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  1. #1
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    Tram tracks - a biker's nightmare

    A few months ago I posted an item about a commuter cyclist run over by a bus when she fell after her front wheel caught in a tram track. The inquest in to her death continues --

    Six cyclists were seriously injured in Melbourne's CBD during a nine-month period last year when their bicycle tyres got caught in tram tracks, police have told an inquest.

    Carolyn Rawlins was cycling to work on a September morning last year when she was hit and killed by a tour bus at the corner of Swanston and Bourke streets.

    The coronial inquest into her death has heard it is likely that Ms Rawlins' front tyre became caught in tram tracks as she travelled down Swanston Street.

    This is thought to have caused her to fall into the path of a tour bus travelling alongside her.
    Read on...

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/tr...1124-jerv.html

  2. #2
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    Watch out for the tracks.

  3. #3
    Crankenstein bmclaughlin807's Avatar
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    Always a good idea to know where the tracks are on your route!

    Last year I had a set of tracks I crossed twice a day.... once I was fiddling around with stuff on my bike and neglected to prepare properly while riding in the snow... Tire caught the tracks and went sideways... I realized where I was just moments before the tire hit... had just enough time to prepare and execute a flawless flying dismount. In front of a bus (at the cross street)... luckily the bus driver was already stopped at a stop sign. I landed the dismount perfectly, and threw my hands up in the air like I'd just earned a perfect '10' score at the Olympics.

    The look on the drivers face was priceless!
    "There is no greater wonder than the way the face and character of a woman fit so perfectly in a man's mind, and stay there, and he could never tell you why. It just seems it was the thing he most wanted." Robert Louis Stevenson

  4. #4
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Despite the hyperventilated theory that 'trams were eliminated by general motors so they could sell more cars,' trams are heavy, awkward, disgorge passengers in the middle of the roadway (DUH!), interefere with traffic flow turning left and right, are often powered by overhead lines which are unsightly and dangerous....yadda yadda yadda. Uniquely among a subset of poor transportation alternatives, trams have to be the worst. They are quaint in places like Zurich where they shuttle people around who earn six figures a year and feel guilty about heroin users in their local parks (out of sight and out of mind)....but they are pretty much worthless everywhere else.

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  5. #5
    Primate Metzinger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
    Uniquely among a subset of poor transportation alternatives, trams have to be the worst.
    You seem do have done your research.
    One question. Does the subset of poor transportation choices include all other modes of public transport? Or just hateful ones?

    You see, not long ago I moved to a city with 17 tram lines. The vehicles are often packed with old and young people from all walks. I'm trying to decide whether to hate them or not.

  6. #6
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Metzinger View Post
    You seem do have done your research.
    One question. Does the subset of poor transportation choices include all other modes of public transport? Or just hateful ones?

    You see, not long ago I moved to a city with 17 tram lines. The vehicles are often packed with old and young people from all walks. I'm trying to decide whether to hate them or not.
    Well lets see...you could hate them outbound, and love 'em inbound! In Boston, I have always loved the Green Line but hated the Orange Line. I am indifferent about a Chorus line. Like most mass transit of course, trans take you where they want, when they want.

    What city is this?

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
    Despite the hyperventilated theory that 'trams were eliminated by general motors so they could sell more cars,' trams are heavy, awkward, disgorge passengers in the middle of the roadway (DUH!), interefere with traffic flow turning left and right, are often powered by overhead lines which are unsightly and dangerous....yadda yadda yadda. Uniquely among a subset of poor transportation alternatives, trams have to be the worst. They are quaint in places like Zurich where they shuttle people around who earn six figures a year and feel guilty about heroin users in their local parks (out of sight and out of mind)....but they are pretty much worthless everywhere else.

    roughstuff
    I love trams! But then again I love 'quaint'...

    The new city government here (Odense, DK) had as a part of their platform building a tram line between downtown and the university. Other than you can haul more passengers per trip, I fail to see the usefulness of committing so much money to a permanent route.

    But what the heck. It'll be quaint.

  8. #8
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pedaleur View Post
    I love trams! But then again I love 'quaint'...

    The new city government here (Odense, DK) had as a part of their platform building a tram line between downtown and the university. Other than you can haul more passengers per trip, I fail to see the usefulness of committing so much money to a permanent route.

    But what the heck. It'll be quaint.
    I don't live in Boston but many of the subways come above ground as ya leave the city center and fit the tram definition. They are quaint, and a godsend for Student Ghetto residents from Chestnut Hill to Cambridge who need to get around. I hardly mean to suggest they have no virtues. But with the exception of these specialized, rare, and usually artificially imposed urban densities and automobile transport costs, trams (and mass transit in general) is a complete failure.

    roughstuff
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  9. #9
    LCI #1853
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    We have pretty much the same thing here in Little Rock with the River Rail Trolley.

    Treat the tram/trolley tracks with the same respect that you would railroad tracks, excepet that tram tracks usiaually run parallel to your route for significant distances. On two lane streets the trolley tracks usually fill the right traffic lane, and in these cases I'll move over to the next parallel street. Where there are two lanes in each direction, the tracks make a case for moving over and riding in the left, of "fast" lane.

    Always approach the tracks with your wheels perpendicular to the rails, and don't ride between the rails, or between the rails and the curb. If you should get into difficulty, you've got no place to go without getting your wheels trapped in the rails.

  10. #10
    Senior Member LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Roughstuff, streetcars around here aren't deboarded into the middle of the street, they have platforms where they stop. But, yeah those tracks are pretty gnarly. Luckily I rarely go into the parts of town with streetcars.

    I'm not sure what makes streetcars better than buses in some cities' eyes. They're much more expensive, screw up the streets for many months during construction and do make cycling more tricky. They don't have flexibility either. Cities change and need more transportation in certain areas of the city at different times. Buses' flexibility make them better able to accommodate.
    Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 11-24-09 at 07:37 AM.
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  11. #11
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    Roughstuff, streetcars around here aren't deboarded into the middle of the street, they have platforms where they stop. ....I'm not sure what makes streetcars better than buses in some cities' eyes. ..... Buses' flexibility make them better able to accommodate.
    Unless the Streetcars are named Desire, I do not like them. To me fleets of minbuses make more sense, buzzing around the town and downtown area like little bees, carrying people just about anywhere. The only place I have seen such a thing is in central american and Pakistani cities, where VW type buses are all over the place (though usually on assigned routes). BEndy buses can be nice too on main routes.

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    Never had issues.

    If I regularly rode over track interchanges in the dark/rain/snow I'd want to run a pretty wide set of tires.

    Rather like streetcars myself.

  13. #13
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    Never had issues.

    If I regularly rode over track interchanges in the dark/rain/snow I'd want to run a pretty wide set of tires.

    Rather like streetcars myself.
    That's what I was thinking. A mtb with smooth for speed, but very wide tires would not let the tire go down into the hole. It would still have a small effect depending on the tire
    but that would be rideable with practice.
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  14. #14
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    I should offer full disclosure here and say that there are no streetcar tracks on my everyday commuting route. However I've ridden this intersection at night in the rain a few times without incident (and without big veer-right-then-left maneuvers).

    A 2.5" MTB tire at moderate pressure is enough to bridge the rail on those tracks, i.e. even if you are riding right along the rail, the edges of the tire will be on concrete.

    That's an observation, not a suggested course of action.

    Its not the most efficient setup for rolling resistance, but neither is putting on studded tires and rolling through two inches of packed slush.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Indie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I'm not sure what makes streetcars better than buses in some cities' eyes. They're much more expensive, screw up the streets for many months during construction and do make cycling more tricky. They don't have flexibility either. Cities change and need more transportation in certain areas of the city at different times. Buses' flexibility make them better able to accommodate.
    Here in Toronto they're moving towards having dedicated lanes for streetcars, and having streetcars as something closer to light rail rather than buses on tracks.

    I know of several major streets that used to be impossible to get anywhere on in a timely fashion, in a car or a streetcar, because of heavy traffic. Then they banned cars from the streetcar lane and suddenly the streetcars were extremely efficient and punctual. (The streetcars debark on sheltered islands in the middles of these four- or six-lane roads, and a signalled crosswalk gets you to the sidewalk from the island.)

    As a sometimes (read: when there's too much snow to bike) public transit rider, I like the streetcars. Streetcar tracks are a danger for cyclists to avoid, and avoiding them is a skill to be learned. Unfortunately it seems like too many people get on a bike for the first time not knowing about the hazard. I got caught in a track once (fortunately starting from a stop, so I wasn't going fast and neither was the car behind me), and so did one of my coworkers (fell in front of a streetcar and narrowly escaped being hit), and once I saw a guy come out of a bike shop with a new motor-assist bike, zip off down the street, and hit a track and go flying (pieces of new bike everywhere, and his helmet made a nice *thud* on the pavement).

    Not sure how to get the idea across to new cyclists before they head out, though.
    Last edited by Indie; 11-24-09 at 09:39 AM.
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  16. #16
    Mrs. DataJunkie Luddite's Avatar
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    embedded train tracks took me down a few months back, luckily there was no traffic where I wiped out. Freaking hurt.

    I quit the job I had in that area, don't have to contend with any more embedded train tracks.

  17. #17
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    I like trams more than busses. When I lived in Toronto, there are these streetcars. For some reason, they make the journey more pleasant than a bus. In Europe, there are lots of high-tech trams that ferries people around efficiently.
    Perhaps instead of trying to go head-to-head with a embedded facility in the city, why not circumvent it. Take a different route instead. Do not ride perpendicular to embedded tracks. I know it sounds so simple.
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    Senior Member Indie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wunderkind View Post
    Perhaps instead of trying to go head-to-head with a embedded facility in the city, why not circumvent it. Take a different route instead. Do not ride perpendicular to embedded tracks. I know it sounds so simple.
    Eh, in Toronto there are so freaking many streets with tracks, though -- even streets that don't have routes have tracks. There is no Church Street streetcar, but Church Street has tracks, and it looks like they're actually going to repair and reinstall the tracks with the roadwork they're doing there right now.

    When I started riding I only rode on designated bike trails and marked lanes. Then when I felt confident enough I started riding on streets. I can try to avoid streets with tracks, or I can learn how to navigate around tracks.
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    Watch out for the alligators also!


  20. #20
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    That's a real shame, as I here that Melbourne is really proud of it's cycling infrastructure.

  21. #21
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Portland's got the same problem, they keep laying more and more light rail and streetcar tracks on the main roads. particularly downtown. I've heard that an average of two cyclists a day make ER visits after crashing on the tracks.

  22. #22
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    I'm not sure what makes streetcars better than buses in some cities' eyes. They're much more expensive, screw up the streets for many months during construction and do make cycling more tricky. They don't have flexibility either. Cities change and need more transportation in certain areas of the city at different times. Buses' flexibility make them better able to accommodate.
    The infrastructure may cost a lot, but when well designed they are cheaper to run per passenger mile than buses, faster than buses, cleaner than buses, and quieter than buses. On routes where there is high ridership, the extra cost of infrastructure and the lack of flexibility are made up for by those virtues.

    Honestly, I fail to see the virtue of buses except on routes where the passenger load is very light or seasonal.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Indie View Post
    Eh, in Toronto there are so freaking many streets with tracks, though -- even streets that don't have routes have tracks. There is no Church Street streetcar, but Church Street has tracks, and it looks like they're actually going to repair and reinstall the tracks with the roadwork they're doing there right now.

    When I started riding I only rode on designated bike trails and marked lanes. Then when I felt confident enough I started riding on streets. I can try to avoid streets with tracks, or I can learn how to navigate around tracks.
    Maybe the streets without routes have the tracks for future expansion? If the tracks are already there and are connected to the system then if they need to use them they have them. and don't have to wait to install them.

    Just a thought.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
    Maybe the streets without routes have the tracks for future expansion? If the tracks are already there and are connected to the system then if they need to use them they have them. and don't have to wait to install them.

    Just a thought.
    It's a nice thought. But this is Toronto we're talking about.

    The tracks are abandoned lines that there is no budget to remove.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ghettocruiser View Post
    It's a nice thought. But this is Toronto we're talking about.

    The tracks are abandoned lines that there is no budget to remove.

    Quote Originally Posted by Indie View Post
    Eh, in Toronto there are so freaking many streets with tracks, though -- even streets that don't have routes have tracks. There is no Church Street streetcar, but Church Street has tracks, and it looks like they're actually going to repair and reinstall the tracks with the roadwork they're doing there right now.

    Then why are they repairing/reinstalling the tracks?
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