Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Streetcar-nage continues while other cities look for answers

Posted by on September 25th, 2013 at 10:19 am

Conditions on Lovejoy-5

The view from NW Lovejoy.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

While Portlanders continue to suffer physical injuries and property damage due to falls on streetcar tracks and our local agencies put out safety videos and erect signs warning about the hazards, cities in Europe are actively trying to solve the problem. In the past few weeks we’ve come across word of new technology being tested in Zurich while at the same time hearing new first-hand accounts of the treacherous cycling conditions around the (relatively) new streetcar tracks on Northwest Lovejoy Street in Portland.

“Sometimes as many as 5 times a day someone takes a bad spill by getting their bike tires caught in the streetcar tracks, I have lived here for three years, and I am amazed that no one has been run over by a car or the streetcar yet.”
— Liz B., NW Lovejoy resident

Pearl District resident James B is just one of many readers who have emailed us over the past few years to share concerns about the frequent crashes he sees near his home. “The city painted the treacherous SE corner at NW 10th Ave and Lovejoy as no parking for cars,” he wrote back in July, “However, too many cyclists still get fouled in the streetcar tracks there and get hurt — I hear the sound from my window of bikes wiping out several times daily.”

Then earlier this month he wrote us again: “Took a bag of ice down to an injured cyclist today. This intersection continues to be a menace. Do you know if Portland Streetcar and/or the city are doing anything about it?”

Also this month we heard from reader Liza B. Like James and others who have contacted us, she is disturbed and genuinely concerned by all the people who crash on the tracks on Lovejoy near 10th. As a retired senior citizen, Liza said she spends a lot of time in her apartment on Lovejoy. It faces NW 10th, so she watches the street a lot. “It is amazing to me how many spills I hear and witness out here, I would have thought that by now most regular bikers would be more cautious or take a different street.”

Lovejoy sucks

PBOT has installed these signs to encourage people to avoid NW Lovejoy; but not everyone takes the advice.

Conditions on Lovejoy-4

NW Lovejoy is a very tempting way to access the Broadway Bridge
(in the background) because it’s direct and
— prior to the new streetcar line — it used to have a bike lane.

Liza continued: “I am so worried I am going to hear or witness a horrid accident soon… and sometimes as many as 5 times a day someone takes a bad spill by getting their bike tires caught in the streetcar tracks, I have lived here for three years, and I am amazed that no one has been run over by a car or the streetcar yet.”

Liza also added that she used to ride a bike and that she misses it, but she can’t afford to ride and she can’t afford to take a spill. “I might end up in the hospital!”

Unfortunately, despite these incessant stories from residents and the clear physical toll these tracks are taking, there doesn’t appear to be much urgency at all from the Portland Bureau of Transportation or Portland Streetcar Inc., to find a solution to the problem. As we reported last month, PBOT isn’t doing any active testing of products that might mitigate this public safety hazard and Portland Streetcar has only emailed a German company to learn more about a potential solution.

Meanwhile, we’ve learned from Dutch cycling organization Fietberaad that the city of Zurich is testing a new product, “designed to prevent cyclists falling as a result of their tires getting stuck in tram rails.”

Here’s more from Fietsberaad:

“The specially designed rails will accommodate an embedded rubber profile. Actually, filling rails with a rubber profile is not a new thing. This measure has also been adopted in the Netherlands, often at train-tram intersections. A number of rail crossings in the Amsterdam harbour area, for example, were recently fitted with such rubber profiles. But according to Zürich public transport there have been no trials thus far demonstrating the durability of such a product over the long term.

In the experimental stretch of rail, the rubber profile will be implemented over a length of 90 metres at a stop that that is being completely renovated. The extra costs for the bicycle-friendly filling are 334,000 Euros.”

We would love to report similar testing underway here in Portland. After all, we have the most developed bike and streetcar infrastructure in America so shouldn’t we be leading the charge in making sure they play nicely together?

Right now, the best way for many people to avoid the potential of a nasty crash on streetcar tracks is to avoid them and get familiar with alternate routes whenever possible. For all those riders who don’t know the best routes, and who are simply trying to navigate our city by bike, all we can say is good luck and we hope your injuries aren’t too severe.

— Read more bikes and streetcar coverage in our archives.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • BURR September 25, 2013 at 10:41 am

    MY predicition: Portland Streetcar and PBOT won’t do much if anything until they get sued and lose.

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  • gumby September 25, 2013 at 10:54 am

    The solution seems obvious to me. Get rid of the tracks. There are many other ways to guide a vehicle. Automated forklifts operate in many warehouses with no tracks at all. This would not only solve the problem, but it would also make it easier and cheaper to add or change routes for the street car.

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    • OnTheRoad September 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

      The reason they are married to tracks instead of rubber-tired trolleys is that the rails guarantee the streetcar’s permanency to the businesses along the line.

      This is important because the businesses within a block or two of the rail get taxed to underwrite the streetcar. They might not be so favorable paying the tax if the Streetcar could easily be uprooted and moved to another street.

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      • peejay September 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm

        The overhead lines that power them fix the streetcars to a particular route just as much as the tracks. There are plenty of rubber tire troileys using overhead power in other cities around the world, so the technology is tested.

        I would imagine it’s much MUCH cheaper to install new lines, so the powers that be might oppose it for that reason alone. I’m guessing a lot of salaries are tied to the cost per mile of construction.

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    • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2013 at 11:21 am

      I agree, gumby, and such trackless trolleys already exist and could be updated with new technology as you say. Ease of changing routes isn’t all a good thing, though, when designing cities. Permanence has a high value in the case of transpo routes*. Still, there’s no reason that trackless trolleys can’t have guidance and rolling components permanently embedded in the street which are flush with the grade and not rail-type tracks.

      * http://www.opb.org/news/article/study-cleveland-bus-line-31-times-more-cost-efficient-than-hillsboro-light-rail/

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      • GlowBoy September 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

        Our neighbor to the north, Seattle, has lots of electric buses (aka “trackless trolleys”, and some of the old-timers up there still call them that).

        I used to live there, and they work great. Although they are not silent, they are substantially quieter than either diesel buses or streetcars, and don’t require tracks. Some people dislike them because of the visual blight of overhead wires, but that’s true of streetcars too. And they do essentially have similar “route permanence” to rail vehicles.

        Only real downside I’m aware of is that the pulleys that contact the overhead line occasionally derail, stopping the bus until the driver goes out back with a long (presumably fiberglass!) pole and fixes it. Usually only causes a delay of a minute or two, and doesn’t happen constantly IME.

        I can only assume the reason Seattle has these and Portland doesn’t is that the City of Seattle owns its power supply, whereas TriMet has to pay rates several times higher to PGE or PacifiCorp for the juice used by its vehicles.

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        • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

          I’ve ridden a few of those in Seattle, too, and I think some in Boston long ago. Some, maybe all, of them have auxilliary diesel power so they can operate beyond the end of the overhead wires.

          I hadn’t thought about the power company ownership in Seattle but I expect TriMet already cuts a special rate for their tracked trolleys, and in terms of energy costs electricity is still a pretty good deal in Portland.

          The driver fixes derailed brushes by using the retractor ropes located on the back of the trolley. It looks easy enough but I’d think the tracking of those brushes could be greatly improved so they don’t come off much if at all.

          As q`Tzal suggests below, new trackless trolleys could be designed quite differently than old school trolleybuses by using different wheel/tire/suspension structures, lower floor heights and contemporary styling. I’m not convinced the inductive pick-up is the way to go (seems expensive) but it does get rid of the catenary lines.

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    • Marid September 25, 2013 at 11:23 am

      In other words, more buses? o_0

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      • Editz September 25, 2013 at 4:13 pm


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    • Spiffy September 25, 2013 at 11:24 am

      they already have that, it’s the bus…

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      • Joseph E September 25, 2013 at 12:26 pm

        They are talking about electric trollybuses, which are used extensively in San Francisco and Seattle, where the high torque of electric motors plus the good traction of rubber tires are great for getting up steep, wet hills. They have some advantaged compared to diesel buses (quieter, faster acceleration), but cost more, though less than a streetcar because you only need 2 wires overhead.

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    • Carter Kennedy September 25, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      The whole point is to carry more riders per operator. An electric bus can carry no more riders than a diesel bus. But a streetcar carries lots more paying customers.

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      • MaxD September 26, 2013 at 11:05 am

        In addition, the concrete +steel track bed costs more to build initially, but is a better value in the long-term. Buses are heavy and supported on 4 wheels. The slow-moving turning they do all day destroys streets. Does anyone know of a lifecycle cost comparison per mile between building a streetcar system and building an electric bus system w/ overhead wires and concrete roadbed?

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  • G September 25, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I don’t think the rail depressions are the only problem.
    I think a good portion of crashes are caused from the level portions of the rail. The bike tire just slids on the metal, and the bike goes right out from under the rider. The bike goes out from under the rider so fast, the has not time to react…
    I wonder if they could texturize the top of the track for some grip??
    Or more people should start riding fatbikes… ?

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    • Craig September 25, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      It’s not a bike path and it’s not even a suggested bike route. The city has signs up recommending that people NOT ride there. How much more of a nanny state so you want? Skinny bike tires, inexperienced riders and train tracks are always a dangerous combination.

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      • BURR September 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

        Wrong. Public street = public access. As others have said, no transportation dept in their right minds would accept this level of hazard on the road for other classes of vehicles.

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        • davemess September 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm

          Have you been to East Portland. Come out and enjoy our unimproved roads!

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          • BURR September 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm

            sure, another city liability. I can name sections of designated bike routes that have pavement as hazardous as the streetcar tracks, too; but that’s not the point.

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  • Granpa September 25, 2013 at 11:11 am

    If some skinny ass hipster tells me to “bunny hop” the track I will scream.

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    • davemess September 25, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      How about you just cross them at 90 degrees and try to avoid riding parallel to them if possible, and if neither of these is an option proceed VERY cautiously.

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    • Adron September 26, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      Dude, just bunny hop that sucker! …or if you get stuck in it just pull up and out of it! 😛

      …or wait, in response to a skateboarder (cuz they get nailed by the tracks too) “just ollie that sucker!” ha!

      …but anyway, I’m a fan of rail. Over the long term it’s substantially cheaper than buses and attracts more build + livability options. Also don’t even get me started about how annoying it is trying to use a laptop or do anything on a bus vs a rail based ride. Rail is smooth when maintained, buses are basically never smooth no matter how well maintained the roadway is.

      As for buses, the other problem they have is a notoriously higher rate of killing pedestrians and cyclists, they have slightly more vicious braking but that just serves to injure riders and road users when stopping for an errant cyclist and the other PIA about buses is they ruin the road about 10x faster than anything except large trucking. The ruts, bumps and other dangers that are well hidden compared to tracks crop up within 1-5 years on roadways with buses, where as a solid streetcar/light rail roadbed lasts for decades before being substantially damaged by road usage (note again, usually a bus or large vehicles have to drive on it to damage it) where as the streetcar/light rail don’t damage the roadway and are supported by the trackage, which rarely needs replaced but maybe every 40-100 years. To maintain a smooth road with bus traffic, that’s a 3-4 year cycle. Ride in Seattle lately? It’s a mess of brutally uneven roads, ruts and other things that hurt real bad when they throw you to the ground.

      As for that Clevelend vs. Hillsboro Light rail that write up is in large part nonsense. There are more apples to oranges comparisons than a bucket full of apples and oranges being compared. 🙁

      But there should be some solid option around this. Rail is a vital part of Amsterdam and Copenhagen – i.e. the top biking cities in the world. No reason it can’t intermingle so we can get the key benefits of both

      ok. I’m done.

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  • Teagan September 25, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Pay attention to what you are doing and you won’t get hurt… that doesn’t require any money and it’s a solution to the problem right now. I ride on Lovejoy all the time and have never had an issue.

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    • Gregg September 25, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      We’ll, I wonder why so many folks keep getting hurt so bad.

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      • davemess September 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

        My question is how many people are repeat crashers? Are people learning from their crashes and adjusting their behaviors?

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    • Erinne September 25, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Sounds like victim blaming to me. While I also have never gone down on the tracks (KNOCK ON WOOD REALLY HARD), there is obviously a design problem when dozens or hundreds of people get hurt every season.

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      • Craig September 25, 2013 at 1:23 pm

        You are not really a victim when you are in complete control of the situation, make the decision to ride over the rail at the wrong angle and then…….wham!……”that rail just attacked me out of nowhere!” The rider is both the victim and the culprit in this case.

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        • dmc September 25, 2013 at 10:16 pm

          Cheers to Craig with his wicked common sense.

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      • Dan September 27, 2013 at 9:41 am

        Falling off your bike doesn’t make you a victim.

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    • El Biciclero September 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Still, if there were an obstacle that caused this many cars to crash, we wouldn’t be talking about drivers “paying attention”, we’d be discussing how to redesign the street.

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    • peejay September 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Problem solved! (for the 1% hardcore cyclists). What about the rest of the people for whom cycling is already frightening enough? I guess they don’t count because they can’t man up?

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      • DamonQuade September 25, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        Why do so many people feel that we need to ride on every single block of street in the city? The city has provided a very viable, safe route around this section of track that only requires one to ride two extra blocks. The city is here for all users not just vehicle drivers or cyclists. As someone who rides every day, I find it a distraction to get so worked up over this stretch of rode when we have much larger issues at play. If you feel that this stretch of street is too dangerous, don’t ride on them.

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      • Dan September 27, 2013 at 9:42 am

        Or don’t man up and take an alternate route where you aren’t riding along rails. The city’s a grid and there are tons of bike routes. Pick one you’re more comfortable using.

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  • Spiffy September 25, 2013 at 11:25 am

    cars had very skinny tires when they first came out… what was the solution back then to prevent car tires from getting caught in the tracks? was it just to make the tires wider?

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  • Spiffy September 25, 2013 at 11:27 am

    if a car with 35 series tires hits a pothole and pops a tire the only person at fault is the driver of the car…

    why is this different?

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    • Opus the Poet September 25, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      That would be because a pothole is a road defect, not a design feature. We don’t build in potholes, we fill them and make them as smooth as possible. So this is not a parallel at all.

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  • Ken September 25, 2013 at 11:27 am

    I live at Lovejoy and NW 10th Ave and have streetcar tracks on 3 sides of my building, so I’m right in the middle of this. The way I deal with it is I don’t ride on Lovejoy, and as little as possible on NW 10th and NW 11th. After installing the streetcar tracks, the configuration that PBOT laid out made it pretty clear to me that they didn’t want bikes on Lovejoy. The alternate routes are not inconvenient, I find them more desireable because of Lovejoy.

    I also agree that it’s not just tires falling into tracks that casue the crashes, it’s the slick rails when they are wet. A lot of the crashes I see are caused by that alone.

    I guess I don’t understand the inssistance of riding on Lovejoy when there are much safer alternatives very close by that feed the Broadway Bridge.

    The concentration of tracks in this location make it somewhat unique, and I think make a solution difficult and expensive. And nothing I’ve read addresses the slick tracks.

    So for me the question is just how much money should be spent on this one location (while safe and convenient alternatives exist) versus building more bike infrastructure elsewhere.

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  • Daniel L September 25, 2013 at 11:27 am

    The big issue is that the streetcar was put in with absolutely zero consideration of where bikes would fit in. So there are way too many spots where there’s no real alternative but to ride in the lane with the tracks short of going way out of your way. If they had simply built it so it ran in the left lane along all the one-ways it goes on it would have solved most of the conflicts.

    A rubber track fill of some sort might help at some key conflict points, but I wouldn’t expect anything to come from that for a long time, it’s still very limited even in Zurich and the Netherlands where they have a lot more track on a lot more streets to worry about, and a lot more bikes riding over it. On the other hand we could design and put in some decent bike lanes along those routes that would at least alleviate a good chunk of the problems right now if we wanted to, all it would take is the money and the will, and would likely be way less money than anything that involves replacing track.

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    • AndyC of Linnton September 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      I agree.
      The thing is that at this point, consideration for people on bikes and “the money and the will” are anathema.

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    • DamonQuade September 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      Or you could ride one block to the north and we can use those dollars on more important infrastructure projects.

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      • eli bishop September 26, 2013 at 8:07 am

        that street one block north has a stop sign at. every. intersection. it’s a terrible street to ride.

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        • cold worker September 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

          No, it doesn’t have a stop at every intersection. I ride it daily. This is not accurate.

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  • TOM September 25, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I almost wiped out in the bike lane on SE Burnside at about 203rd. The MAX tracks cross the lane at a funny angle and caught my front tire. Managed to hang on but wobbled out of the lane, lucky no auto traffic on my left.
    Now I just go up to the next stop light to cross and avoid that mess , but it’s still there, waiting to catch first time bike lane travelers.

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  • q`Tzal September 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Rail on surface streets can only produce conflicts and obvious safety problems for small wheels, feet and wet weather traction.
    As much as the engineering/scientific/energy efficiency weenie in me wants to preserve an old technological advancement (steel wheels on steel rails) that is bounds more efficient than pneumatic rubber tires on pavement I must acknowledge the functional deficit of such a technology when it refuses to play well with others.

    Hypothetical BRT vehicle :
    Solid polyurethane tires backed up by a more robust vehicle suspension system. Solid tires may require harder and thicker concrete road surfaces as asphalt may not be able to cope with the percussive energy not lost in pneumatic tire flexing.
    Fully electric with some minor battery storage, instead of rails we use current self driving tech to keep low floor buses aligned on an induction power track embedded in the road.
    A driver would be included to supervise it for at least the first decade until every conceivable kink is worked out and everyone implicitly trusts computer drivers more than human drivers.
    The induction power track would provide continual motive and HVAC power on the route while the small battery provides transitional and emergency power for the motors only.
    The track could be permanently buried in a flat contoured road surface, trenched in and covered with maintenance access panels or surface laid in the profile of a 4′ wide speed bump but with the path of travel vs perpendicular. With pre-assembled inductive power segments an inductive electric BRT route could be laid down temporarily as the pieces snap together like model railroad track.

    The scientific efficiencies of LRT can be duplicated in BRT, we just need to be certain that before we invest that money that future generations of brain dead bureaucrats can’t gut the public transitway for a private vehicle lane.

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  • Jeff September 25, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Why does 100 yards of rubber lining cost half a million dollars? Can that even be correct?

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    • Jeff September 25, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Ah, from the original source it looks like they had to develop an entirely new rail profile to accommodate the rubber lining. That makes more sense. I wonder how much of those costs are one-time tooling costs vs. costs that would be incurred for each implementation, though.

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      • MaxD September 26, 2013 at 11:11 am

        has anyone tried just filling the rail with spray foam?

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  • Jesse Boudart September 25, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    One possible solution is to utilize the landscape strip and parking that run on south side of Lovejoy. Then you could construct a slow speed cycletrack with delineated space for the pedestrians closer to business frontages.

    Unfortunately trees will require removal, catenary poles/fire hydrants will require re-location, and parking may be impacted, but after all that you should see fewer bike-rail crashes. Furthermore, there are other intersection/corridor design details which will need to be worked out, but I think you could fit it in.

    A more fundamental infrastructure solution like this won’t be cheap, but depending on how you price severe bicycle crashes and how far you look into the future I bet the return on investment might be worth its cost.

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    • Granpa September 25, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      If bicycles and only bicycles were important to the neighborhood, then trees could go. However pedestrians, livability, property values, quality of life, wildlife, pollution removal and oxygen production all benefit from having a street tree component to the neighborhood. Because streetcar employed bad planning is no reason add a another bad idea on top of that.

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  • sean September 25, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    The streets adjacent to Lovejoy are meant to be bike friendly. I ride East on Johnson and West on Marshall daily (so I don’t need to wait at the stoplight at Lovejoy and 9th).

    Riding Johnson is shitty, particularly near the freeway and 14th. I rode by two separate wrecks on 16th this month. If bikes were given some exclusive ROW on Johnson, perhaps bikers would be more apt to use it. A one-way and/or diverter on 14th would be a vast improvement for bikes but also cars as well. Routing car through traffic to the couplets Everett/Glisan and Lovejoy/Northrup makes a lot more sense.

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    • BURR September 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      Problem is…the motorists divert to the side streets also, and Marshall has a door zone bike lane, crappy cobblestones and a ton of freight and hospital traffic on it….

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      • sean September 25, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        Agreed. The diverter at Marshall and 10th was a leap in the right direction. A couple of those and people who drive cars will avoid Johnson and Marshall for through streets.

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      • eli bishop September 26, 2013 at 8:08 am

        and a ton of stop signs.

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        • sean September 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

          Yes indeed (though Marshal is a little better). I wish BTA and other groups would advocate for an actual greenway on Johnson with 20mph signs, diverters, and precedence over cross streets. Intersections like 12th and 13th could easily be through streets. Cars don’t need to use Johnson as a thoroughfare.

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  • Joe September 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    stay away in super wet times its a mad dash around that area.

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  • JV September 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    The thing is, these hazards exist in many cities in Europe too, and people just sort of deal with it by crossing at less oblique angles to the tracks, or avoiding them. But people don’t sue as much either, so perhaps there is a good point there. The solution proposed of filling the gap with a compressible rubber compound only helps certain types of crashes, where the wheel gets stuck in the rut. Other crashes that come as a result of the loss of traction on the track are still an issue. I think a better rider understanding of the hazard, and personal risk mitigation is the only solution.

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    • Dan September 27, 2013 at 9:45 am

      I don’t get it at all. How many crashes do curbs cause? Should we get rid of those too?

      I don’t think any bike route should be along rail because it’s not safe for inexperienced riders, but there are so many streets in Portland that don’t have rails on them. If you don’t know how to ride along rails or they make you nervous, choose another street.

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  • Champs September 25, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Came for the circular firing squad, was not entirely disappointed.

    I do not doubt that one can handle the tracks safely and effectively, but this is also true of electricity and guns. First, and by far foremost, I avoid working with them.

    And streetcar or no, Lovejoy is a crappy place to ride.

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  • Chris I September 25, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    “Liza also added that she used to ride a bike and that she misses it, but she can’t afford to ride and she can’t afford to take a spill. “I might end up in the hospital!””

    Um… what? There are quite a few extremely poor people in Portland that manage to find a way to ride a bike every day…

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  • Austin September 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    A couple of weeks ago, during a crazy rainstorm, I witnessed a woman on a bike get caught in the tracks and fall (same place as that first photo is from).

    She hit her head HARD on the street and was completely unconscious for 7 or 8 minutes. 4 or 5 other cyclists (and one car) stopped, we called 911 and an ambulance and firetruck showed up.

    Luckily she was wearing a helmet, I can’t imagine how much worse her injuries would have been if she hadn’t been wearing one.

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    • davemess September 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm

      All the more reason we need to education cyclists! I see it every time I’m downtown, people crossing the tracks at stupid angles. We need to instill a healthy fear of tracks in people and encourage them to cross them more safely.

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  • Chris I September 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    I have a solution that may keep everyone happy:

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  • J_R September 25, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    For all of you who think it can’t happen to you, I have news for you: it can. My wife crashed on the tracks and suffered a compound fracture of her arm and a broken pelvis. This is a woman who commuted by bicycle for years, has ridden the STP in one day, spent some time at the track at Alpenrose and ridden across the country. It happened to her it can happen to you.

    The Streetcar is a development tool, rather than a mode of transportation, that was force fit into the city without regard for the effect (negative) it would have on other modes, particularly bicyclists.

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    • OnTheRoad September 25, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      My sentiments precisely.

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    • grumpcyclist September 25, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      I’ll challenge you on that. It can’t happen to me because I don’t ride on Lovejoy. I ride on streets that don’t require me to ride between or immediately adjacent to train tracks. Fortunately this is Portland and that’s incredibly easy to do because a) there are lots of good cycling routes and b) blocks are only 200 feet long, so going a block or two out of your way is no big deal.

      If I somehow end up on such a street anyway (if I don’t know where I’m going, for instance) then I cross the rails slowly and with extreme caution, at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible).

      I’ve ridden downtown nearly every day for close to 10 years now. I’ve never even had a close call on the tracks. Given the philosophy outlined above I thin it’s safe to say I never will.

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    • Joe Suburban September 25, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      Sorry about the crash, but a little care and avoidance goes a long way. For example, the streets of Bucharest or Sofia are full of street car tracks laid in 1890 or so. And the cobble stones are pulled up every 6 months to fix another hole in the sewer pipes underneath…the streets look like an ATV track out there. You change your car’s shocks and joints every year at least. In Portland at least the streets are reasonably even, and the drivers are not homicidal maniacs. And people still bike in Eastern Europe, most without helmets…

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    • Mindful Cyclist September 25, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      While I agree that the streetcar is a development tool, let’s quit pretending it is not a tool for transportation. When I visit a friend in the Pearl Dist after work, the cars are packed. And, this friend also lives in that area because it was an easy place to live without a car.

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  • Hugh Johnson September 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    The street cars fit the needs of people other than gasp…cyclists. Yes non-cyclists do exist. So avoid the tracks and quit complaining.

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  • BURR September 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    How many people even ride the east side streetcar line over the Broadway Bridge? Every time I see one of the east side streetcars it is practically empty.

    In terms of actual numbers of Downtown or Pearl District-bound commuters, shoppers, or whatever, I’m pretty sure the number of people reaching those areas from the east side by bicycle far exceeds the number of people reaching those areas from the east side by streetcar.

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    • MaxD September 26, 2013 at 11:16 am

      I think the numbers will go up when the new MAX line is running, when the new bridge is finished, and when the 600 residential units being built at 7th and Multnomah are occupied

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  • Kevin Wagoner September 25, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    5 times a day? That is outrageous. Is PBOT at least validating the number of crashes a day or modeling how often it likely happens? Maybe in future bike counts we should make sure certain areas like this are counted for number of crashes so we have this data?

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    • Alan 1.0 September 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

      I’d guess the only crashes which are officially counted are ones which require transport to the hospital. AROW’s track-crash data might get some consideration at PBOT…?

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  • dbrunker September 25, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    When I was riding with PBOT’s Portland by Cycle summer tours one gal had a hand sized scab on her lower leg. She said she was clipped onto her pedals, got too close to the tracks and went over. Later when I was volunteering with Bikes For Humanity another young gal came in with the same sized scraped patch on her lower leg. I asked her if the street car tracks got her and she confirmed it. She had also been clipped in and got too close.

    I felt really bad for both of them. I especially hate seeing women and girls get hurt.

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  • ed September 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    I’m not gonna win any friends with this post and am virtually always adamant for better cycling infrastructure, but as you bring up the Dutch, Zurich and Europe here I’ll say that despite the amazing Dutch infrastructure, tracks are everywhere in cities like Amsterdam. And are expected to be. The only people who consistently crash on them are tourists and other inexperienced cyclists. Frankly if you get your tire caught you should know better is the thinking – and they’re kind of right though they do kindly come running to aid of newbies who haven’t learned this basic city bike maneuver. Even riding at just a little angle across tracks will eliminate the chance of getting your tire caught. Just go out and practice on a track for awhile, criss-crossing till you feel at ease. No need to avoid Lovejoy or wherever – just learn some basic city bike skills. In an ideal world this shouldn’t be needed but I think there are much bigger fish to fry in making Portland a better place for cyclists. OK; I’ll duck now 🙂

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    • Alan 1.0 September 25, 2013 at 11:32 pm

      “The only people who consistently crash on them are tourists and other inexperienced cyclists.”

      My Dutch friends hate tracks and at least one has crashed on them. There are some differences from here, though. There are many more and much better bike routes nearly everywhere in NL, so avoiding tracks is easier and you can still get where you want to go. Where tracks and bike lanes cross, the intersection is designed to put bikes perpendicular to the track and not needing to turn on top of it or merge at a shallow angle, nor to dodge cars or other distractions. And then there’s the general Dutch driving awareness of cycling, so that if a cyclist does go down even with traffic around, they’re less likely to be smooshed than here. It also looked to me like their tram track gauge was smaller, with narrower gap and less deep flangeway, which wouldn’t trap tires as much.

      I think developing an alternative to tracked trolleys could be a great product to sell to other cities, including European cities, as they eventually need to replace tracks on their lines and generally upgrade.

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    • Dan September 27, 2013 at 9:49 am

      I’m a very experienced and capable cyclist. I just avoid riding along rail tracks. All I do is cross them. There is no reason others can’t do the same. Just as I avoid riding down 82nd St. I avoid riding along rail tracks because it’s unsafe. I choose better routes.

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  • David Lewis September 25, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    The problem is trying to jam all the different modes of transportation on the same lane, and the answer isn’t steering cyclists away with a sign. The answer is providing cyclists and pedestrians with their own roads, and I think it is ridiculous that every single road in this town is available to drive a car on. There should be roads with no cars at all, commercial districts included. Go to Europe, where they have trolleys, and you’ll see this. You’ll also see city squares, which are large pedestrian-only plazas which are usually a cobblestone cover to a large underground city-operated parking garage. People find a place to park, and then they walk where they need to go. European cities have higher densities despite fewer cars, and we should be headed in that direction too.

    I just moved to Portland earlier this year after having lived in Germany for many years. If you think of Portland as a bicycle-friendly city, I disagree. It just isn’t, and saying that it is America’s bicycle-friendliest is more of an insult to America, really, than a compliment to Portland.

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    • Dan September 27, 2013 at 10:00 am

      Cool story, bro.

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  • Travis September 26, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    As far as bicycle traffic to danger to serious injury I consider Vancouver/ Williams far more of a concern. The new New Season has not helped; nor the additional bars, which brings in drivers not accustom to the area during rush hour: doorings, hooks, crossing all lanes (including bike lane) out of a driveway to make an immediate turn, buses, etc… The tracks are fixed and with the exception of weather don’t change. More education is the solution. That said, I’ve kicked out a back wheel, stuck the pedal, and nearly bit it at Lovejoy and 9th… But I was not using the green boxes, making a hard left off the ramp from the turn lane. There are plenty of alt routes around the worst of the tracks.

    I’m afraid the New Seasons lot is going to be involved in a serious accident as commuters take to the streets in the dark soon. Not saying it’ll entirely be a driver at fault either.

    I guess my point is, I’d rather see money spent else where. I’d rather see money spent educating riders. But I don’t know the costs any which direction. At this point, I don’t see how the city could be held at fault in an accident involving the tracks? Seem they would have had a class-action suit by now.

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    • BURR September 26, 2013 at 1:38 pm

      I’d rather see money spent educating motorists and the Portland Streetcar engineering design staff.

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      • davemess September 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

        Burr there are still going to be track SOMEWHERE out there. If people now how to ride them it is a skill they can utilize in many situations.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm


          your focus on simply teaching people how to operate around these is flawed. In driver’s ed we learn how to do panic stops and I think people should also know how to react behind the wheel in various conditions… But this is a situation where our City has placed this hazard along many miles of important roads for biking. In other words, I’m all for educating folks how to ride their bikes when dangerous conditions arise… But I’m against our City creating those dangerous conditions 24/7 and then looking the other way at the clear and present public safety hazard that has been created as a result of it.

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          • grumpcyclist September 26, 2013 at 4:22 pm

            Hey Jonathan: “But this is a situation where our City has placed this hazard along many miles of important roads for biking.”

            Is there a place where you think the city *should* be laying the tracks? Given that you seem to think that all miles of roads are important for biking, are you advocating the city should tear up all of its rails and replace them with something else, that the city pay $8,227,926 per mile (334,000 Euros for 90 meters) to lay down this special track with rubber stuff in it, or that there’s some third way that you haven’t yet mentioned?

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            • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) September 26, 2013 at 4:46 pm

              Thanks for the question grumpcyclist. But please be careful to not put words into my mouth. I’m not advocating for any of the things you list in your comment.

              That being said, one the problems in Portland with the idea that people should simply bike on alternate roads is that those alternate routes — while deemed “bike friendly” by a map or the City — are actually not adequate for bicycling IMO. If we actually had a connected route of efficient and pleasant bicycle paths that were off of the major roads, then I would be much more comfortable advocating for their use (and using them myself). However, the situation we have is that we have failed to create that network and we have missed key opportunities to build major spines of it. NW Lovejoy and MLK/Grand should have cycle paths on them. But they don’t, and the alternate routes pale in comparison.

              What I have advocated for is a statewide or federally mandated requirement that all light rail/streetcar projects include money to design/implement adjacent cycle paths and/or improve the adjacent cycle network. It is a travesty IMO that we are dumping bazillions into rail projects that not only fail to include high-quality adjacent bikeways, but in many places the rail network degrades the existing bikeway network.

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              • MaxD September 27, 2013 at 10:19 am

                I agree with you that not adding bike infrastructure on MLK/Grand was a missed opportunity. However, that couplet totally sucked to ride on before streetcar, and I think it is actually much better to ride on now. In addition to adding tracks, the project added new signals, better (slower) signal timing, and many new curb ramps for pedestrians. The net result of the improvements is a slower, more urban couplet. I occasionally ride on MLK/Grand, but only for short distances, and only on the opposite side of the street from the tracks. IMO, the street is safer now for cyclist because of the traffic calming and increased driver awareness of pedestrians. One big caveat, though: that lack of an alternate n/s route like 7th ave is a huge gap in cycling infrastructure I find the city to have acted irresponsibly insofar as they spent so much $$ to build streetcar and ignored cycling needs- I don’t think the cycling path needed to be on MLK/Grand, but some accommodation should be made.

                I do not ride in the NW regularly, but I rode Lovejoy a few times before the CE streetcar, and I have ridden a bunch of time since. I think the street had value as a route from a wayfinding perspective because it is an extension of the Broadway bridge, but it was not great to ride on before. When I ride through NW now, I usually take Marshall, Johnson, or Hoyt. I am not seeing Lovejoy as much of a loss. Would you elaborate on your comment (as it regards Lovejoy)?:
                ” NW Lovejoy and MLK/Grand should have cycle paths on them. But they don’t, and the alternate routes pale in comparison.”

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  • BURR September 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Put in perspective, 19 reported bicycle-related crashes on SW Barbur in 10 years looks like peanuts compared to 5 crashes a day on the Streetcar tracks….

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  • James B September 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

    IMO, the best answer at this particular intersection (NW 10th and Lovejoy) is to remove the four on-street parking spaces on Lovejoy between 10th and 9th on the south side, in front of the liquor store. It wouldn’t prevent all crashes, but the main cause of crashes is people running out of room because of parked cars. They invariably end up in the tracks.

    There will always be noobs who don’t know the route. This is a fixable problem that doesn’t have to cost a half mil.

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  • Dan September 27, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Why don’t people just cross the tracks at an angle greater than 45 degrees like you’re supposed to? Getting mad at the tracks for causing you to fall of your bike is like getting mad at a curb for doing the same. Ride your bike with some sense and you’ll be ok.

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