PA28 Millvale on-ramp bike lane
This got started in the dangerous drivers thread (starting with this post), and may have gotten a mention in other threads, but this deserves its own.
There is, as of mid-December 2014, a new way for a cyclist to get onto the 40th Street Bridge. On Dec 21, it was apparently open for business, without restriction or fanfare.
I tried this on my way to the Hanukkah Ride. I am not favorably impressed.
On the good side, it is easy to get into it. I felt fairly protected as I rode up to the corner, as there is a separation of several feet from moving traffic, said traffic being merely the cars who followed me through the light off of Grant Ave in Millvale.
At the top, though, despite a small “Yield To Bikes” sign, you have to merge into traffic making a left turn with you onto the bridge. I did not feel at all comfortable doing this.
The southbound bridge can be 1- or 2-lanes across. Both present potentially serious trouble. On Sunday afternoon, as with any weekday after 9am, it was one. This means you on a bike have to merge right, directly into the path of the car to your right, which will then be breathing down your neck the length of the bridge.
Three significant problems with this: A) If you wipe out, they have little chance to stop in time. B) They will be reluctant to pass, as two-lane northbound traffic in the bridge’s center lane routinely goes 60 mph. C) There is (and for at least four years has been) a large raised bump in the right lane that’s enough to throw a cyclist out of control. I want that bump removed! Now!
OTOH if it’s before 9am, southbound traffic is two lanes across, so faster traffic will want to get in the left lane to pass you, but you just got trapped in the left lane when they realize they will be following you in the left lane so start passing you on the right, so now you have BOTH motorists breathing down your neck in the left lane AND passing you on the right.
Hey PennDOT, how did you come up with this scheme without involving the cycling community?
I will try to get video up of my Sunday excursion, and will soon try a pre-9am trip, as well.
In my opinion, it just shouldn’t be there. We don’t need to encourage cycling on the 40th St bridge which could result in more dangerous traffic behavior. The arc of the bridge also creates a bit of a blind hill as I recall so drivers passing could easily do so in a bad situation for everyone involved. We need to prioritize our bike infrastructure and I’m willing to cede the 40th St Bridge to drivers in favor of the sidewalk which is adequate and provides much more safety.
This pains me to say, but we need to be careful not to criticize PennDot too much least they give up on us entirely (which they are pretty close to anyhow). Yes, they should have consulted with someone (bike Pgh? Millvile?) before designing this, but at least they were trying. I’d hate for them to get a lot of negative feedback from cyclists and then throw their arms up and say forgetaboutit and never consider another bike lane in the district. So constructive feedback should not be discouraged, but consider the bigger picture too.
Went to see this last Monday after Colleen posted pictures in her blog last weekend. After seeing the photos I was confused, so we rode out to look at it. After seeing what they were doing I was even more confused. It looked like a very dangerous alternative to the current nice, safe, sidewalk route.
We puzzled over how this would be beneficial and came up blank. As it happened we were planning a stop at the Bike Pgh office, so we asked them about it, but at the time they weren’t aware of it at all and couldn’t comment.
I’ve decided to stick to the sidewalk. I just don’t need that kind of excitement in my rides. However, I have to agree with Marco. I kind of hate to criticize a gift. I really like that someone was trying to provide us with more infrastructure, and I’d like to express appreciation for the effort. At some point I would hope that Bike Pgh or someone in a position to discuss this stuff with the powers-that-be will maybe be able to tactfully explain why this needs a bit more thought.
What SR said ^^, because: Rule12.
If I were to suggest a single improvement, I’d put a green path between the cyclist stop-point at the top of the hill and the downstream sidewalk. This would convey the desired flow to the cyclist and give the drivers a hint as to what’s likely to happen.
Sort of, very much similar to the green-box and path connecting Penn at 16th from the Strip side of the intersection showing the transition into the bike lanes on the downtown side of the intersection.
But the sidewalk works very well for me.
Is there some issue on the other shore, that merits skipping the upstream sidewalk so as to access the downstream sidewalk?
My suggestion #1: Give the bike lane an advanced green of about three or four seconds, with everyone else stopped, so we can get over to the downstream sidewalk or the curb lane, and thus establish ourselves in the lane without having to contend with potential side-swipes.
My suggestion #2: Make the center lane a permanent, two-direction bike lane. Coincident with this, make the bridge 25 mph, 24/7/365 both directions.
My suggestion #3: Get this speedway under control. The ambient 60 mph on the bridge is totally unacceptable, even for other cars. There is zero enforcement, ever. Cars northbound are already over 40 mph by the time they pass Foster St. (How do I know this? I follow people on my motorcycle every once in a while.)
Stu, I was thinking along the same lines:
1. 15 seconds, not 3-4. Biker should be able to start and then accelerate.
2. I like middle line to be a bicycle permanent one but it brings problems at each end of the bridge — you have to cross car traffic (unless you continue on 40).
25 mph would be nice but 35 mph with enforcement would be even nicer.
V, I don’t think you want Rule #12, and since I’m expecting non-cyclists to read this, I think we need to quote the reference. We want to invoke:
Rule #59: Ride predictably, and don’t make sudden movements. And, under no circumstances, are you to deviate from your line.
Or are we talking about the same list of rules? None of these seems all that applicable.
Here is the raised blob I refer to in my second post, above. It is about 3/4 of the way across the bridge.
I also don’t want any criticism to make PennDOT think that their efforts aren’t appreciated but they need to consult more with actual cyclists especially those who frequent these areas. In addition, really bad bike infrastructure threatens to not only endanger cyclists but also strengthen the critics of bike infrastructure. I would be amazed if they changed the lane structure on the 40th St. Bridge with traffic conditions and rush hour congestion already poor under the current circumstances. As a result, encouraging bikers to bike in the one accessible lane is a recipe for road rage. Encouraging drivers to pass them with blind hills is a recipe for disaster.
Yeah, this thing is a mess. I’ll stick to the damn sidewalk. I would possibly use the downhill direction, after hopping off the sidewalk. Having a nice transition from the sidewalk to the downhill bike lane would have been a decent idea. I doubt I will ever use the uphill direction. This is just asking for trouble.
What was the problem here? Lack of local input, which is the thing that is most wrong with penndot’s process in general. This kind of thing makes me frustrated, because this could really get someone killed.
Here is rear-facing camera (sideways, sorry…) of the approach to the bridge, and the turn. Note that there are two cars. One came up the ramp from Millvale. The other came from mainline PA28. The Millvale car had to deal with both slowing for me, who he could see, and dealing with the much faster car coming off of 28. They didn’t collide, but I really felt sorry for the Millvale guy since he was watching me, not the faster car on his rear-right.
Note: This was caught with ONE TRY at this configuration.
Meanwhile, I’ve been going up the sidewalk on the left two or three times a week all year without any sort of traffic problem. The worst situation there is that the turn onto the bridge sidewalk from road sidewalk is a bit narrow, and blind, but that’s dealing with bike-vs-bike or bike-vs-pedestrian at 2 mph, not bike-vs-car at 10 mph.
Well that is just dumb and dangerous. Thanks for spending money on something stupid! I am tired of excuses and “well this is the best we could do!” Cause it isn’t the best.
Oh and are we ever going to get a fucking convex mirror on the shitty bike path between the pointless protected bike lane on saline and the trailhead parking lot? “Walk your bikes” isn’t a good suggestion if people in both directions aren’t doing it. if there is enough traffic, it is too loud to be heard warning others that you are coming around a blind corner, even if you’re screaming.
I hear this is festivis.
And furthermore, I am still tired of bike lanes being the door zone. This does not make sense from a road wear and paint wear point of view (drivers going over the bike lane to get in and out of parking spots). This has been brought up numerous times and nothing has been done.
Stef I am afear’d of what you might do when it comes time for “feats of strength”
I drove it last night going to a Pitt basketball game and the downhill from the bridge makes sense. Uphill is scary. Other thing is that cars will also be turning right onto the bridge from the other direction the second the uphi side turns red. That, plus the changes in the lane configuration tgroigout the day plus the changes in the # of left turn lanes during the day makes this whole situation cray cray.
No idea how to fix it.
I love the protected bike lane on Saline. I don’t get how anyone could complain about it? There is no door zone on it at all and it is clear sailing. I think some people just like to complain no matter what. Goodness! Keep the protected bike lanes coming. Great stuff and thank you so much for your dedication! Many people love them!
Back to the 40th St Bridge situation, if I may give PennDOT one more suggestion, it would be to consider the southern end of the bridge in any discussion about the northern end.
* Southbound riders on the upstream sidewalk have a serious problem getting into southbound traffic on 40th St beyond the bridge. If there was a safe, simple way to get to the downstream sidewalk at the north end of the bridge, that would help that situation significantly.
* The mirror applies, too. One common shortcut (however legal or not it might be is irrelevant) to get from Smallman St to Millvale is to cut through the little industrial park at the end of Foster St at 39th Street. This places cyclists on the 40th St sidewalk on the southbound side. They must either cross 40th here, or cross the bridge on the downstream sidewalk and cross 40th at the Millvale end of the bridge. Neither is palatable to me, an experienced cyclist, and I’m sure both would scare the hell out of anyone else.
Both of the above situations have direct ramifications for the new lane and corner at the north end. Please, PennDOT, pay attention to the needs of your audience.
Stu, I haven’t been there yet, but will check it out soon. So, if you are at the end of the path and are wanting to go across the 40th St. Bridge, can you shoot over to the sidewalk on either side or better yet, have a choice of which side you want to use? I don’t think I will ride on that bridge. I like the looks of the bike lane since it is so big, but if you can’t access the sidewalk at the end, it seems like a situation, I would just get on the sidewalk the entire way from Millvale’s park to the 40th Street Bridge as I have done in year’s past.
@gg: I believe stef was opining about the bit that starts on Greenfield, goes under the bridge, right onto 2nd and right again onto Swinburne to reach the EFT.
It’s a total disaster. I haven’t used it for years. Come to think of it, it appears to share the general design vision on exhibit in the 40th Br bike lane currently under discussion.
I’m not sure of the right solution, given that 2nd is 3 lanes at that point. Ideally it goes down to 2 lanes (how much of the traffic goes up Greenfield might be the issue) and a protected lane replaces the current (useless) jersey barrier solution.
Alternately, sharrow that stretch in both directions and put in a light at Swinburne so that bikers can more easily get onto 2nd outbound; heck, why not make it intelligent so that it trips only when there’s bikes (and, ok, cars) waiting to get onto 2nd?
My favorite solution remains a passageway under the tracks, directly connecting Saline and the EFT. How complicated can that be? I mean, there’s always money for highway widening and new exchanges. Which I pay for. Why not a few of those bucks for this loose-change improvement? Wolf? Peduto? UPMC/Pitt? Is there anyone out there listening?
Going into town 2nd subsequently turns into a 4-lane. That’s too many lanes for the traffic I’ve seen. You could have 3 lanes (with one lane alternating direction per time of day, like on the 40th).
A protected lane would mesh nicely with the HMB and Bates interchanges and prove a direct route into town for commuters. The EFT could settle into a role as a pleasant recreational trail, accommodating bikers, bladers, runners and families out for a walk. I’m sure that the lycras would prefer 2nd in any case (well, if they figure out traffic light timings).
I wish the protected-bike-lane discussion was taking place in the protected-bike-lane thread.
To @gg’s concern, if you are coming off the river trail, you need not be concerned at all with the new lane. Just cross the railroad tracks, hang a left onto the sidewalk up to the bridge, and cross the bridge on the upstream sidewalk.
The turn onto the bridge (never leaving the sidewalk) is a bit narrow, but just be careful you don’t clobber anyone. You have to go a walking pace, or slower, anyhow, so this generally isn’t an issue.
At the city end of the bridge, it’s a bit tricky to get across moving traffic to get to inbound Butler Street, so I don’t bother. I just hook around to the left onto the scrap of 40th Street that goes down to the river, and squeeze between the jersey barriers under the bridge. That gets you to 39th St and generally clear sailing toward town.
@Ahlir, okay, I don’t like that jersey barrier narrow blind mess. I do ride my bike in there sometimes and go really slow, but I almost got into a head-on with some other cyclist going too fast as if there wouldn’t be anyone coming around the blind corner. WRONG!
@ Stu, I will try the bike lane first for the heck of it. I will want to get on the sidewalk. Generally, I am on the other side of the bridge and I also go through that opening as you stated. Love going through those parking lots for a break from traffic. I am now on a fat bike, so I am more options. Love riding through the Highland Park Trail to work! Thanks to John Read for helping keep those trails nice.
Anyway, after I ride that Millvale ramp, I will chime back in. Maybe this weekend.
I took this on the way back from the randonnée Sunday and I thought it was just fine. I didn’t remember if we’d decided it was a bike lane or not so I rode up the road for a ways until I saw the biker stencil in the lane and then moved over. Approaching the light, there’s a really big arrow pointing diagonally right, instructing you to merge into the traffic lane. So I did that, then waited at the light, and then proceeded left to the sidewalk when it changed. I didn’t have any trouble with motorists because I was taking the lane at the light. I think the problem with the OP on the Dangerous Drivers thread was that he stayed to the left, making space so a driver could pull up to the light on this right. Possibly the diagonal arrow wasn’t painted yet.
Anyway, maybe the signage could be better, or there could be a green lane telling you exactly what to do. Bollards would definitely help protect the lane; there’s more than enough space for them. But I think it’s possible to use this lane in exactly the way it was intended, and be reasonably safe doing it, including turning left onto the bridge.
The lane going downhill from the40th street bridge to the millvale riverfront park is nearly worn off already. It’s hard to see the line. They painted this like 4 months ago…
I rode the bridge-to-Millvale lane last night. Indeed, the painted arrows are already close to useless.
My problem with the design is that it unnecessarily pushes cyclists to the right. A cyclist heading for Millvale will need to get left at the bottom of the hill, but this isn’t all that easy or safe, as motorists headed for outbound 28 are left, going right, right at the same spot, and are moving fast, and surely not expecting a bike to cross to the left directly in front of them.
Dangerous by design.
I took a video of this on my way home last night.
I added this commentary:
PennDOT put this in place in November 2014 with no input from local cycling groups. Signage and a couple of sharrows in an otherwise dead lane. (There’s another one on the uphill side.)
I call it dangerous by design. Let me ride you through this. Starting on the upstream (northbound) sidewalk, as most cyclists will be. There is a three-way-blind corner at the north end of the sidewalk. People coming up from the right cannot see bridge riders/walkers, and vice versa. On a bike, to get to the bike lane, I have to look over my left shoulder and jiggle into traffic to make the right turn. (It’s unusual I didn’t have to wait.) Starting down the hill, note the overhead “bike lane” sign; also note the sharrow that’s already worn off after only four months. Further note the high-speed road off to the right. That will matter in a moment.
Now watch traffic on the left. There are two silver cars and a black car. The problem is that cars, at speed, need to exit right, right at the bottom of the hill, to get to that high-speed road. Cyclists such as myself, are headed to Millvale, requiring a left merge. Cyclists who do so late in the game will find they need to veer left across car traffic, veering right, that is already going 30+ and accelerating to go up the ramp to PA28.
Further further note that the sharrow moved from the dead lane to the left lane. Like anybody is going to figure that out on their own!
How long until we kill someone here? Remember, this is only the middle of March, it only got put there in November, and it was a long, rough winter. Nobody knows about this yet.
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