I’m the latest bicycling victim of Seattle’s trolley tracks
I need to give a shout out to the South Lake Union trolley tracks. You got me. I knew it would happen one day. Not a matter of if, but when.
You got me by making the gap in your trolley tracks the exact size of a bicycle tire. It happened so fast. One second I’m cruising home on my bike after enjoying some $1 oysters at the White Swan Public House, and the next second I’m rolling on my back in the middle of Westlake Avenue.
Really I have to give most of the credit to the engineers and designers for creating the perfect intersection for this to happen, too. It’s a four-way stop light, articulating bus routes going all four directions, pedestrian crosswalk, bike lane inserted between the turn lane and the bus lane, and cutting diagonally through it all are the train tracks. I don’t think you could have made things more dangerous if it was your stated goal.
Now I have to say that I’ve been a sidewalk rider in this area since Desiree McCloud died in 2016. We interviewed her brother at the time. It was tragic. He was calling for a simple remedy used in other places around the world. A compressible material that fills the gap in the trolley tracks. It’s firm enough to support a bicycle tire, but will compress under the weight of a train.
Seattle did what it usually does. It sent some SDOT representatives out to talk to concerned citizens at a community memorial for Desiree. Then it did nothing.
City traffic engineer Dongho Chang said the city would look to implement short-term changes in the area.
‘We don’t want people to get hurt … we want to make changes if it makes the traffic experience easier and more comfortable,’ Chang said. ‘We are still waiting for our Police Department to produce some additional data. We heard feedback from the community and we’ll take that back for spot changes.’
I guess we’re still waiting.
I was lucky. I happened to be slowing down to cross the street. I swerved to avoid some folks walking by the water and then, boom, I was down. It could have been much worse. I could have hit my head on the tracks, or been run over by a car, or a bus, or a train. I easily could have broken my wrists. Actually, I’m surprised I didn’t.
Thanks to the guy on the Vespa scooter who waited patiently while I gathered up the bike, my sunglasses, bike pump, and other things that exploded off the frame.
He said, “Hope you get home safe,” as he finally got to turn right.
“Me too,” I thought as I checked myself for any serious injuries.
You can hear “What are we talking about here?” everyday at 4:45 p.m. on 97.3 FM.