Portland bike group asks for streetcar track fixes

EDITOR’S NOTE: While I am in majestic St. Louis, Missouri, for the holidays, I will be posting interesting bike links and urging discussion. I’ll still be writing, but at a reduced rate. Feel free to comment on this link or treat this page like an open thread to discuss whatever is on your Seattle biking mind.

This might not sound too foreign to Seattle bike riders: New streetcar tracks can pose a danger to people on bikes. A group in Portland has requested several changes to a new set of streetcar tracks they say are dangerous and poorly-signed.

From Bike Portland:

The new streetcar tracks on NW Lovejoy, NE Broadway, and on Martin Luther King Jr. and Grand Boulevards have brought major changes to designated bikeways and the roadway surface in general. While the public right-of-way has changed considerably, there is concern that not enough has been done to warn of potential safety hazards the tracks create for people riding bicycles.

I believe streetcars and bike riding can coexist, but streetcars that make biking more dangerous are unacceptable. We already have to live with a basically ruined Westlake due to poor streetcar planning, and we need to be vigilant to prevent mistakes in the future. I have concerns that plans for Jackson as part of the First Hill Streetcar project could easily make life more difficult for bikes. Details are still being worked out, and we need to make sure biking needs are made a top priority. Jackson is a grade oasis in a very hilly part of town and a vital bike corridor.

What do your thoughts on bike riding and streetcars? Where do they coexist, and where do they fail?

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3 Responses to Portland bike group asks for streetcar track fixes

  1. Biliruben says:

    I’m very interested to see what they do to make Valley safe for bikes weaving through all the tracks old and new. Are there detailed plans for bike facilities on Valley?

  2. Leif says:

    My bike is my primary mode of transportation and as such I recognize that tracks are inconvenient and can be dangerous. Westlake is awful (though I still ride it out of spite).

    On the other hand, I recognize that for the vast majority of citizens the only way we are going to get them out of their cars will be with reliable, clean, comfortable transit alternatives. Most people are too lazy, scared or weather-sensitive to ride a bike for anything more than occasional weekend pleasure on the Burke.

    For that reason, I cringe a bit anytime my cycling brethren start squawking about train tracks. We need more of these if we want to get cars (which are our biggest danger) off the road. I can avoid or otherwise deal with train tracks, I can’t always do that with a car whose operator doesn’t see me or is purposely trying to put me in danger.

    Having said that, I’m positive there are ways to design street car lines to be safer for cyclists. It seems that streetcars running in the center of the road with center stations would provide a safer experience for cyclists.

  3. Ok get ready to cringe. It seems like the highest praise I hear about the streetcar is from tourists, or wealthy people who would never ride the bus in the first place. Anybody who actually commutes on a bus sees the shortcomings immediately. Noticeably how inflexible they are: Streetcars cannot detour to adjust for street/bridge closures, and they cannot pass slow/stalled vehicles like a bus can. One clog in the pipe shuts down the whole system. When the streetcar breaks guess what they do? They call in a fleet of busses and it can do the streetcar loop with no problem. Maybe even better because it can pass slow traffic when needed.

    The rails ARE hazardous to bicycles, I almost wiped out on them this morning on the Broadway bridge, and I’ve ridden downtown Portland for 4 years. My friend Trevor is still paying off his medical bills from a streetcar related crash last summer.

    Instead of building fun rides for wide-eyed tourists, Portland/Seattle should invest in more busses and have them run more frequently during rush hour, and longer on the weekends. The bus is King!

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