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Savage Road Rash: Sharing the road with streetcar tracks

Dan Savage posted this photo as an example of the kinds of tracks bikers in San Francisco have learned to deal with.

Dan Savage wrote yesterday on SLOG that cyclists should learn to ride with the streetcar tracks like they do in San Francisco:

To my fellow Seattle cyclists—MY FELLOW SEATTLE CYCLISTS (I’m one of YOU, I don’t even know how to drive)—upset-to-the-point-of-filing-a-lawsuit about streetcar tracks in South Lake Union causing you to crash: if cyclists in San Francisco can safely navigate streets that look like this, this, and this, we should be able to manage too.

Certainly, I agree that all cyclists should learn to navigate the streetcar tracks safely. I also agree that bikes need to share the road with other means of transportation, including streetcars.

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However, the tracks in San Francisco are old. They are as much a part of the city’s history as anything else. One thing about streetcar tracks that is both good and bad is that once you lay the tracks, they are pretty much there for good. The difference between SF’s tracks and the SLUT is that the city just built the SLUT a couple years ago. Bikers crashing on streetcar tracks has been happening for a long time, and the city had the ability to design the SLUT tracks with bicycle safety in mind, and they did not. That’s the issue.

Clearly, the tracks are now here and we need to do what we can to make sure cyclists know how to safely navigate them (and more paint and signage from the city can help). But I don’t think it’s so ridiculous to expect that a brand new streetcar designed with so much prior data (such as lessons from Portland and, indeed, San Francisco) placed on a convenient, flat north-south road like Westlake would have been designed with cyclists’ safety in mind.

Also, it’s important for cyclists to be loud about the mistakes of the SLUT during the planning of the Broadway streetcar. This is the phase to make sure it gets done right, not the time to quiet down.

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One response to “Savage Road Rash: Sharing the road with streetcar tracks”

  1. archie

    As evidenced by their attention to bikes in analyzing the potential routes for the First Hill streetcar, bikers were thankfully loud enough that SDOT has clearly learned their lesson and are now taking bikes seriously in their design and there’s no reason to think they won’t in future streetcar designs. So I’m worried that this lawsuit may only end up furthering the perception of bicycle exceptionalism and/or take money from a starved agency (will the payout come from SDOTs funds?) and/or may end up making future streetcars even more expensive. Although maybe it will help other cities notice that they should consider bikes when designing their new streetcars. Pick your battles I guess…

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