Cyclists reported 82 rail-related crashes to The Seattle Times. Find out which intersection proved most challenging.
Note on 9/6: After this article was published, cyclists submitted more than 30 additional wrecks involving streetcar tracks or other rail.
When it comes to navigating streetcar tracks, the intersection of Westlake Avenue North and Denny Way seems to be the most difficult for cyclists.
More than 80 cyclists responded when The Seattle Times asked for stories about their crashes on or near streetcar tracks (although some mentioned other railways like the missing link). Nine cyclists reported crashing at Westlake and Denny.
Cyclists also reported six crashes at the intersection of Second Avenue Extension and South Jackson Street, four at Fifth Avenue and South Jackson Street, and four at Westlake Avenue North and Mercer Street.
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The survey was neither scientific nor comprehensive, but the self-reported data does provide further insight into the issue of bicyclists crashing on streetcar tracks, which The Times reported on Wednesday.
About half of the 82 crashes examined took place recently (since 2015). In 78 percent of the reported crashes, cyclists had a tire become caught in the flangeway gap, the space in the metal track for streetcar wheels. Cyclists suffered a variety of injuries: concussions, broken wrists and road rash were commonly mentioned.
Here are 10 of their stories (lightly edited):
Melanie Pepin, Maynard Avenue and South Jackson Street:
I was riding down Jackson and needed to take a left turn on Maynard (or 6th Street?). I tried to go across the track at about a 45-degree angle (anticipating that it might be slippery). Mid-action, the bike slid out from under me and I went over the handlebars onto my hands and knees. Bloody scuffs to my hands and knee, torn pants, but OK. Two men from the nearby auto shop came out to assist. Bike was OK and I rode on.
Nasty slippery, those rails. Next time I want to turn left, I’m going to get off at the intersection and walk the bike, I guess.
Mary Tripoli, 12th Avenue and East Yesler Way:
I crossed the streetcar tracks perpendicularly, but my tire slipped on the metal. I over-corrected and crashed. Needed an ambulance. Broke my collarbone and (got a) concussion.
Carly Starr, Westlake Avenue North and Denny Way:
I was riding my bike to work on Westlake and crossed over Denny, and before I knew it, was on the ground in the middle of one of the busiest intersections in Seattle. I’m so grateful that I was able to pick myself up in time before a car came. The fall scraped me up pretty badly, and I ended up going to the ER because I had dislocated my thumb — the bone pushed through my skin, so I needed stitches, months of therapy and years later I still can’t bend my right thumb as far as I used to.
Adam, Second Avenue Extension and South Jackson Street:
Turning left from Second Avenue onto Jackson, I had to merge into traffic and had NO idea streetcar tracks were there. As I was turning, front wheel slid into tracks, and I was thrown off the bike into traffic. Broke my right radial head and was in bad shape for several months.
Blake Manning, Third Avenue and South Jackson Street:
I was riding in the the left lane (between the tracks) to pass a slow-moving bus. Another bus pulled out in front of me from left to right, although I had a green light. In my haste to move right by hopping the track, my front wheel caught in the gap. I was only traveling 15 mph, but I went down hard enough to break my right wrist and elbow. I consider myself an expert bike handler. This was my only crash in 3+ years of competitive road cycling.
Jim, Westlake Avenue North and Virginia Street:
Rather than a bicycle, my motorcycle tire hit the gap, stuck, and went down. Speed was under 5 mph and approaching a red light; no damage done (except to my pride).
Kyle, Broadway and East Pike Street:
July 15, 2015, was a bad bike day for me. I hadn’t ridden my bike in Seattle very often, but I decided to bike to my client’s office in downtown Seattle that morning. I was coming from the U District. I made it to Capitol Hill fine. Somewhere along Broadway, the bike lane on the right side of the road switches to the left side when you’re heading south. I didn’t notice this. When I slightly changed the trajectory of my front tire, it slipped into the metal surface of the bus tracks. This changed the trajectory of my body, which catapulted over the steering wheels. I was fine, although a little rattled. Pedestrians laughed. I’m thankful the driver 5 feet behind me wasn’t too busy laughing to hit the brakes of his car.
Later that day, after work, I walked to the park near my client’s office where I locked my bike. It wasn’t there. Somebody stole it. Yes, I was pretty disappointed, but I figured at least I wouldn’t have to bike home and potentially crash and burn again that day.
Jon, 12th Avenue and South Jackson Street:
It was during my morning commute during a time of the month when we were getting a substantial amount of rain (date above is estimated). After crossing 12th on my way downtown, I slowly went around the bus traffic at the stop on Jackson and ended up in the middle of the tracks. When I went to return to the right-hand lane, my rear tire stuck in the tracks and I went over the handlebars. Unhurt besides a few bruised ribs and a little road rash, I got up and loaded my bike on to one of the buses as I had bent a wheel and could no longer ride. As someone who doesn’t and will likely never ride the streetcar, I’m sad this has been my only interaction with the project.
Paul, Broadway and Madison Street:
I crossed the streetcar track at an angle. It caught my tire and I crashed, slamming my right knee into the concrete. I went to the ER with a severely swollen knee (bursitis), but fortunately nothing was broken. I’m an experienced rider and was wearing a helmet. Three weeks later, my knee is still swollen.
Bob Edmiston, Second Avenue Extension and South Jackson Street:
Turning from southbound Second Avenue South to eastbound South Jackson Street in light rain, my front tire crossed the tracks and made the left turn just fine. But since I ride a cargo bike, the rear tire follows a somewhat tighter turn. The rear wheel followed the slot, causing me to be thrown off the highside of the bike, landing square on my right shoulder and head, instantly shattering my collarbone into three pieces that required two surgeries to repair.