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What to do with a cyclist who thinks the new bike lanes are dangerous and wrong

I was riding in the 321 Ride Sunday with a friend. We got to Penn Ave where the new bike lanes are located. He harped on about how they should have had one lane on one side and one lane on the other and the signs telling drivers to yield to bikes are ineffective. At one intersection a driver did turn and came close to hitting him. I believe it is a matter of education and enforcement with maximum publicity when a driver makes a turn in front of a cyclist at one of the intersections. I wish there were more dedicated two-way bike lanes like on Penn and in front of Phipps Conservatory. I think we need to make sure that Mayor Peduto is aware of a large ground swell of support for the new bike lanes to counter adverse comments which he might become aware. Comments?
2014-10-16 13:08:56
I am in agreement of your friend. Prior to the bike lanes I felt safer riding vehicular style in the middle of Penn. I typically ride from the Strip to the Point on my daily after work routine. I can't tell you how many times I have almost been J-hooked now with drivers making a left into the lane when I have a green light. It is more obnoxious now traveling to the Point while having to look over my right shoulder and my mirror is on my left handlebar. Never once did I have any issue before the lanes were built. Bike lanes are nice, but they add a false sense of protection especially to cyclists who do are not use to vehicular cycling other sections of the city. And can the city do something with the imbecile cyclists who make us all look bad who continue going down Penn after the bike lane ends the wrong way down a one way street? Even I curse at how much cyclist don't follow the laws when I see this and I am on my bike 10 times more than I am ever in my cage. I completely understand that many cyclists need and want lanes. My whole gripe is; lets think them out and plan them well before we just start slapping them throughout the city. Lets have an overall design and work towards that in gradual steps. It seems like the Penn lanes were just added quickly to put them up prior to the Pro Bike conference here a couple months ago. I also agree it would be nice to have separate lanes with one on one side and one on the other. However, the city did that over parking and bus stop issues. I said it many times, the protected lanes are nice, but why in areas where sharrows would have been just fine? Add protected lanes with the grant we received on major thoroughfares not parks and slow gridlocked downtown streets.
2014-10-16 13:41:18
Well, you could have them read "Effective Cycling," by John Forrester. Wait, don't do that! It presents a lot of arguments confirming their point of view. Have them read something by the Copenhagen people. Or the Green Lane folks here. It's as confusing a situation as helmets. There are good folks on both sides who advocate precisely opposite points of view. So you've got some people insisting bike lanes lead to cyclists being forced to ride in an inferior and dangerous cyclists-only ghetto oriented towards children (like Forrester: bike lanes are 2.6x times more dangerous than riding in traffic) and others claiming that cycling will never take off without protected infrastructure, like say Mikael from @Copenhagenize, with elaborate plans for exactly how to build the lanes. Anyway, Bike Pittsburgh has been doing advocacy to thank the Mayor for the new lanes. They've been sending letters, holding events, and so on. I expect there will be more opportunities to get involved.
2014-10-16 13:42:25
I'm with your friend as well. Most of these new bike lanes suck. There's been a lot of money dumped in the region on asinine bicycle infrastructure that commuters are purposefully going around. (Not just in the city, but at the Waterfront as well) I'm wondering if in 20 years they'll just be faded reminders of a failed idea, like the old markings on Beechwood
2014-10-16 13:50:26
Like any other time you are on a bike, you have to be conscious of your surroundings even when you're doing everything right. I also use the protected lane every day and I have not had any issues with drivers turning. How? Because I avoid the situation. If I see a car in the intersection ahead with a left turn signal on, I pace myself to avoid a bad situation. In an ideal world, maybe I wouldn't have to do that but it is what it is. Drivers aren't conditioned to always check for bikers, and, even with green markings, that will take time. Be proactive, not reactive. That being said, I agree with more enforcement of laws(both with regard to bikes and cars) because I do see some bikers out there who are ruining it for the rest of us by doing dumb things.
2014-10-16 14:30:08
+1 to what @mjacobPGH said.
2014-10-16 14:34:28
I have ridden the bike lane on Penn a few times now. It has an odd feel to be on the left side of traffic, but I like the lane a lot and have great pride in our city for this lane. I don't feel "unsafe" at all, but I am mindful of each intersection to know my surroundings. If I compare riding in the lane to riding with traffic before the lane begins, I would choose to ride in the bike lane.
2014-10-16 16:15:32
1. The bikes lanes are on probation, for a year or two. If they don't work out they will be removed. 2. I've ridden in the Penn and the Schenley lanes. I find them less stressful than the street (even though I'm at home on the street). 3. Sharrows and speed limit enforcement. Let's do it!
2014-10-16 19:14:47
@ Ahlir 3. Sharrows and speed limit enforcement. Let’s do it! Yeah! Doesn't take a huge amount of money to satisfy us utility bikers.
2014-10-16 19:19:39
"What to do with a cyclist who thinks the new bike lanes are dangerous and wrong?" Well: nothing; they're entitled to their opinion. Usually when a big change is implemented, there's a lot of resistance - the trick is, separating legit issues from nostalgia-intertia-ThisAintCopenhagen. The solution to that is usually a couple of months - true problems will persist and become evident to all, problems of implementation will fade, and the benefits will be discernable. Why force them into a discussion/ harrangue that makes them reinforce and defend their opinion? Everybody out there riding a bike in the street is my ally. There's no monolithic opinion loyalty test. It's all good.
2014-10-16 21:59:21
I have now ridden the Penn Ave bike lane a pile of times and LOVE it! It is so relaxing. Sure you have to pay attention at intersections, but that is normal riding in ANY city, unless of course you are in Boulder or Helsinki. We don't have their money, so I think that bike lane we have is GREAT! Thank you for making that happen. Sometimes it seems surreal being an older person that remembers the worst of times here. Keep up the excellent work. I still can't believe how great Pittsburgh is becoming compared to just 10 years ago! Thank you again!
2014-10-30 22:14:56
Back to the original question, I've been reading John Forester's book "Effective Cycling" (which, BTW, is the best book on cycling I've ever read). He is as anti-bike lanes as they come, and is probably the intellectual source for the anti-bike lane argument. He argues that they make traffic more complicated by overlaying a new set of rules on top of the rules designed for normal traffic, and can't help beginner or inexperienced cyclists anyway, since at some point they're going to have to leave the bike lanes and negotiate normal traffic. He claims inexperienced cyclists need to be trained, and set up a course for this for the League of American Bicyclists. He also argues that bike lanes are more dangerous than normal traffic lanes. He has quite an extensive argument. Against these arguments, and those of your friend, all I can offer is experience. NYC recently did a natural experiment, by building lots of bike lanes and introducing bike share. If Forester (and the anti-bike lane crowd) was right, this should have led to a big increase in accidents, especially since many of the bike share users were inexperienced, and weren't required to wear helmets. The results, as we know, were the opposite. Bike usage increased, and accidents (and deaths) fell. So I think this disproves Forester's argument. Bike lanes, whatever their defects, lead to increased bike usage and fewer accidents. I hope the Pittsburgh experiment is being studied and data collected, BTW.
2014-10-31 08:25:47
i think it is a bit early to judge the new sections of bike lanes , is the paint dry yet ? it is a small taste of things to come ,so far i like them and i did not have a problem with taking the lane on penn , anything that promotes new and more cyclist to get on the bike is a goooooooood thing . when i am driving in gridlock traffic and a bike goes by i think Lucky bastard i wish is was on my bike !
2014-10-31 18:46:15
My only "issue" with these bike lanes, and it is indeed minor, is the timing, it was all politically driven. I know Pedodude made this bombshell statement that he is going to have X amount of infrastructure in place in X months, but putting new bike lanes in in the fall just means that anti-laners have MONTHS to sit back, look at near empty lanes, and say "look, no one uses bikes in Pgh, guffaw, guffaw". I hope when Spring springs the lanes will be full of smiling happy Pghers. I'm confident that will happen. A huge positive for me was that one of the stated reasons for not putting end blocks on the lanes is to enable snow removal equipment to get in. This shows a fundamental understanding of the way the lanes are supposed to be used.
2014-11-01 12:03:11
Or you could look at the winter as a testing phase, where smaller numbers of cyclists try out the lanes, and the city has a chance to maybe fix any problems they discover before tons more novice cyclists start riding on them in the spring.
2014-11-01 17:40:15
What's wrong with politically driven decisions? Aren't they all? People who call that out usually have some issue. Anyway, I sent up the Penn Ave lanes this afternoon. Much more relaxing than mixing in with the cars. The only issue was reaching 6th and realizing that all options were bad (I chose to turn left, using a Pgh Left).
2014-11-01 17:48:25
I use them when I can, if only to make it look like they're being used. I almost always see another cyclist some distance ahead or behind, so they're getting some use. I am not a real fan of them, as I've said elsewhere, but no reason now to rehash their various pros and cons. Let's give them their year or two test run.
2014-11-01 20:56:10
"The only issue was reaching 6th and realizing that all options were bad" Yep, this terminus is funky but should get better once the lane is completed all the way to Stanwix. I find that the best option if I'm going straight or right at this intersection is to merge with traffic a block or so before it. You can do this just before Heinz Hall, where there's bollard-less section. Of course, you may get some version of the "use the bike lane!" complaint if you do this, but I think this works out for both cyclists and motorists. Now, you could also wait at that intersection for the all-way pedestrian signal. There's a sign there that allows you to do this.
2014-11-02 09:45:57
I tend to agree, but I'm torn because I realize they encourage new cyclists. On the other hand, separated bike lanes and trails also let riders develop bad habits that make me embarrassed to be lumped with them (and afraid to drive near them when they do venture out onto a shared road). I haven't ridden this section, but I would probably encourage people with concerns to make actionable suggestions about how they could be improved to the city bike-ped coordinator or Bike Pittsburgh staff.
2014-11-02 10:51:13
"NYC recently did a natural experiment, by building lots of bike lanes and introducing bike share. If Forester (and the anti-bike lane crowd) was right, this should have led to a big increase in accidents, especially since many of the bike share users were inexperienced, and weren’t required to wear helmets. The results, as we know, were the opposite. Bike usage increased, and accidents (and deaths) fell. So I think this disproves Forester’s argument. Bike lanes, whatever their defects, lead to increased bike usage and fewer accidents." How do we know if the additional ridership and decrease in accidents is a result of the bike lanes or the influx of cyclists from the rideshare program? I thought I read somewhere that if there's more cyclists, accidents per trip go down. Do they have bike lanes and stuff in Paris, because they have a big bike share there too. Would be interesting to compare the data.
2014-11-02 14:19:14
@pierce: "How do we know if the additional ridership and decrease in accidents is a result of the bike lanes or the influx of cyclists from the rideshare program?" You are right, the additional ridership could have been from bike share. But from Forester's point of view, adding a bunch of bike lanes and introducing a bunch of inexperienced riders to urban riding are absolutely the worst things you could do in terms of bike safety. He would predict many more accidents. So the NYC experiment was almost a perfect test of his theory. He doesn't discuss bike share specifically, but I think he would contend that there's not much you can do to encourage people to ride. So I think NYC's increasing the modal share of biking significantly would conflict with his theory, too. But that's irrelevant to the OP's question.
2014-11-02 14:33:29
The segregated bike lanes in NYC (in my experience) run up and down the avenues. Given the traffic conditions on those streets (scary) I see how the lanes help. Paris didn't see to have separate bike lanes per se (except along the river). But they do have bus lanes, and the bus lanes are marked as also bike lanes. Also, traffic is less scary.
2014-11-03 09:22:04
I'm a new member, and a bicycle commuter from April through October. I generally ride one way then take the bus the other way as my commute is 30 miles; this means I experience downtown traffic from two perspectives daily. I rarely see bicycle traffic of any significance on Penn Avenue, and now my bus has to sit idling in traffic for an extra 5-10 minutes since we can't use Penn Avenue-multiply my bus' 5 minutes by all the others that now detour Penn and I think we have a net loss in air cleanliness if nothing else. I really appreciate the bike friendly focus in the city but think the resources that went into creating the Penn Ave bike lanes could be better used elsewhere.
2014-11-09 15:59:59
I know there may be grander vision, and it's hard to take something away after it was implemented if the situation changes. But I still love the idea of simply allowing bikes on the bus lanes downtown on smithfield and wood st. However, I'm assuming that's something that could change with BRT, so like the 5th forbes connection, it's probably tabled until we that plan is sorted out. I did ride the bikeway on penn today. It was very nice, but I found myself doing a lot of obstacle dodging with respect to dips and drops for drainage grates and manhole covers. It will be amazing if this gets completed to the point.
2014-11-09 17:23:30
5Matt, I guess you must ride the O1. That was the only bus route that was moved off of Penn. It was changed to take the same route as the O12 had been using. (The #8 is still on Penn but now running the opposite direction. That's the only other route that changed due to the bike lanes.) Of course, over a dozen other bus routes already use Liberty, so now O1 riders have the same delays as these other riders get. I think the solution is not to move the O1 back so it makes use of a street with little other traffic, but to make dedicated bus lanes on Liberty. When you have dedicated lanes, it makes sense to put lots of routes on the same street. That also helps address one of the suggestions of the consultants who made PAT's Transit Development Plan: that all downtown routes should intersect to make transfers easier. If PAT ever got around to implementing that, it would have likely meant that buses like the O1 would take a longer route through town anyway, even absent the bike lanes. The consultants thought there was more of a need to ease transfers and reduce walking, than to get buses in and out of downtown as fast as possible by making them just touch the edges of downtown.
2014-11-09 17:42:22
Steven, I come in from Beaver County so I'm riding on the Beaver County Transit Authority bus. There are obvious limitations downtown-its a relatively small, landlocked area so there are only so many ways the buses can go-I'm just not convinced that taking one of those routes away and putting more buses on the main streets is a great idea.
2014-11-09 23:17:06
Interesting. I didn't realize BCTA buses had bike racks. (Though maybe you use a folding bike, or transport your bike some other way.) I'm interested in getting a bike up to Beaver County without riding the whole way, so if there's a new option for that, I'm interested. By the way, which BCTA route do you use? I looked at their web site and it appears only routes 1 and 4 go to Pittsburgh. The Wayback Machine had old versions of some of the pages, but none of them showed the bus route ever going on Penn. And neither the long list of service alerts and reroutings on their web site nor their Twitter feed with even more detailed notices of route issues mention any route changes related to the bike lanes. Everything I saw said their routes have been on Liberty, not Penn, for years. Maybe the buses weren't following the official route, and taking Penn instead of Liberty sometimes?
2014-11-10 06:17:03
No racks on the bus, I leave my bike at work when I bus home. The 3 goes in to Pgh and always used Penn Ave.
2014-11-10 06:29:00
@5matt. I think you have a point about bus tie ups using more gas & polluting more etc. But isn’t this the whack-a-mole nature of looking at costs/benefits? I primarily bike for transportation so I directly pollute less now by not burning gasoline, but I eat way more calories now, so indirectly I’m burning more gas through truck transportation of my food; and since I eat meat, there are more cows farting and eating oil intensive factory grown corn because I’m not using my car (and I’m told that’s bad). On the other hand my health is better so I’m not using medical resources that I might have needed if I just sat on a seat and pushed a brake & gas pedal. All those medical supplies require energy to manufacture and are delivered by truck, and those medical buildings don’t heat themselves…. I know this is rather fanciful, and I really don’t mean to diminish your concern about increased bus traffic, but all changes have tradeoffs – and sometimes they are harder to quantify than they first appear. Are the Penn Ave. bike lanes a net-positive? I have no idea. Do I think they improve the livability of being in the city? Only time will tell.
2014-11-10 09:03:39
If I were the operator of one of the swanktastic restaurants on Penn, having buses a foot away from my sidewalk tables and open air storefronts would be the thing I would be concerned about, not a bike lane.
2014-11-10 09:05:00
There was a news camera filming cyclists on the Penn Ave track today but I couldn't catch what network it was, so if anyone sees it let me know!
2014-11-10 09:06:03
Thanks, 5Matt. Don't know how I missed the #3. I see it's always been on Liberty outbound, but it previously used Penn inbound. Of course, it only makes two trips a day, and no other BCTA routes ever used Penn, so the impact of this change on BCTA is fairly small. I still think the fix is to speed up all buses on Liberty with dedicated lanes. There was some talk of making bus lanes in a big quadrangle: Liberty to Grant to Blvd of the Allies to Stanwix and back to Liberty. Then they'd reroute many buses onto the quadrangle. (Some early reports described this as moving buses out of the city center, but I think that mischaracterizes it.) The current BCTA routes now all go along this quadrangle already, so it would really benefit them. Sad to hear there are no bike racks yet on BCTA.
2014-11-10 13:57:17
Agree with @marko82 that there is certainly a trade-off by having the lanes and I'm not sure if the inconveniences caused by them are not significant enough to keep them in place once their evaluation period is over. I don't commute to work by bike but I use the Penn Ave bike lanes on a regular basis, as I bike for exercise and other non-commute riding around town. The lanes are certainly not perfect but generally I really like them. It remains to be seen how much I'll continue to like them once the remaining section of the lanes is completed to Stanwix St and I'm forced to change the way I access my parking garage (6th and Penn) coming in from work on Neville Island. Will I dislike so much having to drive through that seemingly eternal 6th street block between Fort Duquesne Blvd and Penn to make me wish that that bike lane wasn't there? I hope not, but we'll see. Then again, eliminating eastbound car traffic at this intersection may actually improve traffic flow around this area. Again, we'll see.
2014-11-10 13:59:33