August 8, 2017 — video cameras in Knoxville have shown 53 wrecks at just one crossing in a two month period, with several of the crashes requiring hospital visits.

Why? Imagine this – you are cruising along when you note that there’s a street car or train track ahead that you will have to cross. You assume it’s not a big deal, since they’ve dropped the tracks down into the road so that you are going over sunken tracks. You glide forward confidently and ease into the crossing.

Suddenly your left handle is ripped out of your hand as your front wheel turns sharply to the right and stops, wedged into the gap between the track and the street. If you are fortunate, you were going slowly enough that you topple sideways. But if you were moving at a good pace it’s likely that you will go over the handle bars.

The cause of this scenario repeating itself 53 times in 8 weeks was that the cyclists were required to hit the track at a 45-degree angle, causing their wheel to catch on the track.

Knoxville is working to fix this intersection and others like it by widening the route into a “jug handle” to allow for a 60-degree angle on the crossing. While it’s recommended that tracks always be crossed at a 90-degree angle, 60 degrees has shown to be a statistical improvement of monumental scale that has essentially eliminated the crashes when cyclist use the jug handle markings to take a more gradual approach to the tracks.

Bicycle Rail Crossings

A safety tip from NACTO for all track crossings is to prepare for the crossing by sitting up straight and upright before crossing so that the weight on your bicycle is not distributed towards the front wheel as you cross.

How To Cross Rail and Streetcar Tracks Safely

  • Prevent your narrow tires from getting caught in the tracks and twisted out of your hands by getting a minimum of a 60-degree angle so that your tires are creating as much of an “x” with the tracks as is possible.
  • Sit as upright as possible instead of leaning into your front tire.
  • Try to turn to a position where you have a good angle to cross while you still have enough time to straighten your bike out before getting to the tracks. If you have your tires turned or are leaning as you cross the tracks, your tires are likely to slip.
  • If the tracks are next to a busy road way and do not give you a minimum of a 60-degree angle, take a moment to dismount and walk across. It isn’t worth falling into a busy roadway to stay mounted.

And always, be safe!