Saturday, February 5, 2011

Stopped In Our Tracks

Pablo sent me this picture yesterday. He just returned from New Zealand, which he says is very friendly place for cyclists. This picture reminds us that in most corners of the planet, wherever lots of people are, there will be multiple modes of transportation, and they inevitably must intersect.   Cars, buses, trains, trolleys, bikes, and pedestrians, we all have to look out for each other...and for ourselves.

Steve-O can tell you from personal experience what it feels like to have your front wheel get sucked down into a rail channel, and to be hurtled over your handlebars onto the pavement. It certainly has changed how I ride around rails now.

Steve-O's no daredevil, and he doesn't take unnecessary risks. He's not exactly certain what all happened in that instant when he went down. Who knows. His advice now is, don't cheat the angle. Be overly careful. It's not worth losing a season over it. Sign or no sign, riders must slow way down and take a perpendicular path when crossing. Knowing what he's gone through since that mishap, I feel compelled to remind us all to heed this advice.

Rails are dangerous for other reasons as well. 
  • They can be slick in cold or wet weather. Keep that in mind if you're on skinny slick tires.
  • Rails can be extremely uneven with the pavement. Watch your path, and stay loose as you roll over them.
  • Rails usually have moving trains on them! One may be coming your way, so be observant.
I've been part of some ride events where the route is out on a country road, there's a train track, and the pavement around it has been patched multiple times. It's really uneven and dangerous. Some ride organizers have actually put sheets of plywood or thick rubber matting over the rails as a precaution. They also post signs advising riders to slow down.  Here's the thing: after the event, they take the plywood home with them. The bumpy rails are still just as bumpy. So, slow down.

Sure it's not as much fun going slower. Taking a few mph off our speed, adding a few extra seconds to the trip, and the additional energy it takes to bring the pedaling cadence back up, it's all worth it if it means we're still out there, doin' our thing and havin' fun.

So...thanks, Pablo, for the picture! Can't wait to hear more about your trip. Steve-O, I'm looking forward to seeing you back on your bike soon. It's been too long.

Cyclists: when you cross tracks, take it slow, Joe.


MLove said...

Been there, done that at the switch tracks south of our former home.

I don't know if it was the banged up body and bent front tire or if it was the two men standing there talking and watching that hurt worse.

From the experience, I did learn to take great care at all crossings.

Kelly Carlisle said...

Double ouch! Thanks for the comment, MLove!

The Hillbilly Banjo Queen: said...

Riding Reach the Beach last year and a big knot of us went over the tracks at the same time. I make sure I'm slow and perpendicular, another girl got her tire stuck sideways and got thrown off her bike and then was run over by a biker behind her. She was picked up by an ambulance and although I am sure she made it out without more than having the wind knocked out of her and a little bruising of the body and ego, I have resolved to just avoid riding over tracks at all. Good post.