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Calm Down

April 27, 2009

As fun as it is to ride my bike to work, it’s always feels like a test of wills during the evening commute home along 1st Street.  Two lanes in each direction, the stretch of road from Pittsburgh south to KK has a posted speed limit of 30 mph, but it’s not uncommon to have drivers flying by me at speeds approaching 40-45 mph.   In fact, just last week, as I was preparing to maneuver into the left lane in order to proceed south on KK near the MCTS depot, I heard the squeeling wheels of a car as it tried to zoom around the bend south of Lapham.     

It’s difficult to understand why it’s necessary to drive 45 mph on a street with stop lights every 3-4 blocks, but I’m pretty certain these renegade drivers aren’t doing the math in their heads when they’re speeding by.  Nevertheless, it’s frustrating that while I’m trying to navigate the potholes along the street I’m also forced to deal with idiots carelessly putting my life in danger.   It goes both ways when it comes to inconsiderate motorists and/or bikers, but there’s no comparing the potential destructiveness of a lightweight bike to a several thousand pound vehicle.     

One of the best ways to limit unsafe driving and encourage the eventual revitalization of the 1st Street corridor will be to implement a marked bike lane and potentially reduce the number of traffic lanes down to one in each direction.  Considering most of the traffic comes from motorists avoiding the under-utilized Hoan Bridge or I-43, perhaps bringing the travel speed down to a safer level will encourage people to make better use of the interstate highways only a few blocks in either direction, along with creating a walkable street that will encourage businesses to populate the many empty storefronts along the street. At the least, it’d make it a little safer for people who want to get out of their cars.

  1. Crusader Rabbit permalink
    April 28, 2009 4:58 pm

    I agree, even though I don’t ride a bike. It seems like bike riders are in constant danger on First street because of inconsiderate drivers. I have seen examples of this all the time. There has to be a bike lane and an attitude adjustment on the part of drivers on this street.

  2. Eric permalink
    April 28, 2009 10:32 pm

    I agree that an attitude adjustment is in order, but believe it must come on the part of both drivers and cyclists. I say this fully recognizing your point regarding the comparative danger to a cyclist in a collision. But aggressive/reckless/unlawful operation by either a driver or cyclist can result in serious injury. I cannot count how many times I have seen bicyclists disregarding the rules of the road. This morning alone, I observed a cyclist proceed through a red light (at the corner of Water and St. Paul, a very busy intersection) and another individual make a left turn at a four way stop without even slowing down (I had stopped at the intersection lawfully; he didn’t). I am an avid cyclist myself and I agree something must be done. However, when drivers witness some (certainly a minority of) bicyclists riding negligently (or completely disobeying the law), my impression is that those drivers are less apt to “share the road” and yield to cyclists.

  3. April 28, 2009 11:25 pm

    That’s a good point, Eric. If bikers collectively want to be treated with respect on the road, they need to show it while riding. I do think there should be different levels of expectation with respect to biking versus driving (por ejemplo: rolling stops and the Idaho stop for bikers), but no matter what apparatus you’re using to get around you need to show respect for everyone else using the road. Bikers flagrantly disobeying traffic lights are seriously putting themselves in danger just as much as reckless motorists are putting everyone else in danger.

    C.R., I totally agree! First Street needs a bike lane — even just lane markings — so that motorists and bikers know where they should be. A lot of younger kids ride their bikes on the sidewalk or on the wrong side of the street because they don’t feel safe on the road.

  4. Pat permalink
    April 29, 2009 11:07 pm

    Bike lanes are dangerous. They give (some) riders a false sense of security. Most drivers don’t even know that there IS such a thing as a bike lane; or better yet, do not know that they are not to drive in/on it. Not a slam on cops, but when did you ever se or hear of someone getting a ticket for driving in a [“bike lane”]. What a joke: There is no such thing.
    Pat Harrington

  5. April 29, 2009 11:29 pm

    I don’t know if I’d call bike lanes dangerous per se, but I can understand how they’d convey more safety and security than can really be provided by a white line on the road. Even still, they’re more about marking an area of the road for bicyclists, not affording them complete protection from vehicles. I think casual bikers and more road-experienced bikers are looking for different accommodations when riding on streets: casual bikers may need that false sense of security in order to get them on the road in the first place. But once they’re there, their increased presence will require drivers to pay more attention to them. Experienced bikers are much more proactive about creating safe riding conditions or at least staying aware of where they are in relation to vehicles. Unfortunately, either group is still at risk of completely careless motorists.

    I think cops are ill-suited to enforce rules about bike lanes, much like they’re simply not capable of stopping everyone who speeds. I don’t know what the solution to this is, but I think increasing public awareness of bike lanes/rules is the only way to get motorists to think about everyone on the road.

    Thanks for the comment, Pat!

  6. May 12, 2009 10:57 am

    The narrowing of First street will never happen as it is a state highway. There are plans to re-work the corner by altera coffee to make it more pedestrian friendly, as there have been two stoplights south of there added in hopes of slowing traffic. I agree that there are a tone of “renegade” drivers out there. Currently the neighbors of Walker’s Point are trying to narrow second street which is a slower alternative to First street. By the end of 2010 this street will be re-paved, which currently is tough to ride a bike on. Check out the rendering of the proposed South Second Street plan @ or search for us at under historic Walker’s Point.


  7. May 12, 2009 10:38 pm

    Thanks, Aryn, I forgot about that designation for First Street. I appreciate the stoplights and look forward to the improvements at Pittsburgh & First. The ribbon of pavement where the bike lane ought to be (just north of Pittsburgh) is an accident waiting to happen. Navigating between traffic, parked cars and tire-width grooves in the road is incredibly difficult!

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