Sunday, November 13, 2016

2016 Coffeeneuring #6 - West

Six hours later than I wanted to get out the door, but here I am in Stowe Twp, adjacent to McKees Rocks, a western trolley suburb. I am seated in 1905 Eatery, a really nice restaurant that's beyond my budget, big time, but it's about the only choice in town that isn't leaning against the wall of a convenience store. I got here right at opening time, 4pm. The featured entrée is a crab cakes special at $28.95. I'm hoping to get out of here for $15. I did look around for alternatives, but there really weren't any. Morning and lunch, there were other choices, but not late afternoon on a Sunday.

On a positive note, though there's not a bike rack in sight, this town is straight out of the 1950s. I found a parking meter solidly rooted in the concrete sidewalk and just as solidly bolted together. Back in the days when a nickel bought something and quarters were serious revenue for a small town, this old meter is the best thing to lock a bike to, and anywhere else, they're becoming as rare as getting a Buffalo nickel in change.

I was their first customer of the night, so they hadn't even put a pot of coffee on yet. Talk about fresh! That, and the little pitcher of creamer contained real half & half. Dinner itself ended up being this yummy eggplant appetizer.

For the trip over here, I chose to go outbound on West Carson Street. For those unaware, this road is a death trap for cyclists. PennDOT rebuilt this road down to bare dirt, a three year project that wrapped up only three months ago. The cycling community objected strenuously to the rebuild design, but they ignored all that and built it their way without substantive deviation from the original plan. Sure enough, only nine days into the road's opening, there was a fatal cycling crash. My plan today was to travel the same way as the cyclist who died, to see if I could discern anything. I ran front and rear video but will comment on that separately. All that matters here is that I used the sidewalk, not the street, to get out here.

The sidewalk is rideable from the West End Bridge to Stanhope Street on the McKees Rocks border, but as with any sidewalk, there are pedestrians, it's too narrow for two bikes to pass side by side easily, knotweed blocks half the available space, and sight lines at the few intersections are almost non-existent. This will not scale, if any significant increase in bike traffic happens. This was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in mid-autumn, but I didn't see a single bicycle between WEB & MR. Any guesses why not? Thanks for nothing, PennDOT.

For most of that distance, there would be plenty of space to add a bike lane, using the suggestions we originally gave them at a December 2011 design meeting. Another thing they should do is use an existing abandoned railroad bridge to get cyclists across West Carson, as part of a larger project to provide a bike route from Rocks into downtown. Instead, they plan to tear down the bridge, even though it's in nobody's way, has plenty of height clearance, and is not in danger of collapse. Again, short-sightedness on PennDOT's part, and precious little else, is behind this logic.

I did keep the final bill to sub-$15, with tip, my upper limit for coffeeneuring runs.

For the trip back, I considered taking the bus, but thought it would be interesting to try the horrid road at night, with cameras rolling. Turned out to be no worse than I am used to dealing with on any other road. I did not take the sidewalk, but used the road itself. Traffic was light, and everyone who passed me gave me the required four feet of space. This is a single 14-foot lane, with a 10-foot center lane that is really a second outbound lane that is totally unnecessary for most of its length. Fourteen feet is wholly unnecessary for a 35 mph road, but it does make it at least possible for light traffic to get by without difficulty. I rode this the entire distance from McKees Rocks to the entrance to the South Side Trail by 1600 West Carson.

From there, I rode Smithfield Street through the city, to 9th Street, to East Street, to Perrysville Avenue, then up Perry Highway to home. Most of this was uneventful, except for the last 100 yards of Perry before the turn onto my street. Only then, literally within sight of my house, I get nearly sideswiped by a white Cadillac whose driver had trouble figuring out how to get into an empty passing lane.

Thus concludes six of my seven coffeeneuring runs around Pittsburgh. Only one left, the South Side Flats.


  1. It really is possible to get to McKees Rocks and back on a bicycle without getting killed.

  2. Map! 30 miles!