Realistic ideas for Murray avenue
Beechwood – North of forward I generally ride toward the left line of the bike lane. It’s wide and slow enough that I rarely feel cramped (even if passing distances are not quite 4 ft.)
South of forward I just take the lane. This is an absolute necessity given that you have to maneuver around deteriorating road surfaces through this end of Beechwood.
Until the south end of Beechwood actually connects to anything comfortably by bike, it’s probably fine as is. (In other words, if you can ride the hills of Greenfield or Old Browns Hill Rd, you probably won’t care about Beechwood.)
A agree about the “bike line” on Beechwood, really north of Monitor (the *middle* Beechwood and Monitor, there are three such intersections…). The “bike line” is the white line separating the nominal bike lane from the any vehicle lane, and to be on that line is to be more or less out of the door zone. South of Monitor it is a cluster (*)()#@R, both because the road narrows and is in terrible condition.
One issue I have in that situation, however, is that cars seem even less inclined than usual to respect the 4″ (oops, 4′) law when they are in one lane and I am in the other (the bike lane). As I understand it, they are still compelled to give me 4′, and I won’t pull away from the line unless I am totally certain that no doors will open for 100 yards or more ahead.
As for Murray and Shady, they are totally different to me. I ride up Shady for 1 block from Douglas to Hobart every day. That basically requires taking the lane because crossing all the way from the right side of Shady to start down Hobart is dangerous and hard. I have never felt much of an issue there but I would never recommend that to anybody who was not very very comfortable cycling in traffic. Shady has few lights while Murray has many — in my experience traffic on Shady moves faster uphill than on Murray. As for angled parking, ride along Frew behind CMU during peak parking hours just once (that is straight in parking, but it is the same idea) and I think you will agree that this is not a good idea unless you want to be part of a large game of whack a mole.
I’ve ridden along Frew and agree it’s not the model we want to repeat elsewhere.
I think of head in parking and head out parking not as close cousins but nearly complete opposites.
The differences being in the location of blind spots and loading zones (in the travel lane vs. in a parking spot), and the anticipatability of motorists from the travel lane (brakes and signal straight ahead vs. brakes off to the side).
The only similarity I see and I freely admit a disadvantage of both is that at angle they reduce mid-block crossing convenience.
I’ve ridden in Utrecht and Copenhagen where they have actual bike lanes and actual bike traffic jams where you wait two bike light cycles. The most vibrant commercial districts in many European cities are pedestrian zones. I thin we need to be very strategic about implementing infrastructure in a system that is still car dominated.
People brought up bike connections between Saline St / Four Mile Run and Squirrel Hill. I explored that hill a lot, abandoned the idea of stairs (it’s such a long hill that very very few people would lug their bikes up the stairs), explored the woods, and came up with an alternate idea for a trail that zigzags its way up the hillside, and also connects to the Bridle Trail. Here’s a map. Look for Naylor Trail and Pocusset Trail Extension. https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=ziK2QENwxXkY.kIOXx_KzVokE&authuser=0&hl=en
A little off topic, but I was driving down shady yesterday and saw the 3 squirrel bike racks and the new bike on street parking spot on shady across from Starbucks. Very nice. Though I don’t think that location will be well used. As discussed above people use any road but shady because of the hills to bike. And the bike parking is at one extreme end of the business district. But at least it is a start.
I love Wightman but paradoxically I think it can be more dangerous. I’ve had many more near misses with cars speeding on wightman and then right hooking me across the bike lane to turn onto Darlington, Bartlett, etc. At least on Murray with all the traffic the speeds are much slower. Wightman is also very broad and the houses are quite far back from the street on parts of it so even with the bike lanes it gives the effect of looking like a highway.
On Wightman I daily take the left to Darlington and that is an example of where one has to get out of the bike lane and merge into traffic for a left. Looking back while riding straight is definitely an important commuter skill.
That’s why I have an accessory nerd mirror on my handlebars. I haven’t met a commuting accessory that I couldn’t live without.
Forbes & Shady is actually a good place for racks. There’s a cafe, restaurants and shops. And people working around there use the racks.
There used to be 2 (then 3) U-racks there, usually parked. More often than not I had to double-up. (BTW the rack in front of the Starbucks is downright scary: right at the edge of the sidewalk, with cars speeding by. What were they thinking?)
A corral at the public parking lot just up Shady would make a lot of sense. And maybe those banks on Murray with the suburban-sized parking lots could convert a space to bikes (No, really; I bet at least some of their customers ride. And think of all the corporate-citizen PR value.)
When I saw the on-street bike parking there this weekend (Sunday), it was packed with some overflow bikes locked to the bike parking sign.
Sunday evening? That was probably this: https://www.facebook.com/events/1695748280650281/
BTW, last night I noticed that the lights on Murray are timed for bicycles. I was crossing Forbes just as the light turned red, and as I proceeded, each light turned earlier and earlier, until I got to Hobart and had to stop and wait for the green. If I had been going a little slower the lights would have been perfectly timed for me. Which explains why it’s so easy to keep up with the traffic in Squirrel Hill. And why it doesn’t make sense for motorists to try to pass there. They’re just going to get caught at the next light anyway.
Presumption: Motorists will be adhering to the speed limit, even on a busy, congested street like Murray.
Congested streets are the only streets motorists keep their speed in check on. Lights and to a lesser extent, crosswalks (those that get heavy use, like midblock on Forbes between murray and shady come to mind). That was one of the reasons I preferred to have the main uphill bike route in squirrel hill on Murray. Having another crosswalk or two down the hill (Douglas and Nicholson) would also help help the atmosphere and the bikeability slightly, though not in ways comparable from a biking standpoint to a an uphill lane
I don’t think that removing an entire lane of parking on Murray Avenue is “realistic” at all. That uphill stretch is almost entirely businesses on both sides and those spots, which are metered, are almost always at full capacity. I imagine most of the side streets are all permit area parking and residents would be against anything that encourages drivers to park anywhere but the main thoroughfare. In this case, I could see removing parking being detrimental to those businesses since parking is at such a premium in Sq Hill and there aren’t many options aside from the metered spaces unless you find alternatives. It would be nice for bikers, but as far as bike infrastructure goes, I think we should choose our battles wisely.
The business district is healthier, and parking is better utilized than a couple years ago, and there’s a strong relationship between the two (though stronger for the folks passing through than for the locals).
This was proposed in combo with with changing downhill side parking to reverse angled so that the net impact on the number of spaces would be substantially smaller than just eliminating uphill side parking outright. It would, admittedly make for a tight lane.
The thing to be aware of is the still wildly underutilized lot between phillips and douglas. With better signage and a crossing at Douglas it could reasonably conveniently serve many of the same folks who park in the uphill lane on lower Murray due to my suggested uphill lane.
I’ll say in conclusion, based on when I’m looking, it’s not as booked up as you say (primarily Tuesdays and Thursdays between 5 and 5:30). I’d say there’s similar utilization but over a substantially shorter run comparing to to the most realistic alternate, Pocusset then Wightman.
Anyways, I don’t have the time to press this due to some personal circumstances, but I maintain that it can be done and ~probably~ should. Subject to some appropriate studies.
I don’t frequent Sq. Hill as much as I used to having moved from Point Breeze to Lawrenceville, but every time I go to that part of Sq. Hill I end up parking in that lot that you mentioned which is indeed usually more empty than it is full because everyone else is parked on the street. The lane that you mentioned is almost entirely full of cars in my experience as someone who goes to Sq Hill with the sole intent of frequenting its businesses. It may not be as full when you go because rush hour isn’t generally a time when people go shopping or to dinner. That amount of cars can not be accommodated by one parking lot with maybe 40 spots. Just on that basis alone, this plan would face a huge amount of opposition. If the response was “use that parking lot” the opposition would say “what about the elderly or people with disabilities? Now you want them to walk 4 blocks up hill so we can put a bike lane in?” The idea of reverse angled parking is interesting so I would have to give that more thought. I just feel like that if you think that the bikelash around the Penn Avenue track was bad, this would be substantially worse and even as an avid cyclist, I would say it would be partially justified.
I’d say that the really slow traffic on Murray means that we don’t need a bike lane. Traffic is painfully slow which makes it safer for bikes. The times I’ve been scared in Sq hill is on Wightman where people cut me off turning onto the side streets, across the bike lane, at very high rates of speed.
What Murray needs are more crosswalks and signals lower on the hill, change it’s character to be more like the painfully slow span between Beacon and Murray.
If it were truly brought down to those speeds then I agree a bike lane is almost redundant. I don’t actually think you can achieve that below Nicholson because there aren’t the cross streets to do it with.
I’d be pretty satisfied with a bike lane just to nicholson and sharrows thereafter if both douglas and nicholson turned into signaled intersections with crosswalks.
What about a few speed bumps here and there? There aren’t many of those around the city. You can put the crosswalks across them.
Of course, that doesn’t prevent drivers from simply stepping on the gas between them and braking hard before going over them. It gives them the illusion that they are saving a bunch time doing this…
Speed bumps are OK if you put a split down the center of them so that cyclists don’t have to deal with them. It also reinforces the idea that cyclists should be in the center of the lane.
If it’s one thing I would dearly like to get through to people, cyclists and motorists alike, is that cyclists are entitled to use the whole lane, and should, and should be expected to be there.
On Murray especially, never should a motorist try to pass a bicycle. Not once, ever, not even going uphill. There is always opposing traffic. Bullying a car into the door zone is just wrong. It’s just too effing bad if cars have to slow down to 6 mph.
Wholly in support of speed humps and those speed humps having a bike gap, here and in business districts all over, really. It’s especially important to any effort at traffic calming where they put a crosswalk but no signal.
I’ll just say that you’re never going to get a broad swath of the population comfortable with tootling up in the middle of the lane on Murray at 5 or 6mph. Those that can do 10+, maybe, more definitely in sections with a lot of lights/bumps/crosswalks, but most of those folks are probably out there already, just most of them pseudo sharing the lane riding on the edge of the door zone. It’s a bad setup in terms of encouraging cycling and in terms of encouraging safe cycling. It’s worth trying to improve.
Putting a bike gap at speed bumps would certainly be nice. However, if said speed bump is also an elevated crosswalk, then they should not have a bike gap. The point of such crosswalk would be that everyone, including bikes, should slow down and yield to pedestrians. Having a bike gap would discourage that.
Elevated crosswalks at Douglas and Nicholson make sense; there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic at Douglas and a bump at Nicholson would make the stretch from Phillips more friendly to businesses.
That and uphill sharrows from Forward would make that street much friendlier to bikes (and people).
Speed bumps maybe are good for 5mph roads but otherwise are a pain for wheeled conveyances.
“Speed bumps maybe are good for 5mph roads but otherwise are a pain for wheeled conveyances.”
…yeah, that’s kinda the point.
Pittsburgh needs to decide whether Murray and other business district main streets should prioritise through traffic, destination traffic (i.e. customers and residents), or children, seniors, and other vulnerable road users no matter where they’re coming from or going.
I like the philosophy behind elevated crosswalks. That this (the crosswalk/intersection) is pedestrian space that other through traffic is graciously allowed through when pedestrians aren’t using it. I also think elevation and increased visibility is all to the good.
I mentioned speed humps (not bumps, plowable and more 10-15mph than 5) because they’re cheaper. I’ll happily skip the channel through, slow down more, and briefly stand to absorb a bump up and bump down if we can really make a nice pedestrian environment.
Absent that however, I think bikes are in practice benign enough that to let them pass more unimpeded creates less of a problem than narrowing the gap further between motorist and cyclist speed helps solve.
Relevant, via a NY Streetsblog writer:
“We should be able to walk at will without harm. Policies should flow from that.”
We should treat pedestrians like cows are treated in India. We should be able to walk at will without harm. Policies should flow from that.
— Stephen Miller (@miller_stephen) December 15, 2014
decide whether Murray and other business district main streets should prioritise through traffic
Fun fact: hazardous chemical tanker trucks that are prohibited from entering the SqHill tunnel on 376 (lest they crash and/or explode) exit the highway and travel on Murray/Forbes/Braddock instead.
Every time I’m at the base of the hill I’m struck by how awful things are for pedestrians. Dragging three girls is a pretty stern reminder.
Just going totally afield here and totally contradicting the subject line, but what I think what would be very best single thing for the area in question (and least plausible, but hey, we can dream) is a giant elevated walkway, an irregular oblong ring over the whole stinkin’ 5 way intersection.
The topography would support it quite well, and it could really turn around both lower Murray and Forward.
Ahlir brings up a point that is being overlooked which is that Murray is considered a primary road and is used by a variety of routes. It’s not normally advisable to put speed bumps on primary roads. In addition, when the Sq. Hill tunnels are closed, this is the detour route which is already a nightmare. Perhaps something like this is a decent idea: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/us/12bump.html?_r=0
Though, once people realize what they are I feel like they aren’t as effective.
The idea that people are told to go up Murray instead of Shady in case of tunnel closure is bizarre to me.
I do see the issue for buses, but I think there’s almost always a tension between where buses are most useful and where it’s possible to maintain high rates of speed.
Shady may actually be narrower, I think. Also, for trucks and other vehicles that have issues climbing hills, it may be relevant that Shady rises to a higher peak, then descends back to Forbes, after which it rises again, giving the intersection a nearly U-shaped profile; Murray plateaus at Beacon, and its intersection at Forbes is level.
I suppose there must be some reason Beechwood > Browns Hill > 837 > Rankin Bridge > Braddock Ave is an untenable alternate route, but…
Tunnel closure detours have used Beechwood during the day, and Murray at night, to spare residences on Beechwood the noisy traffic at night. So using residential Shady instead of Murray at night would defeat the reason for avoiding Beechwood. (Turning from Browns Hill onto Beechwood might be tough for big trucks, too.)
A detour via 837 would be much longer. The original route is about 2 miles. The Beechwood detour is a bit under 4 miles. Going via 837 is over 6 miles.
Reviving this discussion from last year …
Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition (SHUC) is now working to form a committee on bicycle, pedestrian, and street safety issues. The first event will be at the SHUC Open House the day after tomorrow:
Date: Thursday Oct 15 2015
Time: 5:30-7:30 pm
Place: Jewish Community Center
(south side of Forbes just west of Murray)
This is an open meeting on various topics of interest to Squirrel Hill folks. There will be a bike-pedestrian table for the purpose of discussing ideas, identifying issues, etc
Realistic ideas for Murray is on-topic, along with improved routes to Oakland and Downtown, intersection safety issues, bike parking, etc. We hope to identify people who would be interested in joining the committee that is now being formed. We’ll have some maps to mark up.
By unfortunate coincidence, this is the same evening as the Oakland bike-ped meeting.
Trying to find a babysitter. It would kinda kill me to miss this.
So, I’m thinking of just showing with the kids and bike train. Kinda like the statement it makes even if it means that there’s a lower limit to how long I can effectively stay.
A slightly weird idea, will throw it out here first. It might work well, might not, but it’s interesting for how easy it would be to implement. Why not charge more for parking on the uphill side than the downhill side? It’s highly imperfect in so many ways, but it’s a clear reflection of any undeniable reality. Lateral space is just more valuable going uphill.
Interesting concept but due to the remote parking meters that aren’t tied to any physical location, I suspect it’s not possible….
Unfortunately won’t be able to make the SHUC meeting, as I’ll be at the Oakland meeting if I can get out of work in time.
Well, generally, people all pay at the nearest station on their side of the street. Is there any real harm in making that a requirement? And don’t rates differ depending where you are already? Understood there’s a little grey area in which station is closest, but the side of the street it’s unambiguous and that’s the interesting variable here.
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