Sunday, August 25, 2013

Pedal Pittsburgh - 20th Edition

Today Pittsburgh's annual Bike Fest came to a conclusion with the 20th rendition of Pedal Pittsburgh.  Only their second year hosting this event and Bike-Pgh did a great job.  This was also only my second time riding it and I saw a lot of improvements over last years version.

They offer three rides, each one geared to a different skill or interest level.  A relatively short ride is set up for people with young kids or those who prefer to not mix with traffic.  It sticks mostly to the trails near the start/finish point.  A 25 mile route is offered with just enough climbing to make sure you know you're doing this in Pittsburgh and not Kansas.  The 62 mile option is set up for the hard-core biking enthusiasts.  That one has enough hills to disenchant the rest of us.

The routes were well marked with signs and pavement markings at the turns.  This year it seemed difficult to get yourself lost.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a police officer controlling the traffic light where the route turned left onto Liberty Ave.  Nice.  I was even more surprised to find cones set up once I made that turn, creating a temporary bike lane on what would be a busy stretch of road a little later in the day.

No, your medication isn't wearing off - some of these photos came from the helmet cam so the images appear a bit distorted.  You can still get the idea.

I got a very early start, riding to the event while it was still dark.  It was much more comfortable in the early morning and it was nice to have very little vehicle traffic out there.  It was a great time to ride through Bloomfield too.  A little later on their final day of "Little Italy Days" would be in full gear.  When I went through it was just a line of empty booths.

The first half of the ride was actually very pleasant.  The first rest stop was in Highland Park and it was a good time to take a break.  Whole Foods sponsored the rest stop and they had a very nice spread!

Lots of very nice people there to great us and offer us great refreshments.

The second rest stop seemed to come a bit quicker.  A stop in Schenley Plaza for more fruits from Whole Foods plus cookies from Eat N Park.

It was shortly after departing from this rest stop that I encountered my first too-close-for-comfort moment.  A Port Authority bus on 5th Ave got a bit up close and personal.  There was no reason for it.  Traffic was still pretty light and there were two lanes to the left of the bus available.  I had five - count 'em - FIVE back lights on.  Two on my helmet, two on my bike, and a safety vest with a row of flashing LEDs on it.  Add to that a safety-yellow shirt and there was no way this driver could ever claim to not have seen me there.  No excuses.  Not nice.  Not four feet!!

After crossing the Birmingham Bridge the 25 and 62 mile rides separated again and this time I followed the 62 mile route.  I enjoyed the signs of warning and encouragement I discovered along the route.  There had been one sign much early stating something like "you can do it" along one of the more gentle, but sort of long climbs.  This time they posted a warning of "caution, very steep hills ahead".  Understatement.  While working up a couple of those hills I saw these - and they made me smile.

Good advice.

I somehow failed to take a picture at the last rest stop that I visited.  The folks staffing this one were cheering on anyone that made it all the way up there.  I admitted that I had not done the whole 62 mile course and they didn't care.  They just gave me a round of applause and said it was enough that I climbed that hill.  Very nice people.  

This was not the first time I've climbed to Grandview Park.  In fact it's a favorite destination.  Usually I pack some snacks and consider the view my reward for getting up there.  I just don't usually start this climb after already riding more than 25 miles.

Believe it or not, there was yet more climbing after this point.  We continued on to Mt Washington with a ride up Grandview Ave.  It was on the way back through Arlington that I had another driver fail to introduce herself when she nearly brushed my pannier with her SUV.  In her defense there was a lot of construction on this road.  The problem was that there really wasn't enough room to safely pass, yet she did it anyway and at an uncomfortably fast (for me) speed.  Thirty feet ahead she got stopped at a red light and I quickly caught up.  I took advantage of the opportunity to explain about the four foot rule.  It was a nice, non-confrontational conversation.  She seemed unaware of both the rule and of how close she had come to me.  She apologized and I just asked her to use caution as there were a lot of cyclists out today.

I was very happy to leave that road with a right turn at that light.  It really was too narrow and by now the traffic was getting heavy here.

The rest of the ride was uneventful and I enjoyed the decent to the finish line.  By the time I arrived there the bike racks were full, the band was entertaining people and the food vendors had lines.  It looked like a very successful event for Bike-Pgh.

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