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Old 01-15-08, 08:44 AM   #1
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Riding the ****: Streetcar presents danger to cyclists

Riding the ****: Streetcar presents danger to cyclists

http://thedaily.washington.edu/2008/...nger-cyclists/

Years ago Pittsburgh had streetcars. Years after they where gone the tracks could still be found. I can attest to the dangers of crossing wet, smooth steel at an angle other than 90 degrees. It is like hitting ice. My accident happen years ago and all the track are now gone. I was riding with traffic on a 3 lane, one way road, with the track parallel to the road. I went down, bike went to the left and I watched as the rear wheel of a station wagon crushed my wheel. I got off with barely a scrape. It could have been devastating
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Old 01-15-08, 10:56 AM   #2
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I live near Portland. There has been a similar trolley system in downtown Portland for several years now; there hasn't been a noticeable incidence of cyclist falls on those tracks.
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Old 01-15-08, 11:29 AM   #3
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I wonder how many of those falls were riders on ultra-narrow tires? We've got some pretty weird-angle RR crossings around here and I've never had any problems.
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Old 01-15-08, 11:42 AM   #4
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Maybe. But I think it's more an issue of balance and position on the bike that'll cause a fall when attempting to go over tracks at angles other than perpendicular to the tracks.
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Old 01-15-08, 12:12 PM   #5
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there are a bunch of tracks in toronto, it's not a hassle, sometimes it's harder when you can t see them under thre snow. people that dont like them at all can just ride mtb tires and tehy can take way les care around them
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Old 01-15-08, 04:06 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by slagjumper View Post
Riding the ****: Streetcar presents danger to cyclists

http://thedaily.washington.edu/2008/...nger-cyclists/

Years ago Pittsburgh had streetcars. Years after they where gone the tracks could still be found. I can attest to the dangers of crossing wet, smooth steel at an angle other than 90 degrees. It is like hitting ice. My accident happen years ago and all the track are now gone. I was riding with traffic on a 3 lane, one way road, with the track parallel to the road. I went down, bike went to the left and I watched as the rear wheel of a station wagon crushed my wheel. I got off with barely a scrape. It could have been devastating

When I lived in PGH there where yellow brick roads too....
Between the tracks and slippery bricks....yikes !!
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Old 01-15-08, 04:12 PM   #7
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What a tragic acronym
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Old 01-15-08, 07:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by slagjumper View Post
Riding the ****: Streetcar presents danger to cyclists

http://thedaily.washington.edu/2008/...nger-cyclists/

Years ago Pittsburgh had streetcars. Years after they where gone the tracks could still be found. I can attest to the dangers of crossing wet, smooth steel at an angle other than 90 degrees. It is like hitting ice. My accident happen years ago and all the track are now gone. I was riding with traffic on a 3 lane, one way road, with the track parallel to the road. I went down, bike went to the left and I watched as the rear wheel of a station wagon crushed my wheel. I got off with barely a scrape. It could have been devastating
I like street cars and hope they build more of them. In fact, cities around the country are doing just that because a street car/light rail increase the commercial district and property values. However, there really are no safe methods to make a street car system safe. Even the article stated they are experimenting with new techniques, hoping they will make it safer for cyclists. Don't hold your breath!

In Philadelphia, you should see some of the roads with all the criss cross tracks making it very dangerous. Bottom line, you just have to go over those rails real careful as though you were riding on wet glass.
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Old 01-15-08, 07:49 PM   #9
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We're going to get streetcars here in Albuquerque within the next two years at a cost of $28million/mi. I support the idea, though, as we really need a rail system here. There are buses, but outside of the RapidRide routes, they're not exactly the best way to get around unless you've got a lot of time. The streetcars can be used by bicyclists, and the proposed fare is $1.

As more routes become available, I imagine more people will use it. Gas prices really get people out here because of the the rather large area of the city (181sq mi, not including suburbs) and the sub-par public transit choices. Everyone drives. But, slowly progress is being made - we got a light rail train a few years ago, the new RapidRide buses, and it's about time we got rail in the city itself.
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Old 01-16-08, 05:55 AM   #10
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What makes light rail significantly better than buses? I was in San Diego a few weeks ago and while the trolley's were nice they weren't really any better than buses that run on a good schedule.

I'd take a web of bus routes that run on 10-15 minute increments over trolley's.
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Old 01-16-08, 06:42 AM   #11
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The German and Swiss experience is that installing light rail attracts a lot more (>50% AFAIR) passengers than buses at the same frequency.
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Old 01-16-08, 07:00 AM   #12
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In MD, PA, VA, and WV there are lots of tracks. I've not had any problems with them, but I -always- coast over them. IME, if you go over them while turning the pedals, you are inviting trouble.

There's talk about bringing streetcars back to B'more. I don't know how I feel about that, but it seems to me to be just another potential hazard.
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Old 01-16-08, 09:59 AM   #13
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When I wiped out, I was going 20 mph, accellorating and crossed the rail somewhere around 20 degrees. The rail was flush with the asphalt, since it had been long abandoned. I also was running 23mm tires.
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Old 01-16-08, 10:23 AM   #14
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What makes light rail significantly better than buses? I was in San Diego a few weeks ago and while the trolley's were nice they weren't really any better than buses that run on a good schedule.

I'd take a web of bus routes that run on 10-15 minute increments over trolley's.
Light rail, as opposed to street cars? Well, light rail is pretty fast. I believe the Rail Runner train hits 80mph on the parts of its route where it is safe to do so. They also don't get stuck in traffic, and usually they're quieter and more comfortable than buses.
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Old 01-16-08, 05:17 PM   #15
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Hey, I'm from Seattle and use the area around the "****" - since renamed SLUS (streetcar, not trolley, after the city finally realized the acronym). The basic problem is that the rails meander across the street and around corners, so there's really no "safe" lane to ride in anywhere along the route. It takes the right lane part-way and then gently curves over to the left lane. Try getting a 90-degree angle on those suckers in traffic and that's why there's been problems. Along the northmost portion of the route, the tracks bend around a corner and the city has now suggested to cyclists that we ride on the sidewalk here. Not a bad proposition but for the cross-traffic, the peds, the multiple bus-stops and the streetcar stops themselves. Plus, the sidewalk just ends at one point, at a difficult merge/street entrance for a bike. Then, the positioned the rails along Westlake on a major bike route, effectively making the bike-route almost useless. I've taken part of the route on my motorcycle and that unnerved me so much I have never taken my bike along the route. There's no rubber protectors b/t track and street as I've seen in Portland and even on some commercial tracks on my regular route home here - so the city knows the protectors exist, they just didn't bother with them. The city recently installed "trolley/bike" warnings signs at least...after bicyclists started complaining.
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Old 01-16-08, 05:19 PM   #16
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I have to comment on the rail being faster than traffic - not so here. The trolley has to stop for lights/traffic as well. It's faster than the bus route I could use, or walking, but the bicycle is much faster still. Good luck if one car breaks down too, or is hit by a car, then the whole system shuts down until the repair is made...brilliance of city planning at work. And which is why I'm on my bike.
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Old 01-16-08, 06:06 PM   #17
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We have some of these old style trolley tracks here in Boston and they are/can be catastrophic to a cyclist.

In the Boston climate with freezing and thawing the space between the tracks and the pavement, over time, becomes quite deteriorated. City budgets don't allow for a lot of maintenance in this area and so cracks, holes and dislodged pavement gets ignored.

There are some "trackless trolleys". Basically long busses that run on electricity from the old infrastructure but on pneumatic tires and require no tracks. This allows for the same service without the issues of pavement and tracks.

I've had friends go down hard especially in Jamaica Plain where it's not just crossing the tracks but taking the lane where the tracks run right down the street parallel to the direction of the cyclists line of travel. It's easy to slip right into the rut while trying to stay out of the door zone or trying to make a right turn. The JP tracks are no longer in use and there is a plan to repave in April. In the meantime, cyclists are fairly constant victims to the tracks.

Super caution is the only strategy in that case.
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Old 01-16-08, 08:20 PM   #18
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I've had friends go down hard especially in Jamaica Plain where it's not just crossing the tracks but taking the lane where the tracks run right down the street parallel to the direction of the cyclists line of travel. It's easy to slip right into the rut while trying to stay out of the door zone or trying to make a right turn. The JP tracks are no longer in use and there is a plan to repave in April. In the meantime, cyclists are fairly constant victims to the tracks.
Those JP tracks felt squirelly even in a car when I was there in a good snowstorm once. I certainly wouldn't bike around them.

I saw the overhead electric buses in Seattle and thought they seemed like a better solution. I don't really see an advantage to trains that have to share a street with traffic. Other than some kind of chic or coolness factor for the city. I'd rather my city continue improving bus service rather than installing these contraptions.
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Old 01-16-08, 08:27 PM   #19
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In TO - you've got to be aware of them for sure (see my post "streetcar tracks suck"). But with a bit of knowledge, and attention, you can avoid crashing more than once a decade or so. Good luck, and good riding...
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Old 01-17-08, 10:20 AM   #20
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In MD, PA, VA, and WV there are lots of tracks. I've not had any problems with them, but I -always- coast over them. IME, if you go over them while turning the pedals, you are inviting trouble.

There's talk about bringing streetcars back to B'more. I don't know how I feel about that, but it seems to me to be just another potential hazard.
FWIW If we do get streetcar tracks in B'more they are going to be a new narrow gap type (in the center of the rail) that bike tires can't get trapped in. Which I believe is the same type used in Portland.
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Old 01-17-08, 11:27 AM   #21
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Those JP tracks felt squirelly even in a car when I was there in a good snowstorm once. I certainly wouldn't bike around them.

I saw the overhead electric buses in Seattle and thought they seemed like a better solution. I don't really see an advantage to trains that have to share a street with traffic. Other than some kind of chic or coolness factor for the city. I'd rather my city continue improving bus service rather than installing these contraptions.
buses are too cheap, too flexible, and too pedestrian to be viable in any "forward thinking" transit plan. No, it's much much better to rely on 19th century rail technology to provide transportation alternatives that are hugely expensive, impossible to reroute, and ensnare cyclists like a spider traps a fly. No politician ever left their mark on the city by adding more buses.
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Old 01-19-08, 04:59 PM   #22
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My oldest daughter had a similar accident in Boston, MA some time back. Thanks for the info about ****. Hope to move to Seattle in the future and I'll be show some caution around the tracks.
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Old 01-20-08, 07:54 PM   #23
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buses are too cheap, too flexible, and too pedestrian to be viable in any "forward thinking" transit plan. No, it's much much better to rely on 19th century rail technology to provide transportation alternatives that are hugely expensive, impossible to reroute, and ensnare cyclists like a spider traps a fly. No politician ever left their mark on the city by adding more buses.
On the contrary, while buses may have a lower initial cost than streetcars (which have astronomical infrastructure costs) the actual operation of buses costs more - until the diesel engine became commercially viable, there was no contest between electric streetcars and buses - and even after the introduction of diesel buses, the trollies were still cheaper to run. What killed streetcars in most of the U.S. was WWII. Because steel was rationed, and ridership was up due to gasoline rationing - the streetcar systems took a beating during the war - they couldn't really lay new rails or build new cars. So when peacetime followed, and companies had to decided whether to rip up all the old track and replace it with new track, and replace all the old trollies - or just tear up the old track and buy cheaper buses, they chose the latter.
Because so many cars were on the road by this time, traffic forced cities to rethink all their streets as one ways. Which mean tearing up tracks that went the wrong way, which meant buses looked good in that respect too. In Denver, when they redid all the streets as one ways, the cost of relocating all of the overhead wires for the quiet, clean, electrical buses meant that it was cheaper to switch to the smellier, slower, and dirtier diesel kind. Hey, thanks a lot cars!

The chief problem with the "****" (actually, it was never offically called that, and technically it isn't even a Trolley anyway) is that the tracks don't stay in the center of the street, they sometimes go over to the curbside, which means you have rails all over the lanes. It's a pretty absurd situation, streetcar tracks have been laid in the center of the street for well over 100 years - but I guess Seattle just had to be different.

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Old 01-21-08, 01:04 AM   #24
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The chief problem with the "****" (actually, it was never offically called that, and technically it isn't even a Trolley anyway) is that the tracks don't stay in the center of the street, they sometimes go over to the curbside, which means you have rails all over the lanes. It's a pretty absurd situation, streetcar tracks have been laid in the center of the street for well over 100 years - but I guess Seattle just had to be different.
And the local bike advocacy org told them about the problems before the system was built. They were ignored. So much for any claim to bike friendliness.
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Old 01-21-08, 08:53 AM   #25
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On the contrary, while buses may have a lower initial cost than streetcars (which have astronomical infrastructure costs) the actual operation of buses costs more - until the diesel engine became commercially viable, there was no contest between electric streetcars and buses - and even after the introduction of diesel buses, the trollies were still cheaper to run. What killed streetcars in most of the U.S. was WWII. Because steel was rationed, and ridership was up due to gasoline rationing - the streetcar systems took a beating during the war - they couldn't really lay new rails or build new cars. So when peacetime followed, and companies had to decided whether to rip up all the old track and replace it with new track, and replace all the old trollies - or just tear up the old track and buy cheaper buses, they chose the latter.
Because so many cars were on the road by this time, traffic forced cities to rethink all their streets as one ways. Which mean tearing up tracks that went the wrong way, which meant buses looked good in that respect too. In Denver, when they redid all the streets as one ways, the cost of relocating all of the overhead wires for the quiet, clean, electrical buses meant that it was cheaper to switch to the smellier, slower, and dirtier diesel kind. Hey, thanks a lot cars!

The chief problem with the "****" (actually, it was never offically called that, and technically it isn't even a Trolley anyway) is that the tracks don't stay in the center of the street, they sometimes go over to the curbside, which means you have rails all over the lanes. It's a pretty absurd situation, streetcar tracks have been laid in the center of the street for well over 100 years - but I guess Seattle just had to be different.

It would be interesting to do a cost comparison between the two. Usually, when it comes to rail and seattle, you throw the traditional numbers out the window.

$51 million, to build the 1.5 mile ****, half picked up by the landowners on the line. You could argue how much of that was passed onto the average seattle resident in the form of higher rents, etc. etc. etc.

$1.7 million to operate the **** per year. If someone wants to figure out the cost per mile for the three trains, go for it. My guestimate is that each trolley travels about 34 miles per day (45 minutes per trip, 17 hours a day, 1.5 miles per trip). This works out to about $46 per mile per train.

I've seen cost per mile numbers for buses in seattle being between $1.06 and $1.25 per mile depending on whether they are hybrids or diesel, and includes fuel and maintenance. Probably considerably less if they used the electrical lines.

Someone check my math, it's too early in the morning.
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