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Study: Streetcar Tracks and Bicycling Don’t Mix

11:43 AM EDT on July 29, 2016

new study out of Toronto confirms what cyclists in many U.S. cities have found out the hard way: Streetcar tracks can be a serious safety hazard.

A remarkable one-third of cycling injuries in Toronto involved streetcar tracks, according to a recent study. Photo: Bike Portland
Nearly a third of cycling injuries in Toronto involve streetcar tracks, according to a recent study. This street is designed to separate bike traffic from streetcar tracks. Photo: Bike Portland

The study comes from Canadian public health researcher Kay Teschke, who specializes in bike issues. Michael Andersen at BikePortland reports:

Among bike-related injuries in Toronto that resulted in emergency-room trips, the study found, 32 percent directly involved streetcar tracks and more than half happened on streets with streetcar tracks. And in what lead author Kay Teschke described as “a surprise to us,” 67 percent of track-related injuries happen away from intersections.

Other findings from the UBC study, which was published Friday as an “open peer review” piece in Bio Med Central Public Health:

The more often you bike, the less susceptible you are to tracks. Every additional 100 bike trips per year cut the odds of a track-related injury by one-third.

• Virtually all injuries of people who are making left turns on bikes were track-related.

Painted bike lanes greatly reduce the odds of streetcar track injuries. Having a painted bike lane on a major street with parked cars cut the odds of a track-related injury by 85 percent; having one on a street without parked cars does so by 66 percent.

• Independently of biking frequency, women biking have double the odds of a track-related injury compared to men.

• 54 percent of the bike types “commonly sold” in Toronto bike shops have tires narrower than the 34.5 mm flangeways in that city’s streetcar tracks.

Portland Streetcar Director Dan Bower told BikePortland that streets should be designed to separate streetcar tracks from cyclists, and that the hazard comes from "the lack of proper bicycle facilities."

Elsewhere on the Network today: Greater Greater Washington explains a new app will let Metro riders track the on-time performance of transit routes. And BikePortland reports the city's Mayor, Charlie Hales, says bike advocates need to get louder and better organized.

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