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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 07-06-12, 07:10 AM   #1
Darsh
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Not one but Two mishaps on my first commute to work...

My first post in the BF, though I've been reading and lurking in the forums for a couple of months. I'm a complete newbie at biking.

Got and entry level road bike and started biking in spring this year. ATM feel fairly confident on my bike and enjoying the rides. I'm able to do 30 mile rides on weekends and shorter rides on weekday evenings.

Yesterday was my first day commuting to work. It ~14 miles urban commute one way. The ride in to work was smooth and event free.

Started back from downtown Toronto in the evening rush hour traffic. On one of the intersections while turning left my front wheel got caught in the streetcar tracks and I went down hard. Fortunately no traffic behind me. Chain came off derailleurs. Fixed the chain and inspected everything.

No damage to bike or myself except a few scratches on leg.

Got up and carefully started to finish the turn and got caught in the tracks again. Went down again , though not as hard. Reached home alright after that.

So how do the regulars avoid this, other than taking a different route altogether?

BTW today's ride in to work was fine.

Cheers
Darsh
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Old 07-06-12, 07:18 AM   #2
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Not one but Two mishaps on my first commute to work...

Congrats on the commute!

If I encounter any situation that makes me feel uneasy, I just dismount, walk and/or carry my bike, then hop back on and enjoy the rest of my ride.

Good luck!
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Old 07-06-12, 07:24 AM   #3
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Railroad tracks, sewer grates, tar snakes (asphalt patching slime that gets slick in the heat), pot holes, expansion joints and frost/heat heaves, steel manhole covers with car oil or antifreeze on top, and assorted other obstacles in the roadways are just things you learn through experience to be aware of and learn how to deal with them. Glad that you're basically okay. Live and learn. Tracks and gaps are usually best approached at a 90degree angle, which isn't alway
s possible. Some will bunnyhop sideways over parallel tracks and gaps, some have more success than others at bunnyhopping.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:24 AM   #4
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It's always best to go perpendicular to rail tracks, especially in wet conditions. If you can't do that from the turn lane at that particular intersection, it may be better to cross that one intersection on the right by going straight across, then turning left and heading straight across.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:26 AM   #5
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You have to judge how steeply to attack things like tracks, ruts and even sidewalk edges. Wider tires help with some of them. My mountain bike hardly ever had any problems. My hybrid I have to be more cautious. If you can find a suitable spot you might dismount, walk over to the tracks and "walk" your tire across them at various angles to find an optimal angle for crossing.

I fell over once when moving from the street to the sidewalk. Misjudged the driveway edge. It happens. Glad you weren't hurt.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Darsh View Post
My first post in the BF, though I've been reading and lurking in the forums for a couple of months. I'm a complete newbie at biking.

Got and entry level road bike and started biking in spring this year. ATM feel fairly confident on my bike and enjoying the rides. I'm able to do 30 mile rides on weekends and shorter rides on weekday evenings.

Yesterday was my first day commuting to work. It ~14 miles urban commute one way. The ride in to work was smooth and event free.

Started back from downtown Toronto in the evening rush hour traffic. On one of the intersections while turning left my front wheel got caught in the streetcar tracks and I went down hard. Fortunately no traffic behind me. Chain came off derailleurs. Fixed the chain and inspected everything.

No damage to bike or myself except a few scratches on leg.

Got up and carefully started to finish the turn and got caught in the tracks again. Went down again , though not as hard. Reached home alright after that.

So how do the regulars avoid this, other than taking a different route altogether?

BTW today's ride in to work was fine.

Cheers
Darsh
Sorry to hear about the crashes/tipovers.

Ya' gotta' cross those things at a 90 degree angle. RR tracks, speed bumps, ruts, tree roots all the same kinda' thing.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:33 AM   #7
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You can't consider yourself a Toronto rider unless you've had a run-in with the streetcar tracks. I think they put them there to remind us how vulnerable we are.

As other say, key thing is to approach them with caution, and at an angle that's as close to perpendicular as possible. It's often better to cross a road in two stages rather than trying to make a left where there are tracks -- go straight across an intersection and then go straight across the road, riding or pushing, whichever is safer. I have a left on Gerard or on Dundas after the Don Valley bridge, and I keep thinking one day those tracks are going to jump out and grab me. If there's no traffic at all, I cut across all four lines at the sharpest angle I can, but if there's traffic I stop, wait for a gap and then ride straight across the road, crossing all four lines at a perfect right angle. Well, ok, sometimes it's 70 or 80 degrees.

Also for 14 miles, bring water in this heat.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:35 AM   #8
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If the tracks are parallel to your route, it just sucks. Maybe try a different route. It's best to cross tracks at as close to 90 degrees as possible.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:42 AM   #9
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I cross road grade RR tracks on my route, and they always make me a little apprehensive. I usually swing wide and cross at as much of an angle as reasonably possible. They run parallel to my line, so 90 degrees would require slowing way down. Usually cross at about 45 degrees with a good grip on the handlebars and a little lift of the front wheel. Saw a guy go down hard on them once and asked if he was OK, but he was too embarrased to even respond.
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Old 07-06-12, 07:47 AM   #10
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Germany is loaded with streetcar/tram (Straßenbahn) tracks. Frankfurt actually has a huge amount of lines right where I live. It's the major reason why I won't run a road bike / narrow tires.

However, they do have one that serves Apple Wine on board, so I kind of forgive them for the tracks.

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Old 07-06-12, 07:50 AM   #11
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All sorts of road hazards out there that affects bikes but not other modes of transport (or at least not as badly). The kind of bumps in the road you'd drive over without a second thought can hurt if you go over them on a bike. You just learn to keep an eye out for things that might cause you problems, and be aware of your surroundings in case you do find yourself needing to swerve to avoid something nasty.

Things I'm specifically aware of, based on the areas I tend to cycle, include manhole covers, broken road edges, potholes around street drains, broken glass at the roadside, speed humps, patches of gravel etc.

ETA: There are a few level crossings around where I live although they are positioned such that it's easy to cross the tracks at near-enough 90 degrees. In a nearby part of town there are tram tracks running along the road, so I just take a different road.
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Old 07-06-12, 12:31 PM   #12
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Although the street cars are long gone, the tracks still pose hazards around here. My experience, though, is that once burned, twice shy. There are two spots where I've crashed, and it's automatic for me to slow down, check for cars around me, and then cross them perpindicularly. You won't forget that intersection for as long as you ride.
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Old 07-06-12, 12:41 PM   #13
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Hopefully you are ok because I got a chuckle out of going down, getting up, going a few feet then doing it again. Please don't think poorly of me for it. I've hit the ground a few times and I know it hurts, hopefully you are all right.
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Old 07-06-12, 12:56 PM   #14
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Are they on all roads? We have a lot in Philly so I tend to take different streets.
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Old 07-06-12, 02:38 PM   #15
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Toronto streetcars are on a lot of east-west roads, and a few north-south ones. There are times when you can avoid them, and times when you can't. Every single cyclist I know has had a run-in with them, but usually only once. The OP broke all records that I know with two run-ins in the space of a few minutes. I take my hat off.
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Old 07-06-12, 03:51 PM   #16
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Try to cross the tracks as near to perpendicular as you can, and if it's been freezing, walk.
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Old 07-08-12, 01:08 AM   #17
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My one "big" crash involved railroad tracks. Took a good chunk out of my elbow.
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Old 07-08-12, 09:54 AM   #18
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You're getting the same advice again and again and it is the right advice- CROSS TRACKS PERPENDICULARLY!

I have trolley tracks where I ride in Boston and despite my years of experience with them they are the one thing (other than a funky run in with a sidewalk in Middelbury, Vermont last month- but I digress) that has thrown me off my bike while commuting other than black ice.

They are particularly nasty when wet! You are lucky if you weren't hurt badly, lucky that your wheels/bike isn't ruined and lucky you had this experience early on in your commuting lifetime so that you have learned a lesson about how cautious we have to be about all road hazards when balanced on two wheels. Use the experience to make you a better bike commuter and know that as discouraging as it can be it gets easier and an alertness becomes second nature.

PS- Other weird "hazards" that catch beginning commuters are things like bungee cords getting caught in wheels, pant cuffs caught in chains, quick release wheels improperly mounted and the most catastrophic of all the "door zone"- if you are unfamiliar with the term or concept find out now or you could get even more discouraged.

One "trick" that's helpful for avoiding hazards is keeping your "chin up"- I don't mean like some old British soldier but often beginning commuters get so focused on road hazards- because they've had an experience like you have that they tend to look down at the road about 10' in front of them while riding in the mistaken belief they will be safer because they are looking for hazards. On the contrary, you want to be looking well ahead of you as you ride, still scanning for road hazards but taking in as much of a panoramic view of the horizon as possible.


Good luck and let us know about more enjoyable crash free commutes in the future.
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Old 07-09-12, 06:34 AM   #19
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Thank you everyone for your kind words and great tips/advise. I really felt embarrassed at the time of the crash and wasn't going to post but than thought that by posting here I'll learn from the experience of the folks here about the hazards of the city commute.

Cheers
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Old 07-09-12, 10:12 AM   #20
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Thank you everyone for your kind words and great tips/advise. I really felt embarrassed at the time of the crash and wasn't going to post but than thought that by posting here I'll learn from the experience of the folks here about the hazards of the city commute.

Cheers
Darsh
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Tracks are tricky, as others have said, try to cross perpendicular, or at least close to perpendicular. Also, wider tires are better than skinny road tires both for tram tracks, and for urban riding in general.
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