Like to ride your bike on the Great Allegheny Passage, then maybe through the Waterfront in Homestead? Those red octagonal signs on the bike trail that say STOP actually do apply to you, and the West Homestead police plan to get serious soon about enforcing them.
A bike patrol officer issued four $10 citations on Sunday to bicyclists who failed to stop at the signs, which are posted at a half-dozen trail crossings in front of Costco and two nearby hotels, and gave about a dozen verbal warnings to others, said West Homestead Mayor John Dindak. While public officials are glad the trail runs through town, cyclists failing to stop as directed where the trail crosses busy driveways could endanger lives, he said.
"I'm a firm believer in live and let live, but as soon as I get calls and complaints that have to do with public safety, I have to do something," Mr. Dindak said. "God forbid something does happen down there -- somebody's going to get hurt."
The mayor said he plans to meet with the borough's police officers this morning to discuss plans for boosting enforcement of the stop signs to begin later this week in preparation for heavy weekend traffic of cars, bikes and pedestrians.
A citation could also cost cyclists points on their driver's licenses, Mr. Dindak said.
In an informal survey between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Friday, more than two dozen bicyclists breezed past the stop signs, with few slowing at the crossings and even fewer looking right or left for oncoming motorists. Just three cyclists stopped, two of them to allow cars to exit the parking lots at Costco and Sandcastle.
Several of those who failed to stop said they want to follow the law, but had no idea the stop signs applied to them.
"Oh, wow, I'm in for a serious load of trouble," said Shane Novak, 38, of East McKeesport, when he heard that West Homestead police are issuing citations for failure to stop at the crossings. "Everybody blows through them."
Would fear of a citation make him stop in the future?
"Yeah, definitely," Mr. Novak said, before pedaling off and immediately running two more stop signs.
Some cyclists questioned the signs' legality.
"I wouldn't think you could put a stop sign on a bike trail," said Linda Feuster, a 53-year-old lawyer. "Stop signs are for roads and for cars, right? As in, 'the rules of the road?' "
Rob Enrico of Jeannette did stop where indicated at one of the driveways at Costco, but said it would make more sense for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to simply yield to one another, depending on who reached the intersection or crossing first.
"This stopping wastes energy, time, brakes, gas," said Mr. Enrico, 59, who was just finishing a 30-mile bike trip that began at the Pump House and wound through Squirrel Hill before returning to the Waterfront. "It should be that if it's clear, you go."
Allowing cyclists to yield at stop signs instead of actually stopping would be a nice change if it could be accomplished legislatively, as has been done in Idaho, said Eric Boerer, advocacy director for BikePGH. But until then, cyclists need to know and follow Pennsylvania's rules of the road.
"For the most part, people who have a bike are drivers first -- 95 percent of our website users have a driver's license and 85 percent own a car -- so they are very well aware of the rules of the road and what cyclists are supposed to do," he said. "But everybody on the road seems to roll through stop signs, a lot of cyclists included."
In an effort to educate cyclists about riding safely in traffic, the Steel Valley Trail Council plans to offer a workshop Aug. 20 on the South Side in which a national curriculum will be presented, said the group's president Sarah Petyk. The council also plans to meet with the West Homestead police and Costco representatives to continue to improve the area's safety, she said.
"It's an area we have been looking at since before it opened, and we have been talking closely with all the stakeholders about how that was going to be an unfamiliar section for people," Ms. Petyk said. "So far we've only had good reports of cars waiting, cyclists waiting, pedestrians waiting for each other."
Amy McConnell Schaarsmith: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1719. First Published August 13, 2013 4:00 AM