Bicycle commuting along Liberty Avenue is about to become less treacherous, with bike lanes and, bike advocates hope, shared lane markings.
After a year of working with the City Planning department, Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker says bike lanes are set to go on Liberty between Ligonier Street in Lawrenceville and the Bloomfield Bridge within the next few months. Liberty was chosen by the city because, according to research done by Bike Pittsburgh, it's one of a few streets wide enough to accommodate a dedicated bike lane.
Another stretch of Liberty, from the Bloomfield Bridge to Baum Boulevard might in the future receive shared lane markings, also known as "sharrows," that mark out space on the pavement for bikers. Sharrows, which could be added to other city streets as well, are essentially "share the road" signs on the road's surface, and thus more visible. Cars yield to bikes in the sharrow lanes. But unlike in bike lanes, cars can drive over the sharrows when no cyclists are around.
Sharrows consist of a series of chevrons and a bike icon, and act as guides to keep cyclists out of the treacherous "door zone" where a suddenly opening parked car door could injure them. They also remind motorists of cyclists' rights to share the road.
Bricker says PennDOT hasn't yet signed off on adding the sharrows, because they haven't been accepted by the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which keeps traffic markings consistent from state to state. Other cities, like Portland, Ore., have adopted them experimentally, without federal or state approval. While the Oregon Department of Transportation hasn't officially approved the Portland sharrows, it hasn't stood in the way, either.
"They're a success," says Jonathan Maus, founder and editor of bikeportland.org, about the two-year-old sharrows there. "It's sort of a welcome mat to say bikes are here." Both Bricker and Maus say that sharrows and other safety measures put more bikes on the road, which increases cycling safety by increasing visibility for cyclists.
If PennDOT approves sharrows for Pittsburgh, they'll go on Liberty between the Bloomfield Bridge and Baum. For now, without state approval, sharrows are being held off the Liberty Avenue plan.
The city is holding a meeting to gather public comment about the bike lanes on Sat., Aug. 19 at 2 p.m. in the Wintergarden Auditorium at West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield.