Waterfront bike lane the first of its kind in Pa.

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 7:05 p.m.

Cyclists along the Great Allegheny Passage have no problem staying along the trail.

Most of it is well-paved with directional markings painted on the ground and several posted signs.

Munhall unveiled a unique bicycle lane in October 2011 — the first of its kind in Pennsylvania at the time.

While Connellsville had the first two-way bicycle lane in the state, Munhall's design is specific to National Association of City Transportation Officials bikeway guidelines.

Connellsville took a residential street and turned it from a two-way road into a one-way road. Munhall was able to squeeze a bike lane in an existing traffic lane, and still have two lanes of vehicular traffic.

“That was wonderful that there was all that space in the roadway for us to put in a state-of-the-art cycle track there,” Allegheny Trail Alliance president Linda McKenna Boxx said about the Munhall lane.

“The NACTO guidance was developed by a coalition of large and mid-sized cities working together to raise the bar for bicycling in the United States and with a common vision for better infrastructure and street designed as a means to achieve that goal,” said NACTO director of the Designing Cities initiative.

NACTO recently released an urban street design guide, which is available online at nacto.org/usdg.

According to the guide, lane widths of 10 feet are appropriate in urban areas and have a positive impact on a street's safety without impacting traffic operations.

Munhall's bicycle lane is located along E. Waterfront Drive beginning around the Marcegaglia building and going approximately 3,000 feet to The Waterfront Apartments. It is along the Steel Valley section of the GAP.

There are rules posted along the trail that include:

• Speed limit 15 mph.

• No motor vehicles except wheelchairs and electric assist pedal cycles.

• Cyclists under 12 must wear a helmet.

• Leash or control pets. Remove pet waste.

• Keep to right/pass on left.

• Sound warning before passing.

• Signal before turning or stopping.

The trail continues through Steel Valley behind the apartments in Homestead and past Eat ‘n Park headquarters.

There is an unconnected part of the trail at the former Pittsburgh Burger Co. property in the Waterfront. The company was going through bankruptcy as the trail was being linked.

Boxx said her group plans on working with whomever will own that property, and bikers cut through the empty parking lot to get back to the trail.

The Steel Valley portion continues from Homestead through West Homestead via sidewalks by Costco and a trail at Sandcastle.

The trail from Munhall to McKeesport crosses over Norfolk Southern Railroad property via bridges in Whitaker and Duquesne.

“That was a very big win for the trail to get Norfolk Southern to agree to allow us to cross their tracks twice,” Boxx said.

“That's their very busy main line. They rightfully didn't want anything to interfere with their operations. We're delighted beyond belief with the way the alignment worked out.”

The Steel Valley portion continues through the RIDC Park in Duquesne and crosses the Monongahela River by way of the Riverton Bridge and into the RIDC Riverplace Industrial Center of McKeesport then to the Marina at McKee's Point. The trail uses old abandoned railroad lines beyond the Marina.

It is approximately 9 miles from Sandcastle to the McKee's Point Marina in McKeesport where GAP mile marker 132 is posted.

Bike trail officials encourage cyclists to go outside their lanes when visiting municipalities along the GAP.

“We want them to get into business districts and towns and explore,” said Boxx. “The trail gets them to a place where they can get services.”

Charlie Rozzo serves as West Homestead's bike patrol officer. He has been in law enforcement since 1998, and on a bicycle for the past two years.

West Homestead Mayor John Dindak said he got two bikes for the department two years ago, and the bike patrol is a good way of interacting with the public.

“It's working out real good talking to the residents,” said Dindak.

Recently the patrol was used to quell complaints about cyclists not obeying stop signs and trail rules in Steel Valley.

“It's a public safety thing,” said Dindak.

“We need the bikes. We need the people. If a car hits a bike you know who's gonna lose.”

According to the state vehicle code, “Every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”

Rozzo stopped cyclists who did not stop at stop signs along the trail.

West Homestead was reportedly writing citations to those bikers. However, Rozzo and the mayor said that was not the case and only warnings were given.

Rozzo said the borough loves having the cyclists coming through town, and a lack of education may be to blame for the problems.

“I don't think there's enough bike safety laws or regulation out there that they make themselves aware of,” said Rozzo.

“Especially with the small children. We have issues with motorists down there. We have issues with pedestrians down there.

“The idea is we're trying to fit three entities into one. They all have to share this right of passage through the Waterfront.”

The borough is working on developing an ordinance designed to help officers deal with bike safety issues.

State law also applies when it comes to vehicle and bicycle crashes.

“In terms of determining right and wrong, it's the same type of analysis,” said Mark Milson, an attorney with injury and disability firm Berger and Green.

Cyclists are not as physically well-protected as those in automobiles, and may sustain more injuries than a driver.“The first thing they need to do is make sure they're in a position to make sure they're not going to get hurt again, and tend to any serious injuries,” Milson said.

“Their well-being is more important than any legal issues that's going to come later.”

People involved in an accident should exchange information, contact the local authorities and if possible take pictures.

More information about the rules of the road and cycling can be found online at www.dot.state.pa.us.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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