Friday, March 03, 2006

Running the Rails

A word on streetcar tracks.

Toronto's public transport system has an extensive network of streetcar routes to it's name. Hailed by the city in general as traditional and indicative of environmental concerns the streetcar, tram for the audience in the old country, basically untouchable so woe betide the civil servant who dare besmirch it's good name or suggest that an alternative might be better suited to the needs of the city.

Of course, if you should happen upon a streetcar stop on sharp winter morning to discover that the next one has broken down and no more will be coming until it's hauled out of the way sometime later, you might be forgiven for imagining that the city suffers from some amnesia given the cursing of the outdated junk.

However, for the cyclist, the effectiveness and viability of the streetcar is of little concern. The cause for concern as far as streetcars go is with the rails on which they ride. Streetcar tracks are a vicious nemesis to the unwary cyclist, as well one could imagine that tire-width grooves in the road surface would be. One momentary lapse in concentration near them will have them snatching and grabbing at your wheels in an effort to send you sprawling across the ground in high comedic fashion.

For those of you destined for a place where this menace exists then you should take a moment to get used to crossing them, particularly in a parallel fashion. Once you know your safe angle use it and double it if there is rain. If there is snow make a concerted effort to avoid them unless absolutely necessary. You would also be advised to stand up in your pedals whilst crossing them as they are rarely seated flush to the road, creating a rather unforgiving surface.

As a side note, be wary of riding alongside a streetcar where no bike lane exists. Drivers seem invariably of the opinion that there is adequate space between the curb and the streetcar for both your bicycle and their vehicle. Even the most dedicated gutter rider should get right out into the middle of the lane to ensure that it is quite clear that they cannot. Right at this moment any beeping of horns should be taken to mean that the driver thinks that you are doing the right and sensible thing. As you pull forward or drop back from the streetcar the driver will tend to think that they can squeeze past before you do. As they start doing this, drop back to the side of the road to give yourself room to breath.


Anonymous Mike said...

Hey Hey

My brother has a blog. Nice touch for your trip across Canada hope the supply of internet cafes is high so you can keep us up to date with your progress.



Blogger Across Canada said...


Good to hear from you.

Hope all is well over there.



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