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New markings to help cyclists cross tracks

Posted by Geeky Swedes on August 31st, 2009

Along the “missing link,” the railroad tracks near the Ballard Bridge have been an issue. Two weeks ago xxjpxx commented on an earlier post, ” just came from the ER with 3 stitches on my chin b/c my front bike slid on the railroad tracks.”

Gurple emailed us to let us know about new markings to help bicyclists cross safely. “There were lines marking the “lane” eastbound before, but these are thicker and more official-looking,” he writes. Julian, another cyclist emailed us the above photo and says, “I think that as paint, it’s better than before, in encouraging cyclists to take the lane and cross the tracks at a proper angle. But it’s still just paint, and as such cyclists still need the confidence to take the lane for safety, and motorists need to share it willingly.”

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96 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 MichaelSnyder // Aug 31, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    If you have crashed, please report your crash here:

  • 2 Charles Redell // Aug 31, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    The problem is not getting hit by a train, it's getting wheels stuck in the old, beat up, dangerous tracks. Many less-experienced bikers don't understand the danger.

  • 3 gclouie // Aug 31, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    I ride that section of trail 4-5 times weekly, in all kinds of weather, and it's a big improvement over the tire-sized gaps that used to be there. It can be slightly more slippery than pavement, but not even close to painted lane lines in terms of lack of traction. I think using the rubber mat filler would be appropriate under the 15th NW bridge as well.

    People fall here almost daily; the city and railroad are constantly dealing with it and so far have avoided being successfully sued (why is a mystery). It's not just neophyte cyclists, either. IMO the paint lines will tend to help, but not alleviate the problem . . .

  • 4 SwedishG // Aug 31, 2009 at 9:50 pm

    Oh, I'm not joking at all. I'm 100% serious about covering the tracks with concrete, as long as no trains run on them. It sounds like they don't. And like I said, I think the main deterrent to citizens taking action into their own hands on this one is that the Chamber of Commerce would likely say the problem has been fixed, when in fact the tracks are only a small part of the issue…finishing the BGT.

  • 5 GregD // Aug 31, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    They use that track to get the engine to it's storage yard, it is on 45th between 14th and 11th.

    Please don't do this, you would just be giving them ammo on their fight against the trail.

  • 6 MichaelSnyder // Aug 31, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    There is still a train that runs on them, between midnight and 4am a few nights a week. I've seen it. It could be argued that it was purchased and is kept in operation soley to prevent the bike trail from being completed.

    It makes deliveries to SBS&G and pushes cars for storage down near Fred Meyer and Hales Ales.

  • 7 NormFox // Aug 31, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    That really does seem like the best solution. One point that has also been missing in the discussion is that the rest of the Burk-Gilman is a dedicated bike/ped path so it attracts novice riders. Until they can put in a dedicated trail, the city should put up signage that clearly states the BG trail ends at Fred Meyer and only experienced riders comfortable dealing with traffic and obstacles should continue. I've been bike commuting for 20 years and at this point when I need to get to Downtown Ballard from the South I'm way more comfortable turning onto Leary at Hales and taking the right lane than I am continuing down the BG.

    Why? because despite taking the lane through that part of the “trail” I've had to bunny hop the the tracks too many times because a car decided to pass and cut me off right as we were approaching them

  • 8 cyclistandSUVdriver // Aug 31, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    GregD – You are incorrect – the next road north of there and south of Leary DOES go under 15th. And when I drive, I take that and leave the one with the crappy railroad crossing to the cyclists.

    Non sequitor, this discussion reminds me of a pal on the cross country bike ride I did years ago – he'd yell “traaacccckkksss!” in the most screeching voice every time we were about to cross them. So funny (but you probably had to be there to understand why it was so funny :-)

  • 9 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 12:17 am

    To answer my own question…
    Apparently the train is parked to the East, as is the other SBSG facility.
    This fact doesn't negate my other point that they should do more to make this crossing safer, with either the rubber filler strips or a removable lid.

  • 10 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Do you know how many pedestrians trip and fall? I propose we require licenses and license plates for all pedestrians before we allow them on the sidewalks.

  • 11 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 12:22 am

    …and I've been skipping Snoose Junction as a lunch option for the same reason.

  • 12 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 12:27 am

    So by your logic coming up on an unmarked hazard, as this was my first time taking that stretch, I should have anticipated that the truck would cut over onto the bike lane and blocked him when?
    Let's be real here. The tracks as currently placed are a serious and known hazard. If this was a traffic design that was causing more than a few car accidents a day you'd be sure the city would have been all over it years ago. So let's stop blaming the cyclists and work on a solution.

  • 13 GregD // Sep 1, 2009 at 2:18 am

    Yet driving a car is more then twice as safe per hour. Do you really suggest that we stop licensing them?

    There are several simple skills that are easily learned and greatly reduce your risk of injury.

    These skills take years to learn through self teaching, if they are ever learned.

  • 14 MichaelSnyder // Sep 1, 2009 at 2:25 am

    A removable lid is an interesting idea. Since they don't use it more than a few hours a night, I don't see why that wouldn't be at least a possible solution.

    For a different idea, why does that need to be a through street? Is there any reason why the traffic to that area couldn't turn east earlier and then come down 14th?

    The tracks wouldn't be much of a problem if cars weren't around pushing us into the tracks as they try to squeeze past without slowing down.

  • 15 MichaelSnyder // Sep 1, 2009 at 2:27 am

    They also look alf-implemented. There is quite a bit more spray paint than there is final reflective paint.

  • 16 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:05 am

    Certainly the train's yard and maintenance facility are further east — almost to the Fred Meyer.

  • 17 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:09 am

    I think the idea is that you make a sharp right turn, crossing the tracks at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible, even if that takes you into the dirt on the far side of the tracks. Riding in the dirt is preferable to crashing.

  • 18 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:16 am

    I'm starting to come over to Greg's POV. There's no way we can remove all the hazards to biking in an area like Ballard. Thus, we need to decide as a society whether to force people to get some instruction before riding (by a licensing scheme) (to prevent at least some such accidents) or to let people be responsible for their own safety. In general in America we've opted for the latter, but maybe we need to have a discussion about this.

  • 19 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:19 am

    I don't think the Cascade Bike Club is a stranger to litigation — we can't decry litigation per se only when we don't like the people using it, and support it when we do.

  • 20 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:34 am

    I would change Greg's wording from “lazy” (which I don't think is accurate) to “inexperienced”. I've ridden that area a number of times without any actual or perceived problems. If I were forced toward the tracks by traffic, I'd make a sharp right and cross over to the far side of the tracks even if it meant going onto the dirt/plants.
    I guess it's analogous to the concept of “defensive driving”, in that you should always be looking for alternate/escape routes as well as auto/bike/ped traffic anywhere near you. It's very rare that there is only one possible physical route to ride — others may not be as fast or convenient but may be safer. I'm not trying to preach or minimize your accident SPG, but just pointing out that the changes we make to our own behaviors are often easier to accomplish and have a broader impact than trying to get an institution to make a physical change.
    I *would* urge SPG and everyone else who feels strongly about this to contact the members of the city council, the current mayor and both candidates for his office, our local district reps/sens etc to express your concerns, and to keep contacting them week after week until something gets done. Posting on MyBallard, while psychically satisfying, won't get much done in the real world.

  • 21 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:35 am

    I hear it at night all the time — maybe the key is just staying up late? It has a very distinctive bell.

  • 22 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:40 am

    And please also report it to the Seattle city council members and candidates, and the mayor and the mayoral candidates.

  • 23 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Considering the amount of damage a car can do, a license is a good idea. Considering the amount of damage a bike or pedestrian can do it's silly.
    I do agree with the need for better cycling education and am all for that, just not as part of a licensing scheme. We should be teaching it in grade school and offering it with the purchase of a bike, even if it's just a pamphlet that explains how to be a safe cyclist, it would at least be a start.
    The people who call for licensing are really calling for removing cyclists from the streets as they assume that a license also means enforcement and the ability to take that license away.

  • 24 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 3:53 am

    True, but we can all recognize this for what it is…obstructionism.

  • 25 B B O // Sep 1, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Remember, share the road! Cyclists like that in regard to automobiles, but please include trains too!!!!

  • 26 seattlemedic7 // Sep 1, 2009 at 4:51 am

    sure.. cut the FD and EMS. (Goggle FIRE DEPARTMENT BROWN OUTS). By cutting FD and EMS you are raising response times for emergencies. So insted of a 4-6 min response time to your burning house it could get upped to 10-12 minutes. that 6 minutes could save a life… maybe yours.

  • 27 seattlemedic7 // Sep 1, 2009 at 4:58 am

    Sure we can boycott the Ballard business that are chamber members, and QUESS WHAT… Those business will leave town. SAD SAD SAD.

  • 28 cyclistandSUVdriver // Sep 1, 2009 at 8:28 am

    dude – the whole point of this discussion is to save lives. Isn't that your duty?

  • 29 cyclistandSUVdriver // Sep 1, 2009 at 8:34 am

    guess what – a bicycling license wouldn't have done any good in my situation since I know damned well how to ride safely and the idiot driver ran a red. Look at how many advanced and expert cyclists have posted accidents on It's the dratted drivers who need more education!!

  • 30 GregD // Sep 1, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Are there bad drivers, Yes

    Are there bad bike riders, Yes

    As much as I respect the work that is happening on, it is not an unbiased tool, as it is the bike riders who report. It is a great tool to learn the major causes of bike crashes, and what we as riders can do to avoid them.

    If you look at the statics it is about even for who is at fault in Car vs. Vehicle accidents.

    And the number of car vs. bike injury accidents are almost the same as bike vs. bike injury accidents.

    But the largest segment of bike injury crashes are individual crashes with no other vehicle involved.

    Education may not have helped in your case but I think there is little that could be argued about it wouldn't help prevent individual crashes.

    MichaelSnyder posted the following numbers in a previous thread.

    Crash involvement:
    Solo bicycle crash – 50%
    Bicycle vs Bicycle – 17%
    Bicycle vs Car – 17%
    Bicycle vs Dog – 8%
    Other – 8%

  • 31 SPG // Sep 1, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    …and paint on a crossing might prevent a few more cyclists from falling and causing you to have to respond and have another unit cover for you and increasing response times.

    I thought we were obviously riffing on the use of any funds. Sorry you didn't get the joke. We like you guys and I wouldn't want to cut your budget at all.

  • 32 Manders83 // Sep 1, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Sunday night I saw the train running on my way to Fredmeyer so it is still in use- there seems like enough space in Ballard to bridge the gap and leave the train alone- it seems just a little creativity is needed.

  • 33 Manders83 // Sep 1, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    Greg, its not just the tracks but the variety of hazards when biking through this area. Watching out for cars uses enough concentration but having to navigate an obstacle course as well is more than we should be asking of the typical cyclist.

    In my opinion we should be getting as many people out of their cars and choosing other modes of transportation as possible for multiple reasons- biking is a serious alternative in a dense areas and should be developed.

    In particular to increase participation it needs to be accessible for average users, many of whom are going to be beginners. When you add all of that together: new bikers, railroad tracks, pot holes, cars, unclear paths, etc. then the barriers to getting people to bike as a serious alternative remain high.

  • 34 Manders83 // Sep 1, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Below is the BCoC Board and their respective Businesses that I will be boycotting until the suit is dropped. I'm especially sad about the Bay…

    Brent Siewert (Majestic Bay Theater)

    Vice President, Business Development Chair
    John Backes (Shoreline Community College)

    Vice President, Issues
    Barry Hawley (Hawley Realty)

    Vice President, Membership
    Timo Nørring (Sterling Savings Bank)

    Vice President, Programs & Special Events
    Michelle Rosenthal (Garvey Schubert Barer)

    Michael Hollingsworth (Sterling Saving Bank)

    Board of Directors
    Mark Ball (Snoose Junction Pizza)
    Michael Fancher (Seattle Divorce Services)
    Kristen Juan-Snyder (Peoples Bank)
    Kerri Lonergran (Lombardi's Neighborhood Italian)
    Greg Swanson (Viking Bank)

    Executive Director
    Beth Williamson Miller

    Administrative Manager
    Sue Allegra

  • 35 seattlemedic7 // Sep 1, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    oh ya sure… we should change our route because of the bikes. Be gald we have people ZIPPING over to Ballard for a snack.

  • 36 Name // Sep 1, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Actually, I have, and so have my kids (2 girls, 10 and 12). I rode with them, showed them how to slow down and cross at an angle closer to 90 degrees, and, miracle of miracles, they crossed it and lived to tell about it. If you like, I'll talk to them about setting up a time when they can show you how to do it too.

  • 37 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Speaking as a cyclist myself, I'm only for removing those cyclists that flout the rules of the road.

  • 38 Mondoman // Sep 1, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    I disagree.

  • 39 SPG // Sep 2, 2009 at 12:57 am

    “What's to stop a few cyclists from filling the tracks with concrete late at night?”

    You should call Salmon Bay and place an order for concrete.
    But we're not using Salmon Bay because of this, but we need concrete. Salmon Bay wants to make money selling concrete, but would they cement over their own tracks? Too many conflicts!

    Just kidding, but we really do need to do something about those tracks. A removable lid could do the trick, especially since the train's engineers already have to walk in front of the train on those occasions when they use it so it's not like we have a bullet train or commuter service going through there every hour.

  • 40 SPG // Sep 2, 2009 at 1:06 am

    When I got pushed off the road by a truck it counted as a solo crash because there was no contact.

  • 41 SPG // Sep 2, 2009 at 1:07 am

    I also think the local stats are getting skewed by those f—ing tracks because it looks like just about everyone has or is going to eventually crash on them!

  • 42 SPG // Sep 2, 2009 at 1:10 am

    I disagree with your disagreement.

    Further we can see that by the other story about SBSG dumping in the canal and flaunting the environmental laws that the basis of their lawsuit isn't something they particularly care about…the environment. So then what is the point of the lawsuit? To stop the trail. By what means? Any. Thus I think it's very fair to say that it is obstructionism.

  • 43 SPG // Sep 2, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Road improvements and relocations happen all the time. Even without bikes this road is a good candidate for a realignment. It's narrow and straight so it both encourages undue speed and doesn't provide a good means of mitigating the dangers of it. The intersection at the west end isn't that great to begin with, not to mention there are a lot of alternate routes paralell to this one.
    And you don't want people to zip to Ballard on bikes? If the trail kept going we'd see a lot more people taking advantage of Ballard's retail core.

  • 44 SPG // Sep 2, 2009 at 3:48 am

    You're awesome!
    Since you didn't crash your car today you should take out your airbags, cut off your seatbelts and pull off your bumpers too!

  • 45 Name // Sep 3, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Thanks. Really.

    Actually, when I drove my car today, I put on my seat belt, I paid attention to the road conditions (sorry I didn't have time to text you), and I didn't have an accident all day.

    Note: For those of you joining us late, something along the lines of “Alex, I'll take 'Not looking where I'm going but insisting on blaming someone else for my subsequent mishaps for $200'” should get you up to speed. ;-)

    Got home, checked in on the kids, and they had a couple of problems during the day, but nothing we couldn't handle without blaming someone else.

    All the best.

  • 46 avlowe // Oct 3, 2009 at 8:44 pm

    Cherry Island in Chicago has a shared rail bridge (1 train/week?) with infilled flangeways. From Germany comes Velostrail a crossing panel with a depressable insert approved for up to 80Kph – tested to 120Kph – and at least 1 million axle-passes. Used on bridge in Hamburg and elsewhere also on street running lines.

    Crucial in rail crossings is not the slipperyness of the rails but the vertical profile. Try riding obliquely across a ridge of 1/2″ or more or along a crack or edge of a manhole cover and wet or not the wheel will kick sideways. Railhead profile should be flush or slightly lower than road surface, so that the tyre bridges between areas with higher friction.

    UK DoT did research on the tactile paving for blind pedestrians and the 'profiled' kerb lines in thermoplastic (ribs to wake up drifting drivers) and conclude that max height allowable was 5mm (1/4″) with a carefully specified edge profile. Far too little research in this respect though wrt 2-wheel road users.

    Still not finished that Burke Gilman Trail after 20 years then – I've the property values report that Peter Lagerwey had in 1989!

    Check out and the Network Rail section

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