This morning, the train tracks on the Burke-Gilman Trail Missing Link claimed yet another victim. Reader Ted came across a woman who took a very bad spill in the same spot so many people have crashed before her. After helping her and waiting for medics to arrive and take over, he took this photo and sent us the following note:
Sorry for the downer but I gotta vent.
Real shitty start to bike to work month this morning. This woman’s face was so bloody she could hardly talk. She couldn’t tell me her name.
I started riding again after the paramedics got there and just started bawling out of nowhere. It is really a crime to make a “bike trail” in such a dangerous spot.
He’s right. It is a crime that plans to fix this dangerous missing link in such a popular bike trail has lingered now for two decades. This isn’t a game. People are getting hurt.
The city is in the process of developing an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) for a damn bike trail that already has a mountain of plans behind it. Once complete, the city can restart planning and construction prep work to finally build the trail, pending more legal action, of course.
That document won’t be completed until Autumn of winter. In our original story about the EIS last summer, we wrote that 18 people would go to the hospital by the time the document is completed.
She is just one of them.
Open house tonight to discuss all kinds of Ballard safe streets needs
As it happens, the city is hosting an open house tonight 6 – 7:30 p.m. (the presentation is 6:30) at Pacific Crest Montessori School.
On the list:
- Improving access to the Ballard. Remember this video? Let’s do that!
- Connecting the new Ballard neighborhood greenway to the Burke-Gilman Trail.
- Improving access to the RapidRide D bus.
For the Ballard Bridge, Cascade Bicycle Club is asking for:
- Safe connections on and off of the bridge for people walking and biking
- Wide, ADA accessible sidewalks
- Taller railings to keep people from falling into the street
- 25 MPH speed limit
- Protected Bike Lanes at south end
More details from SDOT:
Remember, safety is SDOT’s #1 priority*!
* Unless you’re riding a bicycle. If that’s the case, you can deal with bike lane construction closures (contractor convenience trumps safety), door zone bike lanes/sharrows (convenience for those parking cars trumps bicycle safety), lack of connections (SDOT employee convenience trumps safety; like dealing with diagonal intersections is too hard – https://www.theurbanist.org/2016/04/20/banner-way-improvements-should-go-further/), lack of traffic calming/lower speeds (perceived car efficiency is more important than bicycle safety), and lack of downtown network (efficient transit trumps bicycle safety). Good luck!
And a big FU shoutout to those who have obstructed safety improvements for the Missing Link over the last three decades: Salmon Bay Sound and Gravel, Ballard Oil and the Ballard Chamber of Commerce.
* Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel…
I am not victim blaming here, as this area does need to be fixed and there should be plastic bollards immediately to force people into a safe crossing but I do have questions about long term issues.
Light rail will be a larger and larger part of our community so while this problem will not go away in the long run. Are there any official signs that can work on educating bikes how to safely cross these tracks. The path of the trail in this portion and the angle of the tracks makes is really bad but as solo bike injuries are also a high percentage of the risk how do we use public infrastructure to help educate people about riding best practices?
If I remember correctly there is a warning sign. I believe I saw one two weeks ago when I crossed those tracks. Was sure to take it slow as easy there.
The problem with the site is that it is easy to hit them with an acute angle. As this trail will service people of all skill levels they need to force a safer path. While it is quite easy to cross tracks if you know how to unweight the front wheel, especially if you have 25C and larger tires it is not something that people will intuitively understand.
I was mostly wondering about general riding tips along the common routes taken by new and recreational cyclists. According to “2012 National Survey on Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behaviors” half of injury crashes were either solo or bike on bike. Some of these issues can be solved by forcing riders to cross at a safe angle but some form of burma shave style bike skills signs would probably help out a lot.
I’m going to play Devil’s advocate here:
Every year during Bike to Work Month, a mass of cyclists are unleashed upon the city. A lot of these cyclists are brand new or don’t cycle very much and don’t have a grasp on basic laws, rules and etiquette of bicycling (or just don’t care). I have seen a lot of scary shit happen, even in the 1.5 days of BtWM so far, that leaves my jaw on the ground.
I don’t know what happened in this particular situation and I wish this woman well, but I routinely see people disregarding the sign to cross at a 90 degree angle and BtWM is definitely no exception to that. The City needs to fix the Missing Link and needs to do it like 20 years ago, however that doesn’t subvert the need for everyone to ride safe and smart.
I’ve very familiar with the area and almost crashed a couple months ago. Why? I was distracted by some contractor driving the wrong way down the street or cutting through or something. I don’t even remember, but it was enough to throw my concentration off, and I had to wheelie my front wheel out of the gap as I started to get stuck.
I was criticizing people for not understanding clear paint and signage just days before, but it goes to show you can’t predict everything. Of course, the flip side is that the city can’t design infastructure to prevent everything.
This spot is the only place I’ve ever been taken down by the road anywhere in the US of A. I’ve logged over 50k miles, a few Cat IV races, STP back in ’86 and ’87, etc. etc. The ONE FREAKIN’ SPOT. It was even worse back then (around 1999) when I crashed, escaping with just road rash and a damaged brake mechanism. Flash forward SEVENTEEN YEARS and it’s *still* a treacherous hazard… ! A car was driving the wrong way down that street the last time I visited. WTF is wrong with this city?!?!
Sorry to hear this. I rode through that area last week on an extended commute home and wondered how more people haven’t bit it on those tracks. They are obscenely dangerous. A couple of painted lines on the pavement are not enough. Can’t we install some of those delineator posts to direct bikes over the tracks at a 90 degree angle?
And there just has to be something more we can do for the missing link. We’re seriously in a state of just waiting around for months for an EIS due to a couple of businesses?
I think there used to be posts a few years ago. Not sure what happened to them.
I crashed because of the tram rails on Westlake last weekend. I like to think I’m a pretty attentive cyclist and always (try to) avoid biking on Westlake but it was the most convenient A to B for this trip. Of course I ate it after barely passing over the wet tracks and got a bruised hip, whiplashed neck, and fake concern from SLU yuppies…
I ride across the tracks on the Elliot Bay trail often and haven’t seen anyone fall there. Same with the tracks on BG near Golden Gardens.
Are all tracks unsafe or just this particular place?
Any metal in the road is dangerous. I went down on an expansion joint in the sidewalk at the Fremont bridge a couple of years ago. That was a hell of a surprise.
The Missing Link crossing is at the limit of what I think a safe crossing angle is. I swerve across the road to cross at 90 deg.
The Elliot Bay crossing is closer to perpendicular plus the tight curves force slower speed.
The suggestions to force a safer crossing angle are just more lipstick on this pig.
If you look at the crossing here (two years old btw) Compared to other crossings it allows for an acute angle.
Now that this is a dedicated bike lane and not shared with vehicle traffic they could easily force a better crossing just as they do to both the East and the West. This is a far easier battle to win vs waiting for the tracks to be pulled up.
I have no idea what the story was in this unfortunate accident and once again I want to be clear that I am not victim blaming, but I often see people cutting across the gore lines, often it is obviously recreational and new riders. That said it doesn’t matter if this is because someone is a new rider or if they are taking allergy medications or thinking about what they are going to have for dinner. It will always be a problem and it will be a common problem in other areas of the city too. We can either have the city make it safer now or we can wait years for the missing link to be built.
I would rather the city put up enough bollards to help prevent injury now than wait more years for a final fix to be put in place. The city obviously has this same standard at other grade level crossings, I am not sure why it cannot be installed here. The only reason it was not done before is because it was a shared lane which is no longer true.
I have seen at least 2 go down on the elliot bay trail where it crosses the tracks. It’s marginally better than the missing link as it forces cyclists to hit the tracks at more of an angle than the BG, but still has no place in cycling infrastructure.
Unlike the missing link the track on the Elliot Bay Trail are actively used by industry. While I understand the concern and that trail needs serious work I disagree with your point. Rail is the greenest land based transport of goods and would be replaced by a large amount of truck traffic. It was also the first user, if we had to avoid all challenging surfaces to call something bike infrastructure it would be useless for anything resembling transportation.
Bicycling is still safer than walking per mile, and our infrastructure is being built around fear vs risks. While we need to minimize the risks of grade level crossings we also have to work on helping people improve their skills in the easiest way possible.
I am not calling for us to follow the model minority myth that CBC tends to favor, but just saying we need to be realistic.
Wish I could go to the meeting; really short notice. I can’t believe the plan is to have a bicycle crossing south of Market on 15th?
It would make much more sense to route from Dock to Ballard Ave. and Ballard Way and repurpose the local access portions of 15NW on the west side of the bridge into a two way bike lane. This would then also improve access to the bridge for bicycles. Put a 4 way stop at 46th and repurpose the other local access next to the bridge and Pono Ranch, connecting right to the bike lane under the bridge.
My wishful thinking cap says that maybe the proposed routing is long term strategically better.
I could see how if we started building infrastructure on Ballard Ave that it might presuppose a Missing Link routing on Ballard instead of Shilshole, which would be worse long-term, I think.
The improvements coming to Ballard originated from *transit* improvements. The D-line has had trouble making way Northbound due to congestion on 15th south of Market. That’s why you’ll notice a bus-only lane + a new signal around 53rd. SDOT is using this as an opportunity to make a Greenway on 53rd, which is a welcome development!
This is yet another example that it’s all about the funding… and many improvements for bikes don’t need to come out of the bike fund. Instead, bike projects can piggyback on transit improvements (in this case).
I’ll take this opportunity for a big fat I Told You So: Back when everyone was spending lots of time arguing what should or shouldn’t be in the BMP, I pointed out many times that it sort of doesn’t matter. I said: What will be built in the next 5 years? Well, some things in the BMP will get built, most of it will not, and lots of stuff *not* in the BMP will also get implemented. 53rd St could not be a more perfect example of that latter. It was never in the BMP, yet here we are. But I’m not about to complain about Ballard getting another Greenway (especially w/ a new way to cross the monstrosity that is 15th Ave).
Wish there was more we could do. Wish there was more money and political will to make a difference. Unfortunately, these numbers reflect the acceptable risk the city is willing to accept. Vision Zero is a feel good marketing scheme– I was hit by a car in a marked bike lane on a heavily trafficked bike lane. Won’t bike commute anymore. It’s Vision Zero +/- 20 lives.
Really sorry to hear that.
Vision Zero needs oomph from below, not just our politicians talking.
Demand that traffic laws be enforced. Risk assessment needs to be clear-eyed here, and clearly it’s the case that lesser priorities need to be back-burnered until we’re sufficiently trained to understand that “speed limit” and “obey the law” are not lifestyle choices when connected with using a potentially lethal tool.
As well, we really do need to bring the speed limit down to 25 in a lot of areas, if nothing else so that people will be hit by a 30mph vehicle rather than 35 (there’s a big difference in outcomes).
In other parts of the world, scofflaws who don’t obey traffic regulations and in particular their behavior with regard to speed and reckless endangerment (a low bar to cross, in reality) will find they either need to be very rich or adopt a new means of transportation.
I think it’s arguable that most people speeding behind the wheel are doing so because they’re weak-willed and too spineless to overcome peer pressure. Change the peer pressure to the other direction and things will improve. Not until then.
And here’s a suggestion: when you see (and it’s not hard to spot examples) uniformed police officers driving like jackasses while not on call, note the time and car number and call the SPD to complain. If you’re dissed, call your council member with the same information and request followup. If the police are badgered in this way they’ll soon bring it back to drivers, which is exactly what we need.
As bad as the rail crossing is the priority HAS to be the merge of death off the SW end of the Ballard bridge (#13 on the map). No engineer in the world (educated after 1940) would ever think to allow infrastructure this dangerous.
It’s an embarrassment to Seattle and someone will die.
I’m the Ted who emailed Tom this morning. I tried to talk to the woman who crashed and tried to reassure her that she would be fine. But to be honest she was pretty messed up. Her face was so bloody it was hard to tell what she looked like.
After the paramedics arrived I gathered up her smashed and bloody sunglasses and put them next to her. Then I rode up and onto the bridge, where I had something of an emotional breakdown and had to stop riding on the span. As luck would have it when I got to the SW cut where one can (try to) exit onto 15th southbound the ambulance flew by heading south. I was able to get out onto Elliott only because everyone was still stopped/just starting from pulling for the ambulance. It was a weird coincidence.
Hi Ted, I wanted to let you know that I am the woman you helped on Monday and that I am doing alright. I can’t express how grateful I am that you stayed with me to make sure the ambulance arrived. It really means so much to me.
I am pretty new to biking. I wanted to get into it more to try and be more green and save money on public transportation. I picked that route because I knew it was a designated bike trail and since I am newer to biking, and I wanted to go the easiest way and avoid traffic. I say this because I have learned that I am not the only one who has gotten injured at this spot and I’m sure it’s a place a lot of people go to get into cycling and learn how to commute to work by bike, and it’s far overdue to be fixed.
I really just wanted to write in to thank you, Ted. I don’t remember the incident but you deciding to stop to help me really means the world. My face is pretty injured but it should be healing soon. I wanted you to know that your help will never be forgotten and that I came out the other side. All I can hope is that I am the last to reach that fate at the missing link and that a fix is coming soon.
Thank you again, Ted. Stay safe out there.
That YIELD TO BICYCLES sign must be the one of the most ignored in the city. I’d guesstimate 95% of drivers don’t know it’s there or don’t care.
The fact that this section of road is a two-way bikeway with one-way auto traffic, large supports for the Ballard bridge above, and people trying to park on both sides of the street (remember that near-miss video from Tom’s April 24, 2015 post?) along with the acute-angle railroad tracks make this such a terrible area for solo crashes. Can’t this city stop it’s citizens from getting hurt here? I would think that the number of crashes and the resulting medical bills and responses by emergency personnel would more than outweigh the costs of getting a proper crossing and/or some rubber flanges along the tracks put in. Wake up, SDOT and do something for people in the community who are heeding the call to make the Viadoom traffic better by biking.
I quit riding road bikes in Seattle a long time ago. Seattle is better suited to much bigger tires, minimum 700 x 35c and 42c, 45c is even better. I do ride carbon road bikes, just not in Seattle where the obstacles can get you killed. I will ride a road bike in Portland with more confidence. Skinny road bike wheels and tires are just not suitable for Seattle but each of us has to learn the hard way. After a few crashes and fixing flats on cold wet muddy rear tires, you start to think, that there must be a better way. My favorite tire is now the Specialized Trigger in 700 x 42c. It is fast and gives a great ride. My favorite economy tire is the Metro K(Kevlar) from Performance Bike. It gives High mileage and great flat protection, at 90 lbs pressure it rolls fast too. I am going to try the Continental Speed Ride tires soon. I think that will be a good one.
While 23c may be to small due to our poor roads I have not had a puncture flat in years with 28c tires with a good breaker, although I did just move to tubeless as a test gatorskins worked fine.
I went to the meeting tonight and while I am excited about opportunistic work the route they have chosen is limited based on the lack of space for a pedestrian island on 51st or 52nd. Unfortunately the 53rd option will cause bad interactions at Gillman park as bike riders ride through while kids are playing or there will be a jog in the narrowest most door busy area of my neighborhood. There was lots of feedback so hopefully the hard working people at SDOT can figure out something on 51st or 52 as those roads are far better for connecting to both Old Ballard and all points East. There was a lot of feedback against the 53rd option but it will be nice to have a light to get across 15th either way.
Well, I can see you don’t ride much in SODO. 28c is almost up to my 35c minimum but I ride in SODO and the South end and West Seatttle which is different than just staying up North. Fast light 23c tires are about $50 a pop. Performance Metro K tires are $15.95 when they are on sale but they also last for high mileage so you don’t need many of them. They have changed them a bit lately, I hope the newer version is just as good. Nowadays, I no longer ride in dangerous traffic if I can help it. I like a tire that also is comfortable on a bumpy side walk, so for that I am up to a suspension bike or at least the Specialized Trigger 42c or 45c. Obviousely road bikes no longer work for me in Seattle after a serious acccident from a deep pothole. I rode to work on Airport Way for 14 years, year round before I retired. I had to cross several dozen railroad tracks each way and other obstacles.
Ah, you need the Scwalbe Fat Frank at 2.35″. Plenty of cush, it’s like riding a motorcycle tire…
The project map from SDOT has a brown line that’s marked as “multi-use trail”. The brown line on the map follows the Burke-Gilman to where it ends at 11th… and then continues on into the Missing Link, where those two awful bike lanes are, where this woman fell (and so have I).
We shouldn’t let them get away with that. The Burke-Gilman Band-Aid isn’t a trail, it’s an embarrassment.
I assume that there is no legal precedent that would allow those that have been injured due to the missing link not being completed from countersuing the businesses that have been holding up the plan or the City for the further delays?
I found this.
And this about the tracks on the missing link
One more …
I’m sorry someone else got hurt by this terrible crossing. I’m a very experienced cyclist (recent Seattle arrival), and I still get freaked out by all the dangerously-angled tracks in this area.
I want to write to SDOT about another bad spot (heading north on 14th from Leary). I saw someone go down there (not badly injured, just shaken up) this weekend, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen more injured. The tracks have a gentle curve from the right side of the road all the way across the road, and there’s no bike lane or guides or anything to prevent cyclists from hitting them at about 30º: the perfect angle to catch a tire. How does one write to SDOT about this sort of thing? I’ve taken to avoiding it on my way home, and going up 11th instead.
Here’s the location. In the Earth view you can see the tracks curving up from the right side as they cross Leary: under the tree is where a bicycle would cross them.
The best way to get a response is to call the City; I’m not sure who the best person is, but I’d be inclined to start with the Director of Active Transportation, Nicole Freedman, at (206) 684-4690.
It may be more convenient to just use SDOT’s “Find It, Fix It” app – they actually do a good job of responding to simple requests submitted this way (pot holes, fixing traffic signals that don’t change for bicycles, etc – things that have an existing budget allocation and won’t ruffle any feathers). Unfortunately I think a real solution to the tracks at 14th and Leary doesn’t fall under this heading, but they do track location-specific complaints, and in the long term it certainly won’t hurt to submit it and is very low effort.
Also: if your route home takes you further north than Market, I’d recommend trying getting off the trail at 8th instead of 11th – it is nice (and faster) to cross Market with the light at 8th, and then depending on where you are heading you can get to the 17th greenway via the 58th greenway.
Do trains even use that track? If it’s no longer in use, i would think it easy to cover with asphalt. If it is very occasionally used by trains, is there no way to put a not slippery cover on it which can removed before a train uses it?
Yes the Ballard Terminal Railroad’s storage yard is farther down the line and they use the tracks a few times a week, typically at night.
Railroad abandonment is all but impossible especially on tracks like these that pre-date the city of Seattle. Here is a good in depth view of the process but not that any shipper, citizen or interested party can offer to take over the line and prevent abandonment. This is what happened in this case, unfortunately had BCNF kept the spur this section probably could have been removed.
Note that on these tracks which pre-date any form of franchise by the City the city is not the one whom can initiate the abandonment. There are very good reasons nationally that this law exists and for the most part if you are a bike rider you would probably agree with the ecological and economic benefits in doing so.
Federal law preempts any action that the city can take in this matter, and this is why for years I have argued to attempt to make the crossing safer because removing it is a very long and expensive path that most likely would fail anyway.
its time you stop whining about the missing link and do something about it. take a cue from the skate boarders, go by some quick-crete and patch the tracks so its ride able. i would do it if i lived in ballard or ever road that part of the trail.
Good to hear you are OK and healing. I hope that you move forward with cycling, as everyone has said above this is a tricky area. If you stick with it you will be a pro sooner than you think.
It was so freeing once my body adapted and I realized that even hills were less annoying to ride up than driving in traffic ever was.
Sorry to see this happen — yet again. So many critical biking infrastructure needs in this city, yet our mayor, transit director and city council prioritize spending millions of dollars on Pronto.
Somebody needs to steal Ed Murray’s car and leave a bike in it’s place.
I have taken a spill here and I think it’s time to sue the city.
What would happen if, just by accident, mind you, someone drove their pickup truck over those tracks on a rainy day with a leaky bag of cement in the bed and that bag fell out on the tracks. This would be just an accident of course.