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12/13/2011: "Track Riding"
Every Tuesday, and some Sundays, I pedal to or through South Pasadena, usually to visit or ride with my friend Chuck Schmidt of Vélo Rétro. This generally involves crossing the Gold Line light rail tracks twice or thrice, sometimes in the rain. Right at Mission Street, where Buster's Coffee is and where I snapped this photo this morning, the tracks cross at a 45° angle.

goldline_crossing_bike (154k image)

And every time I cross them, I think about all those complaints US cyclists have been posting to their various online venues about how awful and dangerous tram tracks are to cyclists.

Yet trams were already a feature of cities when bicycles became popular, and cyclists have been co-existing peacefully with them for well over a century (as in this film montage from Barcelona, photographed in 1908). And of course almost all European cities, as well as many Japanese ones, have trams, and also have much higher percentages of cyclists on the roads than even Portland.

I never have any trouble from tram tracks, and, as I sit at Buster's with Chuck, I see rider after rider go by and cross the tracks--roadies, fixie punks, shoppers on hybrids, old folks on cruisers, fat tires and skinny, lots...there are many, many cyclists in that area. I've never seen anyone so much as wobble. I even rode across once with a flat tire before I noticed and pulled over to patch the tube.

America nearly obliterated urban rail service in the car-mad '50s and '60s, so maybe we're just not used to it any more.

Maybe all we need is a little bit of practice and attentiveness.

Metro has come a long, long way in making their trains (and buses) more bike-friendly, finally lifting all restrictions on brining your bike aboard earlier this year. Urban rail is a superb way to move people around, with or without their bikes. Let's do our part and learn how to ride over tram tracks.

The rest of the world's been doing it for a hundred and twenty five years so far. I'll be we can get the hang of it ourselves in pretty short order.

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