion. It’s a shame, because Shadyside has a problem that’s only going to get worse, the city wants to do something to help, but it’s getting blocked.
Get rid of 3-way and 4-way stop signs and replace them with roundabouts, or add “Except Bikes” signs under the stop signs on the streets with heavy bike traffic. Below the stop signs on the cross streets, add “Look both ways for bikes” signs should also be added.
Nobody ever ever EVER suggests slowing down the damn cars. Enforce the speed limits.
Separate suggestion: Install speed cameras. Yes, I know we cannot issue tickets from speed cameras. That does not preclude using the technology to send written warnings. Let’s work out the technology details now, before we start tacking on fines.
We are now three years downstream of Susan Hicks’s death, when this topic was seriously discussed. In that time, nothing. Not a damn thing, that I’m aware of, to truly calm traffic in the city or enforce speed limits.
The issue here wasn’t slowing down the cars. Shadyside neighborhoods streets aren’t that bad. The issue is providing a connected network inexperienced people can use to get through the neighborhood. The biggest problem with that is that on some streets it requires contraflow bike lanes, which take up space.
The guide to which streets need separated infrastructure that Kristen referenced in her talk was based on traffic volume, not speed. Ellsworth would need a protected bike lane, according to it.
I was amazed to see the brazen selfishness, loud ignorance, and provincialism of the loud opponents of new bike lanes in Shadyside. Literally, these wealthy people said the following, with no shame(!!!):
- “You need to rethink trying to make it safe for 14-year-olds to bicycle, and instead only adults should be riding in the street”,
- “I have a *right* to parking outside my home on the street”,
- “I need that street parking for my home remodelers, gardeners, and other workers at my home, and I have a right to that space for them”
- “I have lived all my life in Shadyside and I have children and I’m opposed to the bike lanes”…. “sometimes my kids have almost been hit by bicyclists riding on the sidewalks”…”I’m opposed to bicycle lanes because I think those will take up valuable parking spaces and won’t make anything safer”…. “Bicycles in bike lanes will be dangerous to pedestrians at crosswalks”
- “I have a 90-year old neighbor who needs to drive occasionally, to get to doctor appointments and do other things. If street parking goes away on Ellsworth or other streets, it will make it too hard for that neighbor to find nearby parking.”
Erika Strassburger talked about her commitment to safe biking and walking and Ellsworth bike lanes in her electioneering material. I’m in her district, and I’m paying attention to what she does. I don’t know if she is being strategic and has plans to educate constituents, or if she is folding to the rich loud group from that meeting. I’m interested in what comes next, and willing to help if folks here or Strassburger come up with plans for educational pamphleting or other education or organizing efforts.
In big contrast, in the 2 weeks before Strassburger’s email I was in Sweden and Denmark. People there are much healthier, not only because of the great healthcare systems, but also because healthy movement is just an ordinary part of the day for most folks and it’s built into the transportation infrastructure. It’s super-safe to bicycle in those countries, because the populations have decided keeping people safe is a priority. Separated, raised bike lanes exists on most major streets, and they are often wide enough for 2 people to socially ride side-by-side in the same direction. Also there’s usually another lane or sidewalk right next to that marked walking-only that’s nice and wide, again, prioritizing space for healthy modes of transport. In Denmark, next to the highways there were bike lanes so even inter-city bike travel is easy and ordinary. In both countries, the mass transit (bus, train, and subway) systems are superb, affordable, and convenient. In both countries, the wonderful systems for safe transportation have the enthusiastic support of the voters, with people voting to be heavily taxed so they and their neighbors get these excellent systems. It was super-disappointing to return to Strassburger’s email and see that the wealthy folks of Shadyside (many of whom I’m ashamed to call my neighbors) cannot possibly imagine a bicycle lane to keep bicyclists safe on the most-bicycled street in Pittsburgh.
Sad, but not surprising, to hear of well-off people so vehemently opposed to something that can aide the less-established and less-fortunate in getting by, getting ahead, or keeping their transportation costs out of the stratosphere.
I heard that the same story applies to why there is no Busway station at the bottom of Amberson Ave.
If sections of the Baum-Centre Corridor need to be accessed via bus from Downtown, they should board the 77 Penn Hills which operates along Begelow Blvd. in Polish Hill to Craig St. and services Baum Blvd. between Craig St. and Negley Ave. The eastern end of the Baum-Centre Corridor can also be accessed from the Negley Ave. Busway Station, as well as the following local bus routes: 64, 71A, 71B, 71C, 74, 75, 77, 82, 86, 88, and 89. Since the 77 bus route operates via Bigelow Blvd., it would be the best bet for fast service to the western end of the Baum-Centre Corridor. The 75 Ellsworth bus provides service between Waterworks Plaza and South Side Works via the 5th Ave. bus lane and travels the entire length of Ellsworth Ave. in Shadyside. It operates roughly every 35 minutes on weekdays and every 45 minutes on Saturdays. The 77 bus operates every 30 minutes on weekdays and hourly on Saturday. the P1 operates every 12 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. Be careful with the 75 as a few trips end at either Bakery Sq. or Baker St. at Butler St. in Morningside and do not cross the Highland Park Bridge to service Aspinwall and Waterworks Plaza. Most trips do cross the Highland Park Bridge..
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