Bicycle Accidents Caused By Street Car Tracks

portland-streetcarBoth locals and visitors in Portland are very fortunate to have a wide variety of ways to get around without a car.  Not only is Portland one of the most bike and pedestrian friendly cities in the country, but it also offers buses, light rail train, and even streetcars.  But sometimes, having so many options for transit can lead to accidents, including bicycle accidents.

Usually when people think of bicycle accidents, they think of accidents involving cars or trucks or even DUI.  But a sometimes overlooked type of bicycle accident involves streetcar tracks.  The Portland Tribune reports that local bicyclists are concerned that their tires are getting trapped in streetcar tracks, causing injuries.  In the past, Portland’s government has responded by putting up a few signs near the tracks that depict a cyclist getting a tire caught in tracks and tumbling head (and helmet) first off of the bike.  But now the city is doing more to acknowledge and perhaps someday combat the problem.

Ordinance to Combat Bike Accidents

The Tribune’s report states that a new city ordinance says, “Analysis of crash history and community feedback indicate there is a safety issue associated with people riding bicycles on or across streetcar tracks in Portland’s central city.”  In response to this analysis, the City Council is considering requesting a grant for $150,000 to study ways this sort of accident could be reduced.  The ordinance states that Portland State University would also commit $30,000 to the project and that there would be a match of funds from the Transportation Research Board.  Even if the City does receive such a grant, the City Council would have to vote again to accept the funds.

Toronto Cyclists Faced Similar Safety Issues

Portland is not the first city to face this issue.  A news release from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada, details a similar problem.  According to the 2012 release, one-third of Toronto bike accidents at that time involved tracks.   The release cites a study published in the American Journal of Public Health.  The study, which looked at bicycle accidents resulting in emergency department visits, found that 31.5 percent of such accidents in Toronto directly involved streetcar or train tracks.  Of the accidents involving tracks, 19.8% of the cyclists said their tires slipped on the tracks and 80.2% made the same complaint Portland cyclists are currently making: their tires got caught in the tracks.

How to Stay Safe While Biking Around Tracks

While the city tries to decide how to address this serious issue, there are certain steps bicyclists can take to try to stay safe in the meantime.  Operation Lifesaver provides a few tips for safely biking at railroad crossings, which can be applied to the streetcar track problem.  The safest, albeit most time consuming, solution for situations where you are crossing any sort of track is to dismount and walk your bike across.  This is particularly important if it is raining, as tracks can become slippery.  However, if you are going to ride across the tracks, be sure to cross them at a 90 degree angle—this makes it less likely that your tire will get stuck.

A bicycle accident can be a traumatic experience. Contact an Oregon accident attorney for help filing a claim to recover damages.

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Photo Credit: Ian Sane cc