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Bike lanes coming to parts of Forbes Avenue - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

Bike lanes coming to parts of Forbes Avenue

Mike+Carrol+from+Wilkinsburg+directs+a+pack+of+cyclists+riding+in+protest+of+PennDOT+following+the+death+of+Susan+Hicks+on+August+1%2C+2016.+Theo+Schwarz+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer.
Mike Carrol from Wilkinsburg directs a pack of cyclists riding in protest of PennDOT following the death of Susan Hicks on August 1, 2016. Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer.

Mike Carrol from Wilkinsburg directs a pack of cyclists riding in protest of PennDOT following the death of Susan Hicks on August 1, 2016. Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer.

Mike Carrol from Wilkinsburg directs a pack of cyclists riding in protest of PennDOT following the death of Susan Hicks on August 1, 2016. Theo Schwarz | Senior Staff Photographer.

By Brad Smertz / For the Pitt News

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When Pitt adviser Susan Hicks was killed after a car struck her bicycle while she was riding home from work on Forbes Avenue nearly 10 months ago, the Pittsburgh biking community gathered in her memory.

Almost a year later, cyclists are once again mourning the death of one of their own — McKees Rocks resident Dennis Flanagan was hit and killed by a truck while biking on West Carson Street Tuesday night.

The accident — which happened the night before a community meeting on roadway improvements — has refueled a yearlong push for safer conditions for bikers in Pittsburgh.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; the city of Pittsburgh; Carnegie Mellon University and Whitman, Requardt and Associates organized the meeting Wednesday night near CMU. The organizers outlined plans to add safety buffers, replace traffic signals and install thicker pedestrian crossings.

The safety buffers, which are scheduled to go along Forbes Avenue between Craig and Margaret Morrison streets, are part of the Forbes Avenue Betterment project, set to go into effect September 2017.

Although they said the plans seemed reasonable, advocates for biker and pedestrian safety were not satisfied with what they called a lack of details at the meeting.

As the organizers were outlining their plans for the project, a representative from Pittsburgh Bike Share interrupted, saying he wanted two specific things: clearly delineated bike lanes and a connected network of bike paths from the Birmingham Bridge and Margaret Morrison Street. That network would travel the length of Forbes Avenue.

Dan Cessna, District 11 executive of PennDOT Engineering, said PennDOT will be in continuous talks with the city of Pittsburgh as well as Port Authority over the next month to discuss the issue.

For Roy Weil, resident and avid cyclist of the Oakland and Squirrel Hill areas, that answer was not enough. He said the representatives leading the meeting “did not have their ducks in a row,” in providing additional information about transitions between areas with and without bike lanes.

According to Ralph Horgan, associate vice president of Campus Design and Facility Management at CMU, the Forbes Avenue Betterment project originated with a grant-fueled study at CMU called Congestion Mitigation for Air Quality Improvement.

The goal of the study was to reduce pollution within a six traffic light span from Craig Street to Margaret Morrison Street, which hugs CMU’s campus.

Months ago, Horgan learned that the PennDOT’s Forbes Avenue Betterment project, which stretches from the Birmingham Bridge to Beeler Street, overlapped with CMU’s CMAQ project. With this in mind, Horgan decided to reach out to PennDOT to collaborate on the same initiatives.

“Our overall goal is to create complete streets. This takes into account buses, cars, bikers and pedestrians themselves,” said Horgan.

The project is set to span from Forbes Avenue at the Birmingham Bridge to the intersection of Forbes Avenue at Beeler Street.

Project measures include replacing up to three traffic signals in between McKee and South Bouquet streets, installing bike lanes on each side of the road from Craig Street to Beeler Street and placing six new traffic signals from Craig Street to Margaret Morrison Street. The project will also implement thicker pedestrian crossings throughout the proposed footprint.

Not every cyclist at the meeting was disappointed. Scott Bricker, executive director of BikePGH and former Oakland resident, said he felt optimistic about the future of relations between Pittsburgh and its growing cycling community.  

“People wanted to be heard,” he said. “Bikers and pedestrians alike asked a lot of great questions today … we still have work to do.”

After the meeting, BikePGH rode the proposed Forbes Avenue Betterment project path to honor victims of car and bicycle accidents and to encourage PennDOT to stand by its statements.

“The ride today is inspired by the fatality on [West] Carson Street,” Bricker said. “PennDOT historically hasn’t listened … we are here today to see that this changes.”

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Bike lanes coming to parts of Forbes Avenue