We Have to Get Better at Combining Bikes and Streetcars

Some thoughts on my other blog about setting our sights higher on one of the next streetcar lines.


3 responses to “We Have to Get Better at Combining Bikes and Streetcars”

  1. I have been asking the same question, Chris. Here are a couple of early answers.

    First, the Alta Planning and Design study on the subject says it is better, on one-way streets, to position tracks in the left lane. Tracks and streetcars in the right lane are an obstacle to motorists and to cyclists, preempting their favored lane and problematic to their entering and exiting one-way streets.

    This is what TriMet did with the first Max line downtown: up Morrison and down Yamhill in the left lanes. But on Tenth and Eleventh Portland Streetcar preempted the right lane. Tenth and Eleventh are wider than Morrison and Yamhill, but it is much easier to ride to the right of Max than to the left of Portland Streetcar.

    And Portland Streetcar committed the same mistake on [MLK and Grand].

    [Moderator: Unnecessary joke about the renaming of Union Ave. removed. – Bob R.]

    Second, given that on streets Portland Streetcar must share right-of-way with bikes and cars, whereas Max has exclusive right-of-way, narrow-gauge trackage would give cyclists a nice space between track and curb and permit motorists to keep both left and right wheels on pavement, straddling tracks rather than dodging across them. “Cage gauge,” 42 inches, would be about right, in place of the 56.5 inches of current standard gauge. Much safer for everyone.

    Having grown up with a first-class streetcar system in Saint Louis, I am an enthusiastic proponent and user. Portland Streetcar and the many fine folks behind it cannot be praised enough for introducing the modern streetcar to Portland, Oregon, and the entire USA! A few tweaks–admittedly major tweaks–will keep it rolling better and farther.

    Great job, Chris! But I still dislike the solution on lower Lovejoy. It is easier and safer to just dismount and push the bike on the sidewalks for a few blocks..

  2. I remember seeing a photo of some city that had some kind of compressible rubber strips inserted into the rails so that bicycles wheels don’t fall in, and apparently the rail vehicles didn’t care.

  3. We’ve been tracking ‘flange fillers’. There are two issues:

    1) They wear out quickly and have to be replaced
    2) [much more important] they appear to have some risk of derailment, particularly on curves, which in many cases is where bikes need them most

    We continue to monitor the technology.

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