Streetfilms: Sharrows Point the Safe Way to Bike Across Rail Tracks

It’s
something even the most experienced
cyclists do: wipe out while crossing a set of train tracks. When you
ride across rails, you need to maneuver your bike’s angle of approach
so that
you hit the tracks as perpendicularly as possible. But even knowing
that,
some riders don’t slow down enough to sashay properly, and newbies have
no idea how the angles work until it’s too
late!

In Seattle, they’re trying something I’ve never seen before that
goes beyond the usual warning signs. The DOT is using "sharrows" and
markings to visually guide cyclists through these
crossings. Anecdotally, it seems to work well. I found it reassuring
that my path was predetermined as I approached, instead of having to
guesstimate. Stay within the lines, and all will be good.

But as John Mauro from the Cascade Bicycle Club points out, this is only an interim solution to filling in the missing link in the famous Burke-Gilman Trail. Families out cycling for the day shouldn’t have to contend with
dangerous sets of tracks in the first place. Still, it’s nice to see
that DOTs all across the country are getting creative and using cost
effective solutions (just a few marks with paint) to keep us a little
safer.

  • I saw something once where the tracks were filled in with some sort of material that was easily squished by a multi-ton train but would not squish under the weight of a bicyclist, therefore making it much safer for cyclists to cross the tracks. I wonder why this isn’t explored more?

  • smushmoth

    I always thought these should be painted at Duboce and Sanchez, (and Church as well) as I watch people wreck there every weekend.

  • friscolex

    Pretty awesome; cost-effective solutions are the bomb and often the best! I feel like this would work better when you’re riding on a path. I have a hard time, for example, envisioning this on Market Street, where I think PSAs would be more effective…

  • Paint Goes A Long Way

    In just a few places In the Bay Area, just a little paint like this could go a long way in reminding cyclists. They wouldn’t need to be placed everywhere, but I have friends who have fallen who thought they knew how to approach tracks. This shows you have to make a deliberate move away from the tracks before starting your cross.

  • ZA

    Obvious candidate crossings in San Francisco include…
    1. The foot of the Wiggle at both Duboce Park and at both ends of the Bike Mural behind the Safeway.
    2. Church and 17th St (and probably 18th St too)
    3. 3rd St and Cesar Chavez
    4. Polk and California
    5. Sanchez and Market
    6. 14th St and Church St.

    I’d also recommend signs redirecting cyclists to the lanes and sharrows of Sanchez or 14th. I’ve taken some ugly spills in parallel to Church on a descent to 17th St.

  • Mario Tanev

    I tore my left knee ACL turning left from 30th onto San Jose heading from Dolores. The J-Church makes a right turn at that intersection. My front wheel got stuck in the gap between the rail and the pavement. It was also wet that morning. A J-Church train was a block behind me, and the supervisor had to come to get me to state that Muni was not involved. Nobody really cared why I was injured, they just wanted to make sure I don’t hold Muni liable. I don’t even know if they keep statistics on such injuries.

    Also my girlfriend once fell down (thankfully without serious injuries) at 30th and Dolores. I think both of us know what to do now, but sharrows like these may prevent the next injury.

  • Nick

    Don’t forget the K and M lines. Specifically Ocean Avenue at the freeway overpass.

    While we’re talking about sharrows, is anyone else disappointed that the city couldn’t at least patch pave the streets that recently received sharrows? It is such a lackluster approach to street design. Like lipstick on a pig.

    I mean they actually pat themselves on the back for installing new “bike facilities.” It is so far from what that term should represent.

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