Cyclists Say PennDOT's Bike Map a Start, but Could Be Better
The state's new interactive bike map displays the speed limit and traffic flow of state route bike paths.
photo by elaina zachos
PennDOT has taken the wraps off its new, interactive bike map. Roy Gothie, bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for PennDOT, says the tool helps riders choose a route that matches their “experience and comfort level.” The map uses layers to provide the cyclists with detailed bike routes, traffic volumes and speed limits. It also includes Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Trails, State Parks and State Forests.
But not all cyclists are impressed.
Paul Heckbert, secretary of the Steel Valley Trail Council, was hoping for a map that would be tailored to his preferences. “Like I prefer not to bike on hills with a climb over 8 percent and prefer roads where the speed limit is below 70 mph,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Ngani Ndimbie, spokeswoman for Bike Pittsburgh, tells the PG that the map is an improvement over the files PennDOT previously used.
“It could be a great tool for PennDOT to help itself consider the number of miles of roads that are well-suited for bicycling and consider places for improvement,” she told the paper.
Ndimbie suggests that Bike Pittsburgh's own regional map and the PennDOT map will work well together to provide riders more information.
Lance Kennelty, president of Western Pennsylvania Wheelman, says maps are fine but are no substitute for local intelligence. His group gathers feedback from riders on the current conditions of routes, which can change often due to road work, detours or other factors.
“Maps are a good place to start, but we usually always fall back on who do we know in the area that’s ridden these routes, who do we know who can tell us what traffic is really like?” Kennelty told the Post-Gazette.
For instance, Route 51 is included on PennDOT's new map even though it's a heavily traveled highway with no bike lanes.
Heckbert used Route 51 to ride his bike to a memorial service for bicyclists killed on that road and said he would not do it again.
“Some of the Pennsylvania bike routes are fine, but that one, or a stretch of it, is really harrowing,” Heckbert told the PG. “I biked it, but I don’t think I would bike it again.”
Gothie says PennDOT will update the map as it collects new information.