Walsh: Hunting season is bikers' beware
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Adam Maeroff's strongly-worded advice to trail-riding bicyclists will be a reminder to some, a warning to others:
"Wear bright colors, preferably blaze orange, during hunting season."
Maeroff, 47, of Squirrel Hill, and his daughter Dalia, 12, had a series of unnerving experiences last Saturday riding on the Great Allegheny Passage between McKeesport and Industry.
He said this is the first year he and his family have biked on the passage into the fall. His wife, Diana, and their son, Alan, 8, had other plans and were not along on the ride.
"He said the family started using the trail "due to all the positive press about it. But we found out the hard way that riding it is downright dangerous this time of year because of hunters shooting from [the trail] and even toward it from boats [in the nearby Youghiogheny River] while families are riding by not wearing orange."
He said he and his daughter mounted their bikes on the front of a 61C McKeesport bus, got on the passage and planned to ride to Industry, about 22 miles round trip.
They were only a few miles along the trail when their usually tranquil ride was interrupted by the sound of rifle shots.
"We were shocked at how much hunting was going on all around us in and around Buena Vista, Dravo and all the way down to Industry," he said.
"We even saw a gut-shot six-point buck right along the trail dying. It was insane."
He posted a photo of the deer on his Facebook page.
"I realize that hunting is legal, but [bicycling and hunting] don't at all mix," he said. "It's unsafe and an accident waiting to happen. I asked around down there, and locals told me that many people from there do not use the trail this time of year because of this issue."
Maeroff expressed concern that long-distance cyclists traveling between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., and locals using the passage to bike, walk their dogs or push a baby stroller, "may not be aware of the hazards of using the passage during hunting season.
"I believe that it's just a matter of time before one of these arrows or rounds finds its way into a baby stroller," he said.
Maeroff said he and his daughter witnessed bow and rifle hunters shooting from bass boats as they floated along the Youghiogheny River.
"There were nonstop gunshots at times," he said.
When he and his daughter stopped to rest on a bench near the Dravo Cemetery, they were startled to see hunters with rifles coming through the woods toward them.
"That really shook me up," he said. "It looked as through they were trying to flush out game toward the trail with no thought of people on the trail who might be passing by."
Maeroff, an artist who frequently paints along the passage in and around the West Newton area, said he would like to see warnings about bicycling during hunting season posted at trailhead parking lots and printed in guide books.
If you missed Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff writer Annie Siebert's story in Thursday's paper -- "Drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians take the high road to safety" -- call it up at www.post-gazette.com.
The last CSX freight train to use the Pinkerton Tunnel between Fort Hill and Markleton in southern Somerset County passed through the 1,081-foot-long tunnel Sunday.
Trains now bypass it.
The 135-year-old tunnel, visible from the Great Allegheny Passage, will be demolished because it was too low for CSX to double-stack container shipments.
First Published November 17, 2012 12:00 am