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Ever crash on the Burke-Gilman Missing Link? This awesome sticker is for you

BrAAnGxCUAAkX1_Peddler Brewing, located just a block or so from the Missing Link of the Burke-Gilman Trail, have created a nearly pitch-perfect sticker advocating for a complete trail through the bike-wreck-prone area. Proceeds from the sticker sales will go to advocacy efforts to complete the trail.

The stickers play off a rather silly city sign posted along the Missing Link. The sign, which attempts to get across the idea that the tracks can be dangerous, also highlights how ridiculous it is that such dangerous conditions continue to exist.

Sign at the eastern end of the Missing Link
Sign at the eastern end of the Missing Link

And if enough of you buy them, that could make another disturbingly obvious point: The Missing Link has already claimed far too many victims. As we reported recently, people continue to crash on the tracks at an alarming rate. It’s almost as though crashing on the tracks is a dark and painful right of passage to biking in Seattle. Unfortunately, we have no idea how many people crashed there on an early bike ride and decided not to bike again. And many people are dealing with serious injuries from their crashes.

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Meanwhile, the legal battles over the trail continue, with the city just starting work on a giant and expensive Environmental Impact Statement after more than a decade of studies proved insufficient to satisfy project opponents. That means no chance of starting work until the study is completed, and likely many more crashes for the foreseeable future.

But in the end, the main reason I like the sticker is that there is a sense of pride in it. You’re saying, “This is dangerous, and I’ll work to make it safer. But in the meantime, I’m gonna keep biking it.” Damn right.

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36 responses to “Ever crash on the Burke-Gilman Missing Link? This awesome sticker is for you”

  1. Andres Salomon

    We could pool our money and have a truckload of stickers delivered to the businesses in Ballard that are currently fighting against completing the missing link.

    1. Kirk

      Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, Ballard Oil, Ballard Chamber of Commerce. The Ballard Business Appelants, represented by Joshua C. Brower.

    2. bill

      Give the money to Peddler so they can mail the stickers one at a time after every crash. Dip them in blood first. (Get some cow blood from a butcher. Or at least spray with red food dye.)

  2. Greg

    I’ve been biking the Missing Link several years (to Peddler, among other places) and never had the slightest problem navigating the tracks. I see the sign, I see the tracks, I see the angle I need to take to not fall over. I was driving by once and saw a guy who was dressed to know what he was doing (spandex) flip over the tracks – thankfully didn’t hurt himself (he said he was fine, just embarrassed). The Ballard Brewing District is too new for it to account for a bunch of drunk cyclists taking a spill, so who are all these people who have never crossed tracks on a bike? I would love for the Missing Link to be finished, but it’s part of old industrial Ballard, and we’re the relatively new arrivals, so I’d think it’s incumbent upon cyclists to pay attention when they enter the neighborhood.

    1. Josh

      Taking the tracks at a safe angle when it was a general travel lane required taking a safe position controlling the lane well before hitting the tracks. Many people just don’t do that, even without impatient motorists crowding them. It’s possible, but unpopular, and not something that comes naturally to many people on bikes.

    2. bill

      Congratulations on not falling over. Yet. May your luck hold in the rainy season.

      At this RR crossing, an inexperienced or inattentive rider might assume it is safe to cross at the angle of the stripes, since the city would never knowingly create a hazard, right?

    3. gurple


      If people are falling in a particular place, which they are, the response “people should be better at things, so that they don’t fall” is not a helpful one.

  3. kpt

    It’s possible to make the rubberized crossing, so that train wheels can still use the tracks, but everyone else can ride through at any angle, no? I mean, I know I’ve seen stuff like that elsewhere. Why not here? You’d only need ten or twenty feet of it, and you could make this crossing much less of a right angle. I mean, it can’t be that expensive, can it?

    1. Josh

      Yes, compressible flange gap filler is commercially available and does make crossings like this safer, though not safe.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Maybe this is a job for the Reasonably Polite Seattleites…. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BZI8vLnCYAASfem.jpg:large

  4. Southeasterner

    Have to agree with Greg, how do you not know how to navigate the tracks? There are signs and warnings pretty much everywhere and it should just be a basic understanding of geometry. I know our educational system is nearing third world standards but are we really that stupid?

    Speaking of stupid the guy in the picture of course is helmet-less, which is illegal in Seattle. I had the chance to witness a girl go down not so far from that exact same spot cracking her helmet and getting a mild concussion in the process. Had she not had a helmet on she would probably have needed to go straight to the ER.

    If Americans aren’t smart enough to bike around railroad tracks how on earth do we think we can bike without helmets like the Dutch, Danes, and French who deal with tram and light rail tracks in almost every city and town.

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      If a couple people were crashing here, then maybe it would just be user error. But when this many people crash consistently for years on end in the same place, there is clearly some other dangerous factor at play.

      If there were a giant sinkhole in the middle of a sidewalk that people kept falling in, you can either be unhelpful and say, “Duh, don’t step in the sinkhole, idiot,” or you can cover up the sinkhole.

    2. Ben P

      I don’t really get why people fall either, but they do, so it should be fixed.

      Once I took a midnight ride without helmet or lights. Lost in thought ended up on some other tracks in Ballard. I didn’t fall, but I easily could have. It kinda reminds me off dog owner droppings, if you look where you’re going you’ll never step in it, but we’ve all trod in some at some point.

      This also reminds me of the centennial trail’s purposefully placed impediments. At every intersection the trail has a row of closely spaced posts, as if the designer was careful to not only stop cars from mistaking it as a road, but golf carts and extra wide Harleys as well. Coming back from Bellingham my headlight ran out of battery. After successfully spotting and dodging many posts on that cloudy moonless night I eventually hit one and went over the handle bars. People probably scoff at the idea of hitting those posts, but I still hit one. I’m not going to scoff at people who fall on those tracks.

    3. Jayne

      Good job staying on your bike, now try not to fall off your high horse..

  5. Chrispy

    I commute by bike through here and have seen multiple crashes on the tracks. The tracks aren’t the only hazard, either — you have the nightmare that is Shilshole with no safe lane for bikes. As a Ballard resident it embarrasses me that our part of this trail is so dysfunctional. Someone is probably going to have to get killed here before the idiots that are standing in the way are finally silenced.

    1. gurple

      Once you get used to them (!!!), the tracks themselves aren’t the worst hazard — not even close. The band-aid that the city has put on that area (the new bike lanes) has only made things worse. Pain points, from east to west:

      * diagonal crossing by Fred Meyer
      * cars driving westbound on the bike lanes (this is getting better)
      * totally ignored 4-way stop at 14th
      * train tracks with too-narrow chutes marked for crossing
      * intersection at 46th:
      * westbound: tough left turn across traffic
      * eastbound: bikes have to cut across car traffic after the merge
      * from 17th southbound to Shilshole eastbound: terrible left turn that lots of bikes dodge around
      * Shilshole: not enough room, frustrated drivers.

  6. I had a crash myself a little further north on Shilshole. It was my first time biking down the road and I got stuck in a small section of train tracks on entrance to some company. I thought I could just pop my tires out when the track ended. That was a dumb idea got to the end of the track. Bike stopped I kept going over the top. Rolled a few times. Had to have two knee surgeries. Physical therapy.

    I’m back on the bike this summer but now I just don’t go that way anymore. It sometimes pains me to think about how if the Locks had been open I could have avoided all of that pain. Stupid government shutdown last year.

  7. Ballard Biker

    I avoid the tracks, and the Shilshole Ave area in general because it just doesn’t make any sense to go that way when I can avoid all of these problems by going from 14th or 17th to Leary or Ballard Ave. Not worth the effort to fight the intersections or the traffic for a much safer railroad free route.

  8. Ruth Berge

    I ride my bike that way. I ride all year, not necessarily that way all the time. I like Peddler Brewery. That being said, the egress from the Ballard Bridge on the west side and crossing the Ballard Bridge overall seems far more dangerous to me. Plus I like trains and the idea of allowing trains to continued to use that corridor. I don’t see why the missing link has to go that way. But I defend my right to ride safely on that or any street. I don’t think Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel are the enemy. The enemy is cars. Looking at the new permits for building in Ballard, I think more cars will be arriving here.

    1. Jay

      If you like trains, may I suggest the trail thru Interbay, and the Elliot bay trail (the Amgen bridge has a runnel, and one can ride up the Thomas street bridge for a nice aerial view of the trains) While the Ballard Terminal “Railroad” may haul some cement to Salmon bay , in my opinion it a pretty poor excuse for a railroad. And anyway that cement comes from the North, I see no good reason for the tracks to be where all these accidents are occurring. Not buying the claim that there is nowhere between Salmon Bay Sand and Graveland Golden Gardens to store the rolling stock. BTW, I don’t say get rid of the whole thing, North of Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel is fine with me. I don’t recall any report of a bike wreck at the crossing at about where 65th would be (if 65th went that far). That crossing is at 90 degrees and seems to have pretty good width and surfaces as far as I can recall.

      LOL, Wikipedia says: “In 2007 the Ballard Terminal Railroad received the Jake Award With Distinction, a safety award given by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to railroads with no reportable injuries”
      I guess since the moving parts of the railroad didn’t run anyone over it is “safe”

      1. Ballard Biker

        “And anyway that cement comes from the North, I see no good reason for the tracks to be where all these accidents are occurring.”

        Other than they were there first?

      2. Jay

        “First”? not a great argument, there are lots of things that “were there first” before, say, the EPA, FDA, Emancipation Declaration, Erin Brockovich, etc.
        Also, it seems the Burke Gillman trail got started, in some sections, around 1978. BNSF (who indeed was there first) stopped offering service on the section in question in 1997. Which is when BDTL was formed, So while the rails “were there first” the Railroad (company) that “was there first” no longer runs there. What is there now is a relative newcomer who can’t afford to maintain their track (or even replace the windows on their locomotive) .
        Hey, if the track South of Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel were gone, it wouldn’t have to be maintained!

        In looking for information on BDTR I came across something interesting, it seems they once applied for a variance on the glazing on one of their locomotives and a caboose (seems some fancy glass is required, to use regular laminated safety glass one needs a variance) anyway, they claimed they don’t need the fancy glass because : “BTRC states that they operate in a primarily agricultural area” Which is of course safer than an industrial/urban area.
        But AGRICULTURAL area ? Salmon Bay et al are complaining about traffic issues with a bike trail, but it’s an “agricultural area” , how bad can it be!

    2. Kirk

      Ruth, the design of the Missing Link segment accommodates the train. The train is not an issue in the saga of the uncompleted Missing Link. The fact that the railroad tracks are still a safety hazard is only because the trail hasn’t been completed.
      Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel is, in fact, is the enemy of the completion of the Missing Link. They, as part of the Ballard Business Appellants, have filed suit against the City of Seattle to challenge the completion of the trail in front of their business, on land owned by the citizens of the City of Seattle. Cars have absolutely nothing to do with the issue at all. Bicycle traffic and vehicular traffic would be separated completely by the completion of the Missing Link.

  9. Handy

    How about a ‘ Dismount’ sign or paint path guidelines to right angles to the tracks… Its not rocket science

    1. gurple

      With the new “band aid” improvements (if you can call them improvements) in this area, there are painted guidelines at about a 70-degree angle to the tracks. I’d be interested to know if those improvements have helped with the number of falls. Maybe so — I find the lines frustratingly badly planned (too narrow, oddly positioned), but falls here are mostly about first-time riders in the area (mine was, certainly), and maybe the lines help those riders.

      A “Dismount” sign would be exactly as useful as a “Walk On Your Hands For Three Blocks” sign.

  10. That this part of the BG Trail has remained unfinished for over 20 years is pathetic. No matter how many skilled cyclists cross the tracks safely, there will always be cyclists who are not skilled or not paying attention and who will crash. And yes, Ballard Bridge ingress and egress is equally if not more dangerous. More signs to get people to behave differently is not the answer. Providing a safe path is the answer.

    When the Dutch Bike Company was still located in the neighboring industrial buildings (the former Rolls Royce propeller shop) we would see victims every weekend and often had our own 1st aid kit out in response. That’s several years of weekly accidents that I know never ended up in anyone’s statistical analysis. I would say the rate of accidents directly correlated to the weather and number of recreational cyclists on the road.

  11. Catherine

    My only bike crash of any consequence was ON the BG trail… because of poor trail design that still exists, what sticker do I get?

  12. Dan Henke

    Ballard business owners ARE the missing link.

  13. Ron Proctor

    With the way Ballard is growing now, you would think this is a prefect time to finish the Burke- Gillman. The traffic is getting heavier, but the roads aren’t getting any better. I think most of the new apartments have less parking spaces than units, so people will drive less and take Metro or ride BIKES!!

  14. bob johnson

    I am bike rider and also an owner of a building near the “missing link”. Due to the Railroad right of way you may have better luck putting your trail down Ballard Avenue. At least the city could control that.
    Or you could wait until 2080 when the 99 year lease expires.
    The rail system does get used and the railway is an efficient method of moving material and is not going anywhere until the lease is up.
    So visualize your trail on Ballard Avenue…

  15. Tom

    I just crashed this past weekend and based on the number of people that stopped, asked if I was ok, and conversations with the Swedish ER staff just 7 blocks away, this is not small problem experienced by “in-experienced” riders. I cant tell you how many times I have cycled through that area but it only takes one event (i.e. a broken elbow and dislocated wrist) to change your perspective.

    1. bill

      Sorry to hear this. I hope you can get back on your bike before summer is over.

      So we have your crash and many earlier ones at this crossing. Meanwhile after just two car-bike collisions on Mercer the city took action. Why are bike crashes at a hazard the city created not taken seriously?

      1. Tom

        Not sure why it has not been seriously considered in the past…but if we approach this on a united front, I believe change can happen.

  16. bill

    I’ve sent this note to the city using the service request portal. Whether or not it produces action, if there is a lawsuit the city cannot claim ignorance of the hazard it created.

    “I brought this online article and comment thread about cyclists crashing on the RR crossing constructed by the city on NW 45th St to the city’s attention in June:


    “There is now another article and comment thread about yet more crashes, the most recent on about August 2:


    “Meanwhile the city showed remarkable alacrity in response to car-bike collisions in the construction zone on Mercer. Why are blood and broken bones on 45th being ignored?”

  17. […] The unfriendly industrial and commercial streets connecting these two endpoints have been the scene of untold numbers of bike crashes and injuries. It’s safe to say that, when you include unreported crashes, they easily number in the thousands. It’s so common to crash on the Missing Link that there’s even a sticker for people who have done it. […]

  18. Halmpg

    I road this trail for the first and probably last time in August during a vacation I took to Seattle. Having been initiated into the city cycling world in Boston I have my fair share of experience with trolley tracks, crazy Masshole drivers, buses and cabs. My tire got caught under the Ballard Bridge at the tail end of what was supposed to be a wonderful 45 mile ride. At mile 36 my tire got caught (after being thoroughly confused as to why the hell you would put a bike path across train tracks, not to mention multiple sets), I went head over heals, still clipped into the peddles for most of the fall. The first 36 miles of my ride were wonderful. This trail had been recommended by many people and was mostly wonderful but ultimately injurious. I spent the rest of my vacation hobbling around Seattle with horrible road rash, stitches, and being unable to bend my right leg. Not nearly as bad as it could have been but I’m smart and wear a helmet. To have such a beautiful path have such a horrible section sucks. Had I known of this area I may have been more prepared when I approached it but I was taken by surprise and did my best to cross at a 90 degree angle, clearly failing. I can understand why some may not have any issues with this but I’m sure that many more tourists visiting the beautiful city of Seattle will have similar experiences and end up spending their remaining vacation on pain killers and various injuries.

    This really needs to be fixed. It’s a shame.

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