Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Ride through downtown Wilkes-Barre

Friday, October 31st, 2008

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.

Weird intersection at Market Street and Wyoming Avenue

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.

Crossing the North Street bridge

Looking over at the Market Street Bridge

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.

Downtown Wilkes-Barre

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.

Osterhout Free Library

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.

Some beautiful old buildings downtown

The abandoned Hotel Sterling

Another shot of Hotel Sterling

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.

My bicycle at Hotel Sterling

An interesting neighboring building, the Riverwalk Grille

After that brief detour, I rode back to Kingston on the Market Street bridge.

Ongoing construction on the riverwalk trail

Some information about the bridge

My bicycle on the bridge

Looking back at the North Street bridge, which I crossed on my way to downtown Wilkes-Barre

Supports on the bridge

Another bike shot


Looking toward Kingston

Arch detail

Detailed work above the arch. Did something go here at one time?

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.

View of the mountains from the levee path

The levee 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.

8 Responses to “Ride through downtown Wilkes-Barre”

  1. Eric Says:

    Looks like there are plenty of interesting things to see around town, can’t wait until you get to explore more!

  2. doc Says:

    When I used to visit that area on business, there was a hotel on the eastern side of the city where the rooms were renovated railroad cars. They were very plush, but also the best rate.
    Back in the ’80’s the state rowing championships were held in WB on the Susquehanna, and I remember that we raced under that bridge.
    Again, cool pix!

  3. Jon Grinder Says:

    One thing I miss, living in Colorado, is actual rivers. All of the rivers out here are more what I think of as a creek (sometimes flowing very fast, but never very wide or deep).

  4. Myles/ rattrappress Says:

    Are you ready for the time change and winter weather? When does the first snowfall usually hit around there?

  5. Dale Says:

    That was a very succinct summation of the fears and anxiety I have been feeling over the last few months of “becoming” a cyclist. I mostly ride in somewhat of a backwater town. The advantages are that it is only 10 minutes via bike from the country. I get a fair amount of drivers who seem to get it. After all several of the roads are often used for riding, but still plenty of people doing high speed close passing. I always think of the Top Gun scenes where they buzz the tower. That always goes through my head when I get passed too close.

    Great post.

  6. Apertome Says:

    Myles: the first snowfall has already happened, at least in the mountains. Except for a few flurries, it hasn’t snowed in the valley where I live yet, though. I’m not sure what’s typical, since I just moved here.

  7. Frank Jump Says:

    Great to have made your eQuaintance!

    😉 Jump

  8. Dan Says:

    Not bad for a lunch hour ride.

    I think that one’s perception of ‘bike friendliness’ changes with familiarity. As I ride around my town, I know the best roads to take, where I have to pay attention, and where I can relax. Is it the drivers getting used to you, or you getting used to the area?

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