People on Motorcycles Vulnerable to Streetcar Track CrashesPosted by AROW in News on February 22nd, 2012 – Comments Off
Fresh Streetcar tracks on Martin Luther King Blvd present a new obstacle for people riding motorcycles and scooters in Portland. Here is a recent crash report from Jeff, a motorcyclist who crashed at MLK at Hawthorne.
My commute home from downtown takes me across the Hawthorne bridge, merging onto Martin Luther King going south, which then goes south and eventually becomes McLoughlin. The issue is that they have installed new streetcar rails in the right lane of Martin Luther King and extended it all the way to the viaduct that crosses over by OMSI. That Hawthorne Bridge off-ramp becomes its own lane for a couple hundred feet, then ends and forces cars to merge left into MLK traffic – which happens to be the right lane that contains the parallel rails.
Normally I attempt to find a strategic way to cross rail as a high angle rate, but a couple weeks ago I was forced to merge into that lane with traffic around me. After my front wheel successfully crossed the tracks, my rear wheel caught and skated on the rail while crossing over it. It threw the motorcycle sideways and pitched me over the handlebars at 35mph and into rush hour traffic. I survived with only a broken collarbone and injured hip and a couple weeks bed-rest.
I have been commuting the streets of Portland for over 20 years and have always had ultra-safe motorcycling techniques that have never really put me in much danger to a crash previously. But being forced to cross into Streetcar rails running parallel to traffic when a merging ramp ends is going to be the death of someone eventually.
Jeff has some ideas on safety improvements:
Ideally, I think the long-term design should have taken it into account and had it come under the overpass so the merging traffic would have already been into lanes without Streetcar rails. But I know enough about transportation projects to know that the design is done and it is more about prevention going forward. So in thinking down those lines, the only thing I could suggest is that they install signage that says “Motorcycles use Extreme Caution”, which they use in construction projects, and I don’t often think they are too dangerous to warrant the signage, but in this case, I could see it being a mental reminder to riders to be aware of the tracks and take a severe angle to avoid skating.
Me personally, I’m just putting my word out in my motorcycling community as a reminder for folks driving on parallel rails that even us daily riders with a lot of miles logged can get caught up suddenly on those unforeseen items. And I’m obviously going to begin using the Ross Island bridge during rainy days as I’m not sure I’m mentally prepared to try and cross those tracks at that spot again in the rain (and with our climate, that’s probably over half of my riding).
We hope PBOT responds to the safety concerns of motorcyclists along the new Eastside streetcar line, and in the future conducts a thorough multi-modal design process. While every safety issue may not be apparent at the design level, we must avoid creating new obstacles when implementing transit improvements which enable Portlanders to traverse the city without a car.