On Wednesday, I did a short ride during my lunch break. I wanted to try riding across the North Street bridge, and I had yet to ride in downtown Wilkes-Barre, so this was a good opportunity to try it.
Most people I’ve asked about riding in this area have said it’s not a very bike-friendly area. Drivers apparently aren’t accustomed to dealing with cyclists. But I have seen quite a few people riding around town, even if most of them are riding erratically and/or on the sidewalks. The real problem with this for me is that sometimes I get the sense that since that’s what drivers around here mostly see cyclists doing, they think I’m doing something wrong when I take a more vehicular approach — riding in the street instead of on the sidewalk, and riding in the traffic lane consistently, not swerving into the parking area when no one is parked there. But as usual, I find the more I hold my ground, the better off I am. Unfortunately, I occasionally feel some drivers think I’m intentionally holding up traffic by riding this way.
As I’ve driven around town a bit, I see a lot of potential for cycling. There are a lot of side streets, and even on some of the main roads, speed limits are generally low. And so far, I haven’t seen any major traffic.
On the other hand, I feel a bit of extra anxiety; the last time I tried to ride in an unfamiliar place, I got hit by a car. So, I’m taking my time trying to get to know the area and being extra cautious.
I set out riding from home and rode over to Pierce Street, which turns into North Street and goes over the Susquehanna River. This is one of two nearby bridges that take you over the river. The other being is the Market Street Bridge, which has very wide sidewalks that can accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. Normally, I wouldn’t advocate riding on the sidewalk, but I think a bridge is a different story. There are no intersections, driveways, or doors to worry about. Going into this ride, I wasn’t sure if the North Street Bridge had a sidewalk or path.
Riding down Pierce Street was better than I expected. It’s four lanes, but traffic was light and I had no problems with motorists. As I approached the river on North Street, I could see that it did have a sidewalk. It’s much narrower than the one on the Market Street bridge, but I decided to ride there anyway.
I turned on Main Street shortly after crossing the bridge. Wilkes-Barre doesn’t have much of a downtown to speak of, really. There are a few blocks of downtown area, but that’s about it. I found it was well-suited to bicycling. There was no specialized infrastructure, but low speed limits and frequent crosswalks, if anything, put me at an advantage. The only place I had a problem was at Public Square, where there is a very confusing two-lane roundabout. I have a hard time figuring out how it’s supposed to work in a car, let alone on a bike. I made it through, but I need to figure out a better approach.
I rode by the Osterhout Free Library, where my wife now works. I wished I had brought a lock so I could see her. I think she was on lunch at the time, anyway. It’s the coolest library I’ve ever seen, as it’s in an old church building. It’s beautiful inside and out, although they are doing some major renovations, and it’s covered in scaffolding.
Downtown Wilkes-Barre is an interesting. There are a lot of of old buildings, in various conditions. Some have been well-maintained, but there are some abandoned buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
I’ll have to revisit this area with my wife and my good camera so we can take some proper photos instead of these snapshots.
After that brief detour, I rode back to Kingston on the Market Street bridge.
Once across the bridge, I took the levee path over to the Forty Fort border, then rode home. A few flurries fell as I rode. The wind was also a major factor while riding along this wide open, elevated path.
One interesting thing about this area is that there are numerous small towns (boroughs). In under 7 miles, I went through three or four different boroughs: Kingston, Wilkes-Barre, Forty Fort, and possibly Edwardsville (I’m not sure exactly where the Kingston/Edwardsville border lies).
It was a good little ride. This area may not be as bike-friendly as Bloomington was, but so far I have not had any problems. I’m looking forward to exploring more.