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Second bike fatal on Penn Avenue spurs city action

| Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 9:12 a.m.
Germaine Washington, 17, of Wilkinsburg rides his bike on the sidewalk, Wednesday, August 1, 2012, past a memorial for James Price of Homewood, who died after he was struck by a car near Penn Avenue and Penfield Court in Point Breeze. City officials said they are creating an alternate bike route to take cyclists off Penn Avenue until shared road signs and street markings are installed. Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
James Bolden, 55, of Wilkinsburg mounts his bike on the sidewalk, Wednesday, August 1, 2012, near paint marking the spot on the 7700 block of Penn Avenue where Anthony Green, 47, of Wilkinsburg, was was struck on his bicycle by a Jeep Grand Cherokee. City officials said they are creating an alternate bike route to take cyclists off Penn Avenue until shared road signs and street markings are installed.

Hours after the second fatal bicycle crash in a week, Pittsburgh officials said Wednesday they are setting up an alternate bike route to take cyclists off Penn Avenue in the East End, and they will install shared road signs and street markings.

“It is legal to ride on Penn Avenue. It's not a highway, and bicyclists have a right to ride on it,” said Scott Bricker, director of the advocacy group Bike Pittsburgh. “But one of our short-term goals is to have those alternate routes with fewer cars. We want to make those routes as safe as possible.”

Anthony Green, 47, of Wilkinsburg was riding in the 7700 block of Penn Avenue about 10 p.m. Tuesday when police said he was struck by Danielle Thompson, 23, of Greenfield. Thompson was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Green was not wearing a helmet or reflective vest, said Allegheny County Police Lt. Andrew Schurman. Paramedics took Green to UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, where he died Wednesday afternoon, according to the Allegheny County Medical Examiner. Police said Thompson struck Green near the border between the city and Wilkinsburg.

Allegheny County detectives were investigating. Thompson does not have a valid driver's license, police said.

James Price, 46, of Homewood died July 25 while riding inbound just before sunrise on Penn Avenue past Penfield Court, where there are no bike lanes. That driver fled the scene. Bike Pittsburgh said Price was the first bicyclist to die in a crash in the city since June 2010.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said the city is working with Bike Pittsburgh and PennDOT to create a route off Penn Avenue inbound and onto Braddock Avenue and Mead Street.

The accidents occurred as Bike Pittsburgh readies for one of Western Pennsylvania's biggest cycling weekends of the year. On Sunday, more than 3,000 cyclists will ride in Pedal Pittsburgh, which kicks off a two-week-long BikeFest celebration. BikeFest features shared-road-type events, which means motorists should be aware of many more bicyclists on the streets and will encounter more group rides than usual.

Several bicyclists rode on Penn Avenue on Wednesday as part of their normal routine, past accident reconstruction markings on the street showing where Green was hit.

John-Paul Runyan, 24, of Lawrenceville said he rides Penn Avenue twice a week.

“Every time, I almost get hit. It's just about awareness. People think bikes should get off the road, and people go way too fast on this street,” said Runyan, who wears a helmet. “I've been hit three times, including once on Penn. Even with bike lanes ­— they're just lines on the road. (In one crash) I was in a bike lane and the person opened their door as I went by. I got screamed at and my tooth was through my lip.”

Anthony Negron, 21, of Wilkinsburg said he rides on that stretch of Penn Avenue every other week.

“I've had many close calls, especially with people pulling out of the Family Dollar or Sunoco. They're just impatient drivers; they can't wait,” Negron said.

“My message to motorists is, ‘You need to eliminate distractions, slow down and go the speed limit, and be aware of others on the road,' ” Bricker said. “Bicyclists can ride at night as long as they have rear reflectors and a front light, which Price had. Someone still hit him and drove off at 60 mph. It's despicable behavior.”

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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