Liberty Avenue Downhill
Liberty avenue is on a 4% grade from 40th street to 37th, and
a 6% grade from 37th to the end of the lane. Even a cyclist in poor
shape can easily travel downhill at this road's 35 mph speed limit. If
someone opens a car door while a cyclist is going that speed in the
bike lane, the cyclist will hit that door at the same speed he would be
travelling if he had fallen off of a three-story building. That alone
is enough to make this an extremely hazardous bike lane. Furthermore,
stopping distance more than doubles on a 6% grade. Even if someone
opens a door well ahead of the cyclist, it is unlikely that the cyclist
will be able to avoid a collision unless he quickly swerves into the
traffic lane, which is hazardous in itelf.
There are 9 intersections in the half-mile stretch from 40th street to 34th street. A cyclist in the bike lane is less visible to traffic pulling put of those interesections, and also to traffic coming up Liberty Avenue intending to make a left turn.
Because there are so many intersections, it is not feasible to
put keep ending the bike lane and asking the bikes to merge with
traffic. As a result, bikes going straight are in what amounts to the
right-hand lane, while cars turning right are doing so from the left
Winning this bike lane was the first "accomplishment" for the
then-new bicycling advocacy group, Bike Pittsburgh. At the neighborhood
hearing where this bike lane was proposed, the traffic engineer who
designed the bike lane explicitly assured Saving Cyclists advocate Dan
Sullivan that there would be a five-foot buffer between parked cars and
the bike lane. As it turns out, the bike lane is
the buffer. In the first two weeks the bike lane was open, a woman
staying with Sullivan's next-door neighbor was "doored" and had to be
treated at a hospital.
However, Bike Pittsburgh has remained committed to this lane,
despite the obvious hazards it creates.
Get rid of this bike lane, at least on the downhill side.
There is no way to make it anything but a hazard to cyclists. Better
yet, mark the existing lane as "Door Zone, No Cycling," and add signs
that say, "Cyclists Use Full Lane."
Even the bike lane on the uphill side is unnecessary, although it is relatively harmless. It has fewer intersections, and most (but not all) cyclists climb the hill slowly enough that they can see people who might be preparing to open their car doors. Still, cyclists don't really need to be told to pull to the right going up steep hills, and drivers don't need to be told to go around them. Ideally, the city should just remove uphill lane as well. Signs that say, "Watch for Slow Cyclists" would give drivers all the awareness they need to interact safely with cyclists.
Ride in the traffic lane, especially going downhill. Drivers
have been more aggresive, because they think you belong in the door
zone as the signs suggest. However, you have a legal right to be in the
traffic lane, and it is less dangerous to be tailgaited than doored. If
you find this too intimidating, stay off of Liberty Avenue entirely and
go down the hill on Penn Avenue, which has no bike lane.
Meanwhile, contact Bike Pittsburgh, the city's Bicycle Pedestrian Coordinator, your City Council Member and the Mayor of Pittsburgh and urge them to get rid of this dangerous bike lane. Also, if you call 311 from within the city, your concerns will be officially logged.
The Saving Cyclists advocate in Pittsburgh is Dan Sullivan.
631 Melwood Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213