Penn Hills Morning Rush

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ejwme
Participant
#

I’ve devised this plan to slowly up my daily miles, limit my driving time, and save me half an hour. If I follow the plan, I bike 9 miles (1 hour) to the shuttle (30 miles, 50 minutes) to work, then shuttle back and drive home (30 minutes). The next morning I drive to the shuttle, and bike from the shuttle home.

Problem is, when I get to the parkinglot and get to choose between loading my bike in the back of my car or just riding my bike, I never want to drive the car, especially if the sun is shining. I’d rather sit in traffic on my bike than in the car. I’d rather dance with turnpike onramps, 376 off ramps and on ramps and angry suburbanites speeding in SUVs than drive my car.

But when I leave my car at work, that means the next morning, no matter how tired I am or how late I got home or how exciting my weekend was, I HAVE to get up at 5 and be out the door.

This morning I was stopped at a light on Saltsburg (just after Frankstown) and since it was red, I took the lane. A guy in some swanky sedan pulls into the left hand turning lane, makes a right turn around me (leaving lots of room, just illegal), into the drug store parking lot. The light goes green, and I start up the hill, an elderly woman in sedan slowly and safely passing me when I find the shoulder past the intersection. The swank car is now trying to exit the drug store parking lot but now has to wait for the sedan. Peels out and rides the little old lady’s rear end, clearly irritated that his little short cut cost him time.

Later on a semi pulls in behind me and lets me get past the landmine of 22/Haymaker intersection and parkinglot shortcutters before passing me in the other lane, I felt pretty well looked after by him (people think twice before cutting off a semi but he didn’t crowd me).

As I pulled in to the parking lot where I catch the shuttle, a doe and two little fawns are hanging out on the hillside, watching me slog up the hill. Watching them watch me, I felt like a space alien invading their breakfast.

So weird.


stefb
Participant
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people in the monroeville area don’t strike me as the kind that would expect to see cyclists on the road. i work at forbes some days of the week and i never ever see any bikes on the roads anywhere. maybe i’m just not seeing them.

when i get to work at AGH and don’t have to carry charts or xrays, i love riding my bike. too bad i don’t have the opportunity more than once every 2 weeks.


icemanbb
Participant
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Stefb; I live in Monroeville and commuted by bike for 2.5 years (I was transferred so no more bike commute). On my route drivers were pretty good (there is the occasional a$$hat). I was even, occasionally, on Rt22 at rush hour. There are a few riders but not many that I would see.


stefb
Participant
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just out of curiosity, how would one bike from the zoo to forbes hospital? i usually drive on allegheny river blvd and then take coal hollow to 376. i don’t think that’s an option on bike.


ejwme
Participant
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oh, you’re missing the best parts of the burbs by taking 376! I’ve spent almost a year trying to figure out that very question, and here’s what I’ve got:

– ARB outbound to coal hollow. From coal hollow I’d take

– Right on Verona Rd to Saltsburg (just keep straight, Verona turns to the left). That’s a long, painful hill, but you pass like a block from my house. Stay

– Straight on Saltsburg EITHER until you get to

– Right turn onto Hershey (just past a golf course) [or stay on until you get to Center/Monroeville Trestle (another straight, I skip it due to traffic and disantce)]. If you turned on Hershey, follow till it the end, then

– Left on Universal. Universal will very soon veer to the right at a nasty tiny hill/weird intersection, if you

-Stay Straight you’ll be on Lott and headed up a hairpin turn with absolutely no shoulder or visibility. Cars go slow here (if they don’t, they end up inside the houses) and respect me as a pedestrian pushing a bike up the hill (or cyclist braking her little heart out going down hill). I walk because of the visibility, and for the little rest. Regardless, up a hill, down the other side, pass a little pond and school bus depot, then

– Sharp Right at Old Logan Ferry. Follow it to the end, where you continue

– Straight onto Haymaker at another freaky tiny steep hill/weird intersection combination, where cars not turning are speeding (turning cars are waiting at stop signs), but everybody’s so “oh my god, she’s on a bike” that they let you do your thing. I act like a car here, take the lane and right of way when I get a clear patch.

Going straight through that mess will make you cross over Center/Monroeville Trestle (if you didn’t turn on Hershey you’d be taking a lousy left at that intersection to catch up) and put you on Haymaker.

From there it should be pretty easy, you just go straight, under the highway, dance with the offramp (where your car exited 376), it turns into Mosside, and you’re home sweet home. If there’s a clearing, I turn on Northern Pike and come at Westinghouse from the front, if there’s no clearing I either walk across the intersection as a pedestrian with the signals or keep going up the hill, and cross with the signals as a pedestrian to go in at the Forbes entrance. There are no guards at Westinghouse despite the ominous looking guard shack, nobody would give you grief for biking through there to get to Forbes if you felt like it, it’s probably less harrowing than that horrid intersection at the school. I almost always take the Forbes exit to leave, so I can just go straight past Northern Pike.

From Verona Road where it turns in to Saltsburg, it takes me an hour. I’m neither leisurely not racing, I walk when I’m not comfortable either with the hill or the visibility, I obey all signs/signals, and I take my place in lines of traffic (I do not pass – the rare occasion that I do, I end up a pedestrian at the intersection, so I saved no time of mine). Very rarely do I get motorist grief, even angry people give me room when passing. Mostly LOVELY big shoulders to retreat to, which is why I’m hopeful for bike/ped lanes. I get the impression you’re more hard core than I am, so you could probably do it in way less time.

Sometimes I wonder if there were more bikes around there, if I’d get more grief, because the shock would wear off.

Good luck in any case, it’s a lovely ride!


Nick D
Participant
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I cannot believe you wrestle with Center & Logans Ferry. I swear there is a semi-serious accident there every other week.


Swalfoort
Participant
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I have a route that I use that might work for you:

Zoo area to Penn Avenue (don’t know exactly where you are starting)

Penn Ave through Wilkinsburg, through Churchhill

Right on Route 130/Beulah Road

Left on Royal Oak/Right on Holland/Right on Churchhill/left on Homer/Nottingham, which becomes Rodi Road at Route 22.

Under Route 22 on Rodi Road, then right on Old William Penn/McCrady

Stay on Old William Penn to Old Haymaker Road, turn right, it will become Mosside Boulevard. Lots of traffic the last mile or so, but the rest is pretty easy.

Old William Penn is windy, and could use better shoulders in places, but is not very heavily trafficked (in relative terms) This is the road that Udipi Restaurant is on, if that sets off any mental images….


HiddenVariable
Participant
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i went up beulah for its entire length a few days ago. it’s a nice ride, with fairly minimal traffic and usually adequate shoulders. plus its slope is very gradual. reminds me a bit of saxonburg boulevard.


John
Participant
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Re: route from Highland Park to Forbes Hospital, maybe something like this (Google Maps).


stefb
Participant
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thanks guys! i will have to try it out some day when i can.


ejwme
Participant
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john – thanks for the tip, I never thought to go the “southerly” route there, didn’t realize I could cut through that campus. I think I’ll try it on my way home today. It also eliminates some of the crappier intersections, and takes me past a friend’s house. Nice :D

ndromb – that particular intersection is tons of fun in a car but on a bike it’s not been bad so far. I don’t know if it’s the “oh my god a bike” factor or what, but people all seem to be very polite to me going through it. I think your accident rate guess is dead on. I once stopped to check on two cars that smacked in front of me (one was totaled, all kinds of colors of fluids leaking all over), the pick-up driver said “the sun was in my eyes, I didn’t see her coming” (as why he turned into oncoming traffic, after first admitting full fault). Thing is, the sun was a 90 degree left turn to the road – not in front, back, or any mirror. Everyone was ok, so I left it to the cops. Pesky sunshine!


Swalfoort
Participant
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Just be careful at the intersection of Monroeville Road/Northern Pike/Pitcairn Road. The roads are all coming together in a funnel here, and rolling stops appear to be the norm. (this is right by the place that sells safes, or gun safes…) The left turn from Pitcairn to Monroeville will put you on a hill on the way home. Do able, but be alert. Cars are unlikely to be expecting you here.


ejwme
Participant
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swalfoort, that rolling stopsign you describe is awful by any mode – I’ve long wondered why they don’t put in a light timed with Haymaker/Northern Pike, because it backs up past and through that intersection too during rush hour. Little ridiculous.

thank you for the heads up – I’ll let the worst of rush hour go by before I head home.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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…the intersection of Monroeville Road/Northern Pike/Pitcairn Road…

Another intersection that could do well with a roundabout. It was a rolling 3-way back in 1982 when I first moved to Pgh/Monroeville.


ejwme
Participant
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Stu, there are roundabouts where I work, and I think it may be asking a bit much of the population to get them to navigate those at least as safely as they can roll through a three-way.

Chances are, if they updated the roads around here it would make them WORSE for cyclists and pedestrians, so I’m all for keeping the same outdated road structures they’ve got now. Though this is Monroeville, and they’re not as bad as other municipalities, so maybe they should get more credit.


Noah Mustion
Participant
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The combination of PGH drivers and roundabouts is a frightening thought. Only PGH drivers could make roundabouts LESS efficient.


Lyle
Participant
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I was going to say I think they’d learn, but then, penndot just spent a gazillion bucks tearing up the west end circle because people couldn’t.


Pierce
Participant
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@stefb

I commute to Monroeville via Frankstown, Universal, Lott, Logans Ferry, and Betty twice a week and I haven’t had any notable problems yet. Haven’t really seen any cyclists yet either, but…


ejwme
Participant
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@john – I finally had a chance to try your route that avoids Haymaker and cuts through the school – I’m pretty sure that’s changed my life for the better. Wicked hill up to the school, but no more turnpike, no more 22, no more 376, no more idiots demanding I share MORE of the three lanes they are demanding (yup, got yelled at to share the road as I took my lane through the intersection with that on ramp to 76).

We’ll see how it changes when school’s in, but with a 15 mph posted speed limit (no matter time of day or year), I’m pretty darn happy :D

AND I get to keep my geese and pond, because I forgot to turn sooner. I’ll work on a better short cut to combine them, but you rock. Thank you!!


icemanbb
Participant
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I saw someone this morning (a few minutes past 7) at the Rt 22/48 interesection headed towards Monroevville Blvd/N. Pike. Unfortunately I was in a car waiting to head towards the turnpike and Allison Park. I’ve been seeing more cyclists this year than previously.


ejwme
Participant
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if that was Thursday, that was probably me! If that was Friday, even more excitingly, that was definitely NOT me :D

I did have a guy in an SUV on Thursday actually tell me, after claiming that he rides a bicycle (it looked like a Ford Explorer to me, but whatever) while I was taking the lane on 48 that what I was doing was incredibly stupid. I yelled over him “legal” when he said the word “stupid” (I could tell it wasn’t going to be something nice like “awesome” or “fantastic” or “looks like fun” or even more neutral like “harrowing” or “interesting”).

I admit I let that ruin my mood. What exactly does he think he’ll accomplish by shouting out the window? That I’ll change my ways? Oh, right, I’ll just hop off to the side of the road (into this active construction zone) and stand there, waiting for someone in a Ford Explorer to rescue me and take me the rest of the way to work. I’d have followed him into the Red Roof Inn lot he right hooked me to get to after yelling at me, but I didn’t want to miss my shuttle and it wouldn’t have been a positive experience.

Hopefully we’ll reach a critical mass soon, when jagoffs like that blow hard will not think it’s worth it to yell at law abiding citizens safely operating their vehicles on their way to work.

Today my bike is in my trunk, and I’ll be GAPing after work, so I win anyway :D


AtLeastMyKidsLoveMe
Participant
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Driver says: “what I was doing was incredibly stupid”

Cyclist response A): “Right back at ya!” (smile and wave)

Cyclist response B): “I can’t hear you, there’s a banana in my ear.” (smile and wave.

Cyclist responce C): “I know you are, but what am I?” (smile and wave)


Lyle
Participant
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Geez, what an ugly stretch of road to have to ride every day. You deserve a medal for bravery. Or stubbornness.


Tabby
Participant
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probably both, but I’m definitely in support of the nomination for stubbornness.

I love your response to him. He may think you’re nuts, but at least he knows he didn’t change your mind. Sorry that it put a damper on your mood.


ejwme
Participant
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hey, you can take the girl out of the gritty city but you can’t take the city grit out of the girl. Well, not without tweasers, at least, and it’s pretty well embedded in the scar tissue.

That little stretch of 48 at 7AM isn’t so bad, since it’s two lanes I just take mine. Cars that time in the morning do ok with that (have NOT enjoyed it at 8AM or later). Evening rush they’re less kind, but mostly ok as well. The hard part is finding a break in the traffic to cut from the far right lane to the left turn lane on Northern Pike. Once I had to weave through stopped cars at the light, but usually I just signal and slow up, cars realize what I’m trying to do and somebody lets me (much like when I drive my car). Once a giant long distance cruising bus slowed traffic to let me over, but I confess I knew the driver and he recognized me.

Honestly the scariest part of the whole trip is the hairpin uphil turn on Lott because I’m moving super slow, there’s zero line of sight, and people roar up (down they have a stop sign and will hit buildings if they don’t go slow). There’s not even an inch of shoulder to bail on (I could bail into the side of a house or a stone wall, but that’s unpleasant), and there’s no where for oncoming traffic to dodge out of the way. In short, people are stuck behind me at my pace until I get out of the way (if they see me to begin with).

It’s little traveled except by speeding (drunken) locals and roadkill. I try to be more like the former than the latter, but it’s not totally up to me. I’ll take two lane highway over that any day.

I was yelled at on 48, but I was seen and not hit.


dbacklover
Participant
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You Ride up Lott? you are brave, when I was younger all those houses werent there (by bus garage) and it was all dark forest and swamp. we called it ‘hangs man’s hollow’ and even now I dont like going down there at night.


Lyle
Participant
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I’ll take two lane highway over that any day.

Likewise. FWIW, what I do on blind turns like that is to stay far to the left until just about the apex of the turn, then go far to the right. The key is to stay visible to overtaking traffic as long as possible, until it’s not possible any more, and then go to the place that gives them the most opportunity to avoid you at the last minute.

Also, if I get someone behind me while I’m out in the middle of the road there, I do tend to stay put. For two reasons: One, they are guarding my back, and two, if they pass me on a blind curve they could get in a head-on with another car. I give them a hand signal so they know I know they’re there, and wave them around when it’s safe for them.

Fortunately, it’s unlikely that anyone is texting while they’re on that curve.


dwillen
Participant
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I give them a hand signal so they know I know they’re there

I do this to cars sometimes on narrow roads in town when I know there is a gap opening up 20 feet ahead. I glance back and give them a single index in the air, the international symbol for “wait a god damn second” or I’ll give them my palm, the international symbol for “don’t go there“. Usually it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.


Boazo
Participant
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I’d do that but I always get my fingers mixed up…


ejwme
Participant
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dback – AFTER that hairpin turn, that’s my favorite part of the whole ride. I love the creek and swamp and emptiness (though I could see how creepy stories would make it scary to kids). The lake/swamp makes the whole commute worth it, with the geese and dragonflies and groundhogs and whatnot. Incidentally, it’s exactly there that I got the flat, just before the swamp.

Buses from that depot typically will wait behind me patiently headed to Monroeville, until I wave them past, even if I’m 100% on the shoulder and there’s no oncoming traffic. It’s happened more times than not right there, so maybe it’s official policy they’re reluctant to abandon within sight of a supervisor’s window.

That curve on Lott, I take the lane, all the way to the double yellow and keeping line of site in mind. It’s just… there’s nowhere for anybody to go if anything goes slightly wrong, shy of severe material and corporial destruction.


Nick D
Participant
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I think Lott has become a lot better since they tore that house down at the bend. Though, it is still pretty sketchy…

You Ride up Lott? you are brave, when I was younger all those houses werent there (by bus garage) and it was all dark forest and swamp. we called it ‘hangs man’s hollow’ and even now I dont like going down there at night.

I remember when the bus garage was where Verizon is now (previously the flamingo reserve). There was a guy who used to ride his bike around Monroeville and swim in the swamp. We always called him “Swamp Man”–he was extremely hairy. If I recall, he used to own the old raquet club that was on the corner of old William Penn and Duff Rd.


ejwme
Participant
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see, this is the kind of local lore that my neighbors don’t share with me. I love the interwebs. Swamp Man? Awesome.


Nick D
Participant
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There also used to be goats right by the road at the sharp bend at the bottom of the hill.


ejwme
Participant
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there are still goats there! at least there were last year, I haven’t seen any recently. One of these days I will stop by that house and introduce myself and see if they won’t talk to me about their goats. I was jealous of their garden in the spring as I drove past seeing all the perfect plants perfectly spaced, then on my bike I was high enough and saw the pile of nursery pots beside the plots and realized it wasn’t magic, it was nursery aided.


dbacklover
Participant
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I remember when they drained the swamp to build the houses, and dragged away the van and cars and motorcycles that were at the bottom of it.The water had the strangest light green color. not natural at all. My dad and I used to go to that house (with the goats) and he would buy something (i dont remember what, it might of been produce) The people who lived there were friends of his.

In Penn Hills the story went that the ‘Green Man’ lived down in the hollow and if he caught you they would find you hanging on the trees.

p.s. the Green Man was real

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Robinson_%28Green_Man%29

Im just gonna go crawl under my covers now. I dont need to find this stuff out so close to halloween.


ejwme
Participant
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awe, poor guy! Looks like the actual guy lived in Beaver, not PH… the articles make him sound like a really kind hearted soul, especially given what he’d been through (and continued to endure).

I’m awefull glad the swamp is “cleaned up”. I’m sad that a natural swamp was drained for development, but there’s so much water gathering there, it looks like it’s recovering slowly.

I was on the GAP last night, scoping it out, and purposefully rode past nightfall, to see what it would be like riding at night. Riding wasn’t a problem, stopping was. Riding was fun, stopping was creepy and chilling, especially when what little noise I made bounced off cliff walls back at me. creepy.


edmonds59
Participant
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I would carry some garlic. Why the heck not?


Nick D
Participant
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In high school we used to play hockey on the swamp when it froze.

My mother, who grew up in Penn Hills, and now lives in the Hangman’s Holllow area, has a bunch of stories about it. From what I remember from the stories as a kid, there was a gang who used to hang people down there.

I’ve also heard stories of people drag racing down there in the 60’s.

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