Streetcar tracks vs bikes: Seattle looks into risky relationship

Oct 4, 2016, 2:08 PM | Updated: 3:37 pm
streetcar tracks...
A handful of incidents reported to the Seattle Department of Transportation indicate that several cyclists have crashed after interacting with streetcar rail lines. (MyNorthwest file photo)
(MyNorthwest file photo)

A new board will investigate the relationship between streetcar tracks and bikes as the City of Seattle considers moving forward with more rail lines downtown.

The City has been made aware of a potential link between existing streetcar rail lines and bicycle accidents.

Woman loses scooter after streetcar tracks incident

Cyclists report the tracks, which are laid in the road, can reportedly catch tires, and sometimes send riders to the ground. Wet tracks can also cause tires to slip. But the issue has gained more attention after the death of Desiree McCloud in May 2016.

No official statement on what caused McCloud’s fatal bike crash has been released, and there is no indication that there will ever be one.

Seattle police found no evidence to blame streetcar tracks, however, video of McCloud traveling on the road shortly before her accident shows she was riding between the tracks, The Seattle Times reports. McCloud would have had to cross the tracks soon after. Witnesses also place McCloud traveling between the tracks.

In his recent budget proposal, Mayor Ed Murray wants funding for a new streetcar project, laying more rail lines through downtown. That project, the Center City Connector, would link the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcar lines. The Seattle Department of Transportation is forming a bike/streetcar safety review board, which the Seattle Bike Blog reports would address the potential streetcar line that would link the two lines that are already operating. The bike blog previously pointed out that the existing streetcar lines are a problem for some Seattle cyclists.

Streetcar tracks and bikes

Incident reports from cyclists to SDOT, going back to 2011, indicate issues with streetcar tracks, including one in front of Seattle Central Community College.

“My tire was caught in the newly laid tracks for the lightrail in front of SCCC … I was thrown from my bike and ended up with stitches in my face as a result,” one cyclist wrote to SDOT in 2012. “This is a serious hazard and should be addressed.”

The city responded to the cyclist’s letter, which was about tracks for the First Hill streetcar line, saying it would review signage. Another bike rider wrote in 2012 that they nearly “went over” their handlebars because of streetcar tracks around Fairview Avenue. Another rider wrote that his wrist was broken when his tire got stuck in the tracks around Westlake Avenue and Lenora Streets, causing a crash.

“My bike was caught in the streetcar tracks along Westlake Avenue … I was thrown over the handlebars and have road rash on my face and legs,” a cyclist wrote to SDOT in 2015.

A minor injury was reported in 2015 when a bike tire lost grip on wet tracks along Jackson Street. Another bike rider slipped on wet tracks around Westlake in 2014.

“While I was going slow and did attempt to cross the tracks at 90 degrees, I crashed my bike, breaking my shoulder and going to the ER,” the rider wrote. “Those trolley tracks are extremely dangerous for bikers.”

SDOT did respond to one complaint involving streetcar tracks, noting that it does not direct cyclists to travel on Westlake Avenue between Valley and Stewart Streets. It notes that cyclists are legally allowed to travel that stretch but said that it suggests bike riders instead use 9th Avenue North, between Denny Way and Republican Street.

There are also other reports filled with residents’ concerns over the city’s planning of the streetcar lines and their proximity to bike lanes. Those are just reports to the city. The Seattle Times recently took accounts of incidents involving streetcar tracks, with more than 100 people responding.

Local News

hazard pay...
Dalton Day

With divisive vote, Seattle council upholds grocery worker hazard pay ordinance

Reversing its position in December, Seattle council has upheld the city's $4 an hour hazard pay requirement for grocery workers.
21 hours ago
Ballot drop box King County, elections even year...
Nick Bowman

State lawmaker: Bill moving Washington elections to even years is a ‘common sense’ shift

A newly-proposed bill in the state Legislature would seek to move most of Washington's statewide and local elections to even years. 
21 hours ago
Paine Field...
KIRO 7 News Staff

Fog and 5G cancel air travel at Paine Field

Alaska Airlines canceled all flights in and out of Paine Field on Monday amid foggy weather and concerns about 5G.
21 hours ago
Dalton Day

Trio of Seattle Starbucks locations now pushing to unionize, claim company is ‘stalling’

With three Seattle Starbucks locations attempting to unionize, Councilmember Sawant introduces a resolution to simplify the organizing process.
21 hours ago
Olympia high school...
Nicole Jennings

Dad presses district for solutions after racist incident at Olympia high school

In the days since a racist video taken at a basketball game circulated, parents and students are demanding change in the Olympia School District.
21 hours ago
Sea lions...
MyNorthwest Staff

Group of sea lions overtakes privately-owned Ballard dock

A privately-owned dock in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood is now home at least 20 sea lions who moved in over the weekend.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Streetcar tracks vs bikes: Seattle looks into risky relationship