Start to finish on the Montour Bike Trail

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Many serious cyclists can and do ride the 35 miles from Coraopolis to Library in not much more than two hours, but they can miss out on many of the sights and sounds to be found along the Montour Trail.

A slower pace of 6 to 8 miles per hour allows more time to enjoy the views and watch for rabbits, groundhogs, chipmunks and the occasional deer that cross the trail. The route can offer an occasional shiver, especially in the late afternoon or early evening. That's when what appears to be a broken stick at the side of the trail may start to zig-zag: The branch turns out to be a long, slim black snake trying to take advantage of the warmth of the trail's crushed limestone surface.

There are port-a-johns or permanent toilets at a half-dozen spots along the trail. While there are a similar number of water fountains, it's still wise to carry a water bottle. There are several restaurants and snack shops near the trail, but many riders carry high-energy snacks. Boy Scout troops, municipal governments and civic organizations have built shelters and benches along the route that provide shady spots to enjoy picnic lunches.

Light-rail trains run about every 20 minutes during the week on the Library-via-Overbrook Blue Line for the return trip to Downtown. Bicycles are allowed on all Port Authority trains. The trip from the West Library stop on Route 88 to Gateway Center takes about 40 minutes. The regular fare is $3.50 (exact change), and the bus transfer costs another $1.

The nearest stop for the Port Authority's No. 21 bus to Coraopolis is on Stanwix Street, near the corner of Penn Avenue. It is only about 100 yards from the Gateway Center light-rail station. All buses now are equipped with bike racks.

The No. 21 runs about every 20 minutes weekdays from early morning until 7 p.m., when service becomes less frequent. The trip back to Coraopolis takes about 30 minutes. Ask to be let off at Fourth Avenue, just past the end of the bridge that links the borough to Neville Island. That stop is just a block from Fifth Avenue (Route 51), which runs right by the entrance to Mile 0 of the Montour Trail.

Both the Blue Line light-rail and the No. 21 bus operate on weekends, but service is greatly reduced, especially on Sunday when the wait for a bus can be as much as two hours.

Maps of the trail are available online at www.montourtrail.org. The Port Authority has maps and route schedules for both light-rail and buses at www.portauthority.org.

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