Tagstreetcar

It snowed in Amsterdam

And as we like to say in Chicago, Amsterdammers also said “it was no big deal”.

I love what you see happening in this photo. A person cycling across the intersection is looking back at a white van and a streetcar that seem like they’re going to collide. But no one will hit each other. The Netherlands has the lowest crash rate in the world.

Comment about traffic calming

“Speed bumps are never the answer when chicanes and choking a street to one lane briefly with curb extensions get the same job done more safely. There’s literally no application where speed bumps are more appropriate than a chicane or chokers in any location they’ve been used by PBOT [Portland Bureau of Transportation] so far.”

From Paul Johnson on BikePortland.org.

Photo of drivers straddling the streetcar tracks and impeding the bike lane, in Lovejoy Street in Portland, Oregon. 

Heard of the Great American Streetcar Conspiracy?

General Motors and Standard Oil bought up the country’s streetcar systems, replaced the routes with buses, and thus began America’s automobile love affair and distaste for mass transit.

Streetcars are being now being rebuilt all across America, including in Portland, Oregon.

Heard that before?

Before you perpetuate it further, read this essay for some perspective on the story. Apparently, it’s a problem only liberals suffer from.

Even today it resonates with liberals – The Atlantic casually mentions it as the reason America abandoned mass transit, The Nation wrote a whole article about it a few years ago, Fast Food Nation discusses it, and in the last week I’ve seen two references to the theory in the planning blogosphere.

Now, this essay still isn’t the “end all, be all” chronology of transportation evolution history in the United States.

The new(ish) streetcar in Portland, Oregon.

Do you know of a book or article where the writer summarily presents concrete evidence? The essay does cite four academic sources, so it’s the best explanation of the so-called conspiracy I’ve ever read.

I’m bringing this up thanks to Edward Russell, who posted it, and my sister, who mentioned it to me after a friend told her about the story.

Bikes and streetcar tracks

UPDATE 12-11-10: Someone recently searched for rubber in tracks and I wanted to provide some additional resources on the topic of protecting people who ride bikes from the dangers of open streetcar tracks. It is possible, in some situations, to fill the track flangeway (where the wheel goes) with rubber that the train depresses as it rolls over but people riding bikes ride over a level surface. Resource one input from people around the world, and two, a column in The Oregonian newspaper of Portland.

UPDATE 12-14-10: BikePortland has a story about an activism and advocacy group (AROW) that will demand better accommodations for bicycling around new streetcar tracks in Portland, Oregon.

UPDATE 08-13-13: Zurich, Switzerland, will be testing a flangeway filler on their tram tracks. I believe this will be the first transit system to test the rubber fill. 

Bicycle riders in Seattle are suing the City of Seattle for not providing enough warnings about streetcar tracks in the South Lake Union neighborhood. They allege the City installed warning signs only after several bike-track crashes.

Photo: A sign on Stewart Street in Seattle, Washington, advises bicycle riders to use EXTREME CAUTION when crossing the streetcar tracks. These signs are coming under question in a lawsuit this week.

Mixing bicycles and transit is one of the most sensible matches of transportation modes. The Federal Transit Administration has been promoting a positive union since at least 1999 (see the booklet they produced). The publication includes case studies and good examples of integration, including a story about how King County Metro (the primary bus operator in Seattle) installed bike racks on its buses in 1993, following the footsteps of Phoenix.

Photo: A resident rides their bike on the street while a Portland Streetcar rolls by.

So how is it now, 17 years later, we’re still deliberating how streetcars, light rails, and bicycles can safely share the road? Why this is a problem:

  • People are getting hurt. Concerns about personal safety demotivate people to ride their bikes.
  • The Federal government is funding many new streetcar projects across the country, including in Tucson, Arizona, two hours south of Phoenix, which has its own light rail system.
  • Bicycle riders have been navigating tram and streetcar tracks in Europe for 100 years. What knowledge can European riders and planners share with us?

Photo: A rubber-filled flangeway in the gap between rail and deck on the Cherry Avenue Bridge in Chicago, Illinois. This bridge serves a 1-car train a few times a week.

Could a rubber-filled flangeway be used on a medium-frequency streetcar line?

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