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Activist group to track bike/streetcar track crashes

Posted by on April 29th, 2011 at 10:33 am

According to a 2008 report by Alta Planning, bike crashes on streetcar tracks are a “major and underreported problem for Portland-area bicyclists.” Even so, the issue struggles to gain official attention because the vast majority of crashes do not get reported.

Portland-based, grassroots transportation advocacy group Active Right of Way (AROW) hopes to change that with their new, online Streetcar Crash Reporting form.

Conditions on Lovejoy-5

(Photo © J. Maus)

AROW volunteer (the group has no paid staff) Steve Bozzone was at our Get Together Wednesday night and shared a bit more about the project. Bozzone said the crash form is a “citizen’s reporting mechanism” that’s part of a campaign they launched back in December to fix existing bike/streetcar safety issues that exist with the new Eastside Streetcar Loop project (more on that effort later).

“Most crashes when a car is not involved don’t get reported, they don’t go into any dataset [the DMV only processes reports that involve a motor vehicle and where the amount of damage is valued at more than $1,500]. So we are trying to collect that information so we can present it in an organized way and show a compelling need for addressing these safety issues.”

If you’ve crashed on streetcar tracks, help AROW keep track by visiting their website and filling out the form.

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esther cNickSeth AlfordChris SmithJim Lee Recent comment authors
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NF
Guest
NF

I hope some cards are printed up to advertise this reporting tool. It could be distributed to the bike shops in the vicinity of the streetcar. Can we donate money to AROW?

Gregg Woodlawn
Guest

I hope AROW gets an Alice Award nod next year. These folks are amazing!

9watts
Guest
9watts

streetcar tracks parallel to the line of travel are scary, even to me who bunnyhops and has wide-ish tires. Lane changes on MLK… how do folks do it in heavy traffic? I know some of you are going to say ‘stay off MLK’

Domes
Guest
Domes

What exactly is the point of this?

cold worker
Guest
cold worker

lift.your.wheel.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

I hope that they apply the same scrutiny to the problem of clothing getting caught in gears. “Jeans: the silent killer” Someone call the GAP.

Karl D
Guest
Karl D

It is not really A street car crash as much as a bike crash.

And should this article be on Page 2 of Bike Portland?

BURR
Guest
BURR

This is a great idea

Steve B.
Guest

The point of collecting crash reports is to understand
(1) where crashes are happening
(2) conditions that may contribute to a crash
(3) consequences and true costs of crashing on the tracks
(4) the need for PBOT & Streetcar to fix or mitigate certain “hot spots” for bike crashes

To be a truly multi-modal transportation network, we need to pay attention to these details. For more info, please read this:
http://www.activerightofway.org/p/why-arow-is-working-on-streetcarbikeway-safety

daisy
Guest
daisy

There is no box for helmet usage and if you were on a hybrid or not.

Oh and blinky light on or off.

Steve B.
Guest

One myth that is being dispelled through this exercise, based on the 22 reports we’ve collected in just 48 hours, is that a person’s experience level cycling in a city doesn’t seem to be a golden ticket to avoiding crashes. Many of our respondents are citing “6 years or more” as how long they have been riding in an urban environment.

Education, bunny hops, shrugged shoulders and rolled eyes won’t fix the problem. The clear fix is better design, many thanks to everyone who has submitted a report! Please tell your friends who may have had an unfortunate experience crashing on the tracks to complete a report: http://www.streetcarcrashreport.org

Chris Smith
Guest

I’m really looking forward to get this data. I share the belief that these events are under-reported. Actual data will be extraordinarily helpful in helping us know where to put focus.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

the following intersection is one of the reasons i am glad i no longer take the tram. the picture does not accurately show what a ridiculously sharp turn is required to take the tracks at a safe angle. in the winter when there is an accumulation of grit and ice this thing is a frakking bike trap.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=center+for+health+and+healing+portland&aq=&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=59.639182,107.138672&ie=UTF8&hq=center+for+health+and+healing&hnear=Portland,+Multnomah,+Oregon&ll=45.505219,-122.674023&spn=0.000562,0.000817&t=h&z=21&layer=c&cbll=45.505133,-122.673986&panoid=1mP4dSl7xHyR1xrvx91RhQ&cbp=12,199.68,,0,3.03

BURR
Guest
BURR

you really don’t have to stay inside the lines if it’s not safe.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Amos
I think some cards and signs are in the works. In the mean time if you want to help spread the word just tell people to go to streetcarcrashreport.org, it redirects to this form.

Post signs at anecdotally known hazard areas that include a QR code link to website reporting page so it can be done quickly with a minimum of typing.

It would be nice to also have an optional data entry page that allows all possible data to be entered by pull down multiple menus and the like.
Typing on a touchscreen keyboard can be problematic for anyone with large fingers or someone who just hit the ground hard.
Or both.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Having grown up with streetcars, in Saint Louis, I strongly favor expanding that service, which seems to be the second most popular form of urban transport–guess what is first. (Hint: two wheels and self propulsion.)

Chris and I have corresponded about this. I think our conclusions are very close: it cannot be streetcars OR bicycles. The document of record for this is: http://www.altaplanning.com/App_Content/files/pres_stud_docs/Bicycle_Streetcar_Memo.pd

It is puzzling that Portland Streetcar seems to have completely ignored Alta’s two primary recommendations: on wide two-way streets streetcars should be in the middle lanes; on one-way streets streetcars should be in the leftmost lane.

Perhaps we can forgive Portland Streetcar, in the process of reintroducing the streetcar to North America, for not being aware of that on its first line through the Pearl District and downtown. On the other hand, had Portland Streetcar taken pains to observe the alignment TriMet chose for Max downtown in 1986–up Morrison and down Yamhill–it would have noted that it is much better for street rail to stay to the left. Makes it easier for all users of a public right-of-way.

But it is inexcusable for Portland Streetcar to have perpetuated this gross error on its east side line–MLK and Grand tracks both are in the right lane, so preempting the primary lane for motorists and cyclists. Perhaps motorists can cope, but it is extremely dangerous for cyclists, not only for riding, but for making us dismount in the middle of the street instead of the normal right curb when we need to stop.

Also note that neither motorists nor cyclists are permitted to ride in the right-of-way for MAX, which is correctly positioned. But we are supposed to drive or ride in right-of-way for Portland Streetcar, which is a profound barrier to doing so!

Is this perverse, or what?

AROW is right. Portland Streetcar must be stopped until it gets its act together.

Chris
Guest
Chris

How would they design the tracks to avoid this? After compiling these statistics, what are you going to propose to reduce this?

I am usually on the side of the cyclist, but in this case it seems like the responsibility is on the cyclist to be aware of their surroundings. I have wiped out on the max tracks pretty hard on burnside, but it was due to my daydreaming, and it’s a small price to pay to expand public transportation and get more cars off the road.

sabernar
Guest
sabernar

Ummm….take a different route? Pay attention to where you’re riding? Take a different lane? Why is it that cyclists think that everyone must adapt to whatever they choose to do, even if what they choose changes all the time? Stay out of the streetcar lane. Take a different road. Sheesh.

K'Tesh
Guest
K'Tesh

I’ve witnessed a couple of wipeouts myself. Just about every ride that I’ve been on that crosses them in downtown Portland seems to attract at least one rider in my field of view (WNBR being the exception)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ufobike/sets/72157625468291039/with/5250998716/

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

Can I report collisions with the aerial tram’ those wires constantly confound me and I can find no other way to get where I’m going.
In all seriousness, I want more streetcar tracks criscrossing portland. If there’s a better way,I’ll be the first in line.

Seth Alford
Guest
Seth Alford

So, experienced riders can just handle tracks? I don’t think so. Here’s a link my post from June, 2010 where I reference a stage in the ’09 Giro that had to be neutralized because of the riders’ protests: http://bikeportland.org/2010/06/01/in-seattle-bike-crashes-on-streetcar-tracks-lead-to-lawsuit-34271#comment-1564569

That post also referenced how the Salem bike club
either put down carpet and/or had someone stationed at bad railroad crossings for their Monster Cookie Metric Century. Here’s a link to a picture of one of those crossings: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49622638@N00/5309489004

I don’t think that there is a way to design an in-street track that does not represent a hazard to bicyclists. That’s why I’m opposed to any additional rail based transit in the Portland area.

(By the way the 2011 edition of the Monster Cookie ride is this Sunday May 1; see http://www.salembicycleclub.org/index.plx)

Amos
Guest

Great discussion so far and the reports are flooding in.

One point of clarity for some commenters who may be confused: AROW’s position is not anti-streetcar. We are generally proponents of this kind of facility, and are simply advocating for planning and execution that focuses more on road user’s safety.

mo
Guest
mo

I don’t understand why we can’t have electric bus trams that run off of overhead wires. Sure I can see the benefit to laying tracks where there are no roads: light rail is more efficient because metal wheels provide less friction, and the articulated cars often hold more people. But if it is using the existing road infrastructure, what is the need for ripping up the road to lay tracks? It seems overly expensive, and dangerous to cyclists. There are plenty of great cities that use rigid and articulated electric bus trams, including Seattle.

jim
Guest
jim

The whole planning process for streetcar was ramrodded through with little consideration for bikes. Did they even think where they are going to ride? I noticed that even cars going up lovejoy ramp will straddle the tracks, as the tracks are awkward to drive on. This usually puts them into the bikelane.
All this just so rich people in the condos downtown can have a fun ride to the Blazer games, The bus isn’t good enough

Michael M.
Guest

This effort could be really worthwhile if it reveals particularly troublesome spots; not-so-worthwhile if it doesn’t.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

these “i can bunny hop 3 street car tracks in a row while almost braking my clavicle” are interesting but kind of off topic.

call my a softie but i believe that directing hapless newbies into a steel flange trap at a ~40° angle is WRONG. one would think that after all of those trips to yurp the nerds at pbot and the alta annex could have learned how to draw perpendicular lines (or turn boxes).

Hmmmm
Guest
Hmmmm

Streetcar tracks seem to suck in front tires. I’ve fallen more times than I’d like to admit. The only fix is to take track free routes.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

Chris Smith was kind enough to point out to me that the board meetings of Portland Streetcar are closed to the public. We are channeled through a citizens’ advisory committee. It is frustrating to us who support streetcars but would like to ensure that the concerns of cyclists are heard to be so deflected from the decision-making process. TriMet never could get away with such a structure.

Perhaps the problem is that Portland Streetcar is essentially an exclusive organization. Apparently the interests of ordinary citizens, be they motorists, cyclists, pedestrians are so inferior to those of developers that they are beneath direct consideration. TriMet has an open process and seldom messes up. Portland Streetcar has a closed process and seldom does anything right. There is a lesson here.

Chris is a great guy who has done an immense amount of valuable civic good. But the powers that be at Portland Streetcar go their incompetent ways and leave him hanging out to dry defending their screw-ups.

Time to bail, Chris, and join the good guys!

Chris Smith
Guest

Jim,

I think you’re only telling part of the story. Portland Streetcar Inc is a private non-profit that functions as a contractor to the City. While it undeniably has a lot of clout, final decisions belong to the City and all the public processes that entails.

I don’t think you will find too many Oregon non-profits that open up their board meetings to the public and I doubt than any other City contractors do either!

And the decisions that impact the bike-compatibility of Streetcar are very much in the domain of PBOT as well as PSI. I think the AROW activists working on this will happily confirm this.

Nick
Guest

I live between 10th and 11th downtown . I ride both streets almost daily. Both are one way. I NEVER ride to the right. Is there a good reason I should not just stay left? Hell, with all the stop lights I keep up with the cars no problem. Traffic is pretty slow most of the time. I have only fallen once, and that was when i first moved here a few years back. I was getting off the MAX over by PGE park and tried hopping the tracks. I missed. My fault, and lesson learned.