The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Caution: Man-eating streetcar tracks ahead

Posted by on May 15th, 2008 at 7:55 am

Anyone who’s ridden a bike in downtown Portland knows that streetcar (and MAX) tracks can be a bit tricky to navigate. Now, someone has modified a warning sign that takes it a step further.

Check out this sign modification/vandalism/art I noticed yesterday…

streetcar tracks sign modification-1.jpg

Sign is on SW 11th just before Taylor.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Be careful out there!

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  • Gabriel McGovern May 15, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Yes- but is that an alligator or a crocodile?

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  • Dr. Benjamin May 15, 2008 at 8:13 am

    It\’s not vandalism! It\’s ART!

    Let the arguments over public expression commence…

    It\’s hilarious either way 🙂

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  • Bradly Fletchall May 15, 2008 at 8:20 am

    Very nicely done. Excellent craftsmanship.

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  • toddistic May 15, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Alligators need to eat too! And by the look of it, he looks HUNGRY!

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  • brewcaster May 15, 2008 at 8:46 am

    I love this town.

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  • a.O May 15, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Reminds me of playing Pitfall Harry. Anyone?

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  • bahueh May 15, 2008 at 9:04 am

    vandalism, but tasteful vandalism..
    pretty funny.

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  • Qwendolyn May 15, 2008 at 9:05 am

    that alligator should really be getting more SUVs in his diet.

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  • Michelle May 15, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Hilarious. And true.

    I had a friend in town yesterday and we biked to NW. He\’s an experienced bike commuter. As we approached NW 10th on Davis I said \”Cross the tracks as close to perpendicular as possible – we\’ll turn right into the left-hand lane.\”

    We started across, a pedestrian stepped off the curb while we were turning and we BOTH swerved and ended up in the tracks! Side by side! Synchronized crashing.

    It was awkward and a little scary but we didn\’t get run over.

    Some people say that if you\’re skilled and you cross at a right angle, tracks aren\’t a problem. So there\’s no problem. But the road isn\’t a perfectly predictable place. A door opens, a car stops unexpectedly, a pedestrian steps in front of you, and BAM. Hello tracks.

    I\’m working on the BTA\’s streetcar/bike data from last month\’s survey. Can\’t say much conclusively yet except that most respondents have crashed at least once on tracks. And most are afraid.

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  • Jeremy May 15, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I unfortunately fed that alligator on Tuesday night when some idiot on his cell phone decided to make a left hand turn from the right lane forcing me to swerve into the tracks.

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  • Anonymous May 15, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Pitfall…That brought back some memories.

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  • tonyt May 15, 2008 at 9:30 am

    Quality of work means everything.

    Sweet job!

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  • heavyj May 15, 2008 at 9:54 am

    \”Yes- but is that an alligator or a crocodile?\”

    As alligators have shorter snouts I\’m guessing it\’s an alligator.

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  • Todd Boulanger May 15, 2008 at 10:10 am

    Perhaps it should not be a croc but a Tram with teeth…like the PDX Mercury articles a few years back…about murderous streetcars. 😉

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  • Burk May 15, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Yes! God bless you sign modification/vandalism/art person!

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  • felix May 15, 2008 at 10:32 am

    nom nom nom!

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  • Russell May 15, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Heavyj I disagree, look at the length of the snout compared to the human in the picture. The lower jaw is about the length the person\’s torso, and, unless the sign is depicting a child, I\’d say that that\’s a pretty long snout . . .

    Oh well, get that gator/croc some SUVs. I hear those ones full of teenagers throwing food at cyclists are especially high in protein.

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  • Nick May 15, 2008 at 11:02 am

    The tracks are just one more reason why fat tires rule.

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  • DT May 15, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Pitfall!!!!! Yes!!!!

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  • Vance May 15, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I\’ve complained about those tracks, relentlessly, for years. Only to get an earful of how conservative, and anti-mass-transit I am. Not really, but those tracks just blow for bikes. #9 paints a picture illustrating a lesson learned, years ago too, and I never put rubber to pavement on streets with tracks. Mostly \’cause I can\’t afford new wheels, and not out of fear for my already broken, old body.

    Love mass-transit. Even like street-cars, reminds me of the \’70\’s B-Movie Sci-Fi I grew up on. No problems here. Doesn\’t change the fact that those tracks are a menace to bikes! Brave testament to this fact, oh hanger of uberslick artwork! Nice pic J!

    Let\’s hear it for less kool-looking electric buses! Plus they\’re virtually silent, cost a fraction to maintain, and sell for a fraction of what a street-car does. PLUS, we\’ve already got the three-phase hangin\’!

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  • joeb May 15, 2008 at 11:17 am

    I hope this one stays.

    The curb extentions are really convenient there. I don\’t travel that stretch much, but have hopped the front wheel over the rail, hoping to get enough angle for the rear to get over. Kind of hard to bunny hop with 30 pound panniers. I\’m lucky so far.

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  • Vance May 15, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Pop Quz:

    Q: If you are a good city-planner, where do you route a street-car through a city?

    A: On streets with low traffic, yet still get you where you need to go.

    Q: If you are an experienced cyclist, where do you ride your bike through town?

    A: On streets with low traffic, yet still get you where you need to go.

    This paradox needs some serious attention. I have no problem whatsoever adapting, as a cyclist, to the needs of mass-transit. Seriously wouldn\’t change a thing, and don\’t mind re-routing. Not my point. I can\’t help but think though, that planners never really think about the impact train-tracks have on two-wheelers, skate-boards, and roller-blades.

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  • Vance May 15, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Plus I\’ve seen these things tip over at least one wheel-chair. I\’ve seen them trip blind-folks. I\’ve seen little-old ladies get their grocery cart tipped and spilled. I\’ve seen peds slip on them when they\’re wet. I saw a Pioneer Square Security Guard slip and fall, while chasing a suspect. I\’ve seen them be the start point of a speeding motorist spin-out during rush-hour in the rain. I know at least one cyclist with a severe head-injury from the tracks. I\’ve personally toasted a set of Record equipped wheels in them. Plus, I\’ve heard that high-silicone sand-blasting sand won\’t compress and can be shoveled into a track to possibly derail some of the lighter trains. This happened once on accident from some spilled material.

    I\’m just sayin\’!

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  • Joe May 15, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    careful looks hungry.. hehe

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  • Jeff May 15, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I\’m waiting for the spoke cards/t-shirts with that exact design to hit the streets… 🙂

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  • Steve (not steve!!) May 15, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Heavyj, Russell

    Impossible to be definitive with an identification without a lateral view of the crocodilian with it\’s mouth closed revealing the view of it\’s dentition from the outside.

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  • Russell May 15, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    True Steve, very true. But the argument is still fund to have isn\’t it? I mean, in reality the person who drew it probably couldn\’t tell you the difference between an alligator or a crocodile.

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  • KTesh May 15, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    What\’s Next? T-Rex? Allosaurus?

    No matter what, I must say that it\’s (forgive the pun)… Tasty! 😉

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  • peejay May 15, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    methinks that croc/gator has a great dentist! Probably came here from a country with good health care.

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  • bahueh May 15, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    hey all…

    lets all make the world a risk free place so Vance has nothing to bitch about online…

    who\’s in it with me?!!


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  • Vance May 15, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    No need to be snippy. I\’m just not the biggest fan ever of light-rail. It was all in good fun!

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  • […] Spotted on Bike Portland […]

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  • Deb May 16, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    love it, spewed coffee on my key board!

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  • Zaphod May 16, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Streetcars are a great transit mode although I agree with Vance on all counts.

    I humbly recommend that riders pick a different route if the tracks pose a threat.

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  • Racer X May 17, 2008 at 12:19 am

    I suggest a different track…most drivers if given a choice drive outside of the streetcar tracks in the Pearl…so why not bike stencil it as a shared route…due to lower volumes and to keep novice riders from riding along the curb with tracks (a more risky route choice I see them take a lot).

    Yes tracks can trip up a bicyclist with super narrow tires. But we must ask…is there a minimum design tolerance for street surfaces in city streets for bikeways? Should it be for 23mm tires or a more urbane 28mm tire? I do not see the same level of rider angst with tracks in other international bike cities. (Not not do otherwise would be to design our city streets for racing cars. As a racer I say leave the horsepower at PIR. ;=)

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  • Antonio Gramsci May 17, 2008 at 4:24 am

    Vance: spot on.

    Streetcars are largely a holdover relic paying tribute to bourgeois anti-transit snobbery. The bourgeoisie is too good to ride buses, you see. Such snobbery could be overcome with a really well planned bus rapid transit system a la Curitiba, Brazil.

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  • Duncan May 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    so we want to have a transit system modeled after a 3rd world country (Brazil) and not a after those of Denmark, Germany and other industrialized dsocieties.

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  • Antonio Gramsci May 18, 2008 at 12:33 am

    The US *is* a 3rd world country — at least in some respects (and not one of the better ones). We would be doing damned well if we could build a transit system today in any American city that was half as good as Curitiba\’s.

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  • jimmy M May 18, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Last year I crashed my bike on a freshly greased section of a streetcar track crossing a track turn near PSU. Had to get hand surgery and then had 2+ months in cast. Cost about $10K total plus missed work. Those things are super sketchy. In the rain I\’d walk the bike over them now. That sign is just brilliant. Man-eating tracks for sure. Thanks much Tag Man!!

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  • Duncan May 18, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    I say aim high, not low.

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  • kasandra May 19, 2008 at 11:22 am

    re. Jeremy #10: I see the opportunity for new super-cool insider lingo: \”Fed the alligator\” = wiped out on tracks. With the number of tracks in town, and the number of us who periodically wipe out on them, I think we can make it take hold…

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  • Carissa Wodehouse May 19, 2008 at 11:25 am

    It\’s the hippos that I worry about.

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  • danenestos June 15, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    I know this thread is old, but I hadn\’t seen it until just now. Thanks for all the kind words about my croc (it\’s a croc). They took that one down, but I put up a new one on the sign by Powells – next to the zoobombers bike stash.
    Also – I love the \”fed the gator\” line.

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  • gl. August 10, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    @nobledesign: it was sort of like this:

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  • Watch out bikers! « SliceInCircles February 2, 2009 at 11:32 am

    […] This is actually a good moment to explain that if you’re biking in a city with in-ground light rail tracks, be VERY careful when riding over them. It should really be somewhat obvious, but if your wheels align well enough, they’re going to get stuck, and you’re going to fly. I’ve witnessed this twice before… poor gal accomplished two flips! Luckily, she walked away with but a limp and avoided what might have been tragedy with this variation of the sign …at the jump. […]

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  • SkidMark February 2, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    I prefer the MAX because my bike is right in front of me, not on the front of the bus like a bumper, ready to be yoinked off by anyone.

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  • Emily July 13, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    The track gator got me in front of Powell’s this past November. Amazingly, I didn’t get run over, despite the rain and dark. Nothing like a broken shoulder to put an end to your winter commute, though.

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  • Leila Kordestani November 25, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Train tracks eat bikes. Rawr! This one is for you, @youjeaneugene.

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