Our friend K I’m sure is not the first one whose bicycle has run afoul of the new streetcar tracks, but she can tell you from experience that it ain’t pretty she’s lucky the most un-pretty it got for her was a big blood blister leading to a very nasty bruise on her thigh.
So naturally there’s been some discussion, inevitable disgruntlements, complaints and dire predictions of lawsuits and doomsday to come thanks to “poor planning.”
I looked into a few other city’s streetcar vs. bike experiences to get some perspective and came up with a number of lawsuits primarily in Seattle where the plaintiffs seemed primarily to be arguing “poor design” or lack of design for bicyclists. In these cases there was no separate bicycle lane or, in a recent issue, the bicycle lane was blocked by pedestrians getting on the streetcar resulting in a decision by the cyclist to enter the roadway where she wiped out on the tracks. One Seattle author asked, what do cyclists seek to gain with these lawsuits? and her point is valid.
My concern is that while bikes are a crucial piece of the transit puzzle, so too is public transportation, and I’m not sure how much good can come of one form of alternative transportation getting mad at another in a city that’s struggling (but really trying) to get out automobile gridlock. There will always be transportation choices, there need to be, so for our transit to work all modes have to coexist.
Coexisting usually means following the rules and here’s the way to do it in Atlanta. DO NOT RIDE ON THE SAME SIDE AS THE STREETCAR! In Atlanta, since streetcar traffic goes east on Edgewood and west on Auburn, bicycle traffic does the opposite and to reinforce the plan, bicycle lanes, sharrows, and signage only exist on the recommended riding areas so that cyclists are not at all encouraged to ride alongside the rails. In fact I think the handy signs above were recently installed.
Granted, we cyclists, hovering in a lovely free zone between vehicular and pedestrian traffic, are hard to discourage. But this is serious, tracks are hazards, but they are known hazards and you don’t wanna tangle with em, K can tell you.