New markings to help cyclists cross tracks

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.”

Geeky Swedes

The founders of My Ballard

96 thoughts to “New markings to help cyclists cross tracks”

  1. No, the crosswalk isn't a real solution.

    Unfortunately, the only way for cyclists to really exercise the care needed to cross here, they must first take a spill. I've fallen here, as well as plenty of others. Only takes once for one to know how to navigate these tracks.

    Now if you've fallen twice here, you've got problems…

  2. Are the tracks still in use? If so, we have to deal with it. I learned when I was 12 years old how to cross RR tracks. The only time I had a problem was when I thought, “I wonder what'll happen if I just go fast?”…

  3. don't know if the paint came from kent… but they did lay off a few teachers form Ballard High School.. and I did see the kids from music dept. and swim team having a car wash to get money for their respective clubs.. THIS IS NOT RIGHT. Kids need these things to keep them out of trouble and end up another statistic. Bike lanes can wait… education can't

  4. I've been wondering if these are, in fact, official markings made by SDOT, or if someone's taking matters into their own hands. The lines look a bit imperfect, and they use symbols I haven't seen before (the arrow marks you can see toward the top of the picture). They just go right over the tracks.

  5. I think you're right gurple. this looks like the work of a guerilla transportation engineer–possibly ballardmom's husband.

    although there was that article a month or two back in the Seattle Times that described what piss-poor work the SDOT did.

  6. Why did the bicyclist cross the tracks? Nevermind, it's a trick question because evidently some of them aren't smart enough to navigate something this complicated. What's next – a petition to get rid of curbs? Maybe Cascade Bicycle Club can volunteer to act as crossing guards?

  7. What's to stop a few cyclists from filling the tracks with concrete late at night? I've fallen here, and have seen others take bad falls, in traffic. My only thought is that the city would prefer someone fill the tracks so they could use it as an excuse not to complete the BG trail.

  8. I have 2 friends in the past 2 months who have wrecked their bikes on those exact tracks.

    Both have torn their ACL's and fracture their tibias. Besides the painnow and after their upcoming surgeries, loss of time from work, cost to insurance, out of pocket, time spent in PT, cancelling trips/fall leagues, they are understandably frustrated to learn this is not a new problem and could have been prevented.

    I am glad to see the paint but really it's time to finish the BG trail. I think the sand and gravel place or other businesses need to get over themselves.

    An organized protest outside their business with invites for the media to come would probably get some attention.

  9. That's assuming that they can get up from that spill and ride again.
    It's quite a price to pay so a couple adult kids can have a life size toy choo choo train.

  10. Seattlemedic said
    “No money to pay the teachers but they do for paint???????”

    So who do we have to blame here but our own community. The Ballard Chamber of Commerce and other Ballard businesses (Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel and Ballard Oil) has sued the city over the bike path through this dangerous area. So now the city has to pay to defend itself in court over this frivolous lawsuit. Now our tax dollars will be spent in court rather than to provide a safe bike corridor (and Teachers Seattlemedic). The Ballard Chamber also included in the suit the Cascade Bike Club. While I am not a member I understand the club spends a good amount of its resources on bike safety education, well, now those resources will be directed to lawyers and not safety. All thanks to the Ballard Chamber and others. The safety concerns are obvious and the injuries well documented through this corridor.

    For the above reasons I am supporting the ongoing boycott of all Ballard Chamber of Commerce members until they drop the lawsuit against us taxpayers.

    Also, The Ballard Chamber did not even hire a Ballard lawyer to represent themselves – oops.

  11. There's a rubber-like material used further east on the B-G-T near Fred Meyer to cover the channels and allow cyclists to cross safely. Why not use that here? Considering the number of injuries, why hasn't SDOT done this already?

  12. When it's wet that rubber-like material actually causes that crossing to become quite dangerous. I've seen a couple of cyclists being tended to by EMTs. I would not propose that as a solution to crossing the tracks on the “missing link.”

  13. My god the belly aching in here is amazing. Yes the link needs to be finished but at least they are doing something to try and show cyclists how to properly cross. Of course it won't fix the normal issue with humans being lazy an trying to cross at an acute angle but at least they are trying.

  14. This is so stupid. These lines are actually going to encourage more cyclists to go that way. Now you'll really see some crashes. I will continue to avoid this area until the BCoC pulls it head out and supports the trail! Next time I hear the toy train coming I'll go get some eggs and see how many I can get on the windshield.

  15. I thought that the train was used by SBS&G to deliver product? Seems like more than just a toy, no?

    With that said, I agree that this should be made a better crossing and it's not clear to me that painting the road is the way to do that. I like the idea that was posted a couple of weeks ago which suggested putting in the missing link but using chicanes to warn bicyclists that they are crossing an industrial driveway.

  16. …and I learned how to jump on a motorcycle. Doesn't mean I should have to do it just to go down a city street.
    The tracks are a clear hazard that both the owners of the train and the city are aware of. The fact that the train owners are suing to stop the remedy to this hazard should open them to the liability of anyone hurt on the tracks.
    I'm surprised nobody has sued them already.

  17. Exactly…It isn't like there are a ton of Sharks with lasers hung from the bridge. This is biking 101, I would also ask if your friends were drinking?

    I want this trail finished but this is basic riding skills people, what do you do when you are riding on other streets like the concrete slabs that exist in most of Ballard, do you try and cross those huge gaps at an acute angle too?

  18. I've already switched to another vendor over SBSG on one job just completed and on another one upcoming this fall, so if you want to call it a boycott you can, but I just don't like doing business with people who piss me off this much.

  19. I rode my bike thru there on Saturday. The paint is an improvement for bikes and cars alike. I've been riding my bike for a while now, and I know how to cross tracks. Swing wide and head over straight on, which is what the paint indicates. Drivers need to be aware that the paint is there to remind them that bikes will be sharing the road and need to operate their vehicle very carefully there.

    What I want to know is why that road does'nt have traffic restrictions on it. It should be local, commercial and bikes/peds only. Cars zipping over to Ballard for a snack can drive one street over….

  20. F.U.
    I have wrecked on these exact tracks, and not because I'm lazy or too stupid to ride a bike. I got pushed over to the edge by a large truck cutting the turn and was lucky to not wind up under the truck. These tracks are a hazard to cross under the best of circumstances.
    These tracks are poorly placed and are a real hazard to any bike going over them. The thing that makes it even more infuriating is that the tracks aren't even being used. The actual railroad company abandoned them years ago and then SBSG took over to take advantage of the right of way. There is only one customer for the railroad and guess who that is? SBSG.

  21. Landry,

    We as bike riders should always take over the full lane when safety dictates it.

    Secondly the next road doesn't go under 15th, only Leary does, most people take the back route to avoid the traffic mess that Leary is, we can all exist together just fine.

    If you look at Cascade bikes numbers we need to worry about our own riding far more then we have to worry about cars. And if you wear a helmet, ride defensively, use lights and don't ride drunk your risk of injury is very tiny anyway.

  22. It's been suggested before that it should be a one way street. I think we could all live with it being one way Eastbound so that the turn over the tracks could have a physical barrier to make it a 90 degree crossing.
    The intersection coming out of there westbound into Ballard isn't exactly a joy either. Rather than adding a signal which SDOT may be considering, making it one way would allow a 2 directional bike lane, traffic for cars and commercial vehicles, and could even keep some parking along one side.

  23. I”m sure your case is the exception that proves the rule.

    However when coming to an area like that where you need the full width of the road to manover you should have taken full ownership of the lane, long before the truck would have reached you.

    I'm glad you didn't get hurt badly but I have seen a handful of people crash on these, and they are all trying to take them at an accute angle, they are being lazy, and taking uneeded risks.

  24. When you've got a car or truck next to you what do you do?
    It's not basic skill. It's a hazard and the city and railroad know it. If it was a basic skill then we wouldn't be seeing daily accidents on it.
    This is the same reason the city fills potholes and puts up signs and traffic lights. We could all get through busy intersections without lights in theory, but the reality is that with a light it becomes much safer.
    If there was an intersection where there was a car wreck twice a day, would you argue against a traffic light or stop sign?

  25. This spur meets the main line to the west. This crossing is east of SBSG. Why do we still need it here?
    Normally I'm all for RR service as it's an efficient way to move goods. In this case the RR is there as a proxy to keep use of a public right of way for the sole customer and incidentally owner of this little RR. Last I heard SBSG's owner was losing a small fortune annually to keep this train running.
    This train runs so rarely that they could easily put a cover over this crossing that they just pull off if they ever want to run a train that far down the line. It would be a minor inconvenience, but they don't have any customers east of SBSG. Short of that I'm waiting for one of the victims of this crossing to sue them out of business.

  26. I was wondering if someone was going to respond in douche-bag fashion, thanks for not disappointing, Freddie. Maybe when you were 12 you should have learned some compassion, too

    both people were fairly new to biking in the past year. While it's fun for you and easy to blame the cyclists, not everyone IS experienced.

    So while people consistently get hurt there, we have2 options. One tell them its their own fault which doesn't help prevent this from continuing plus chases away people from the sport and hobby of cycling.

    or two, we can realize not everybody realizes tracks are such a hazard or how to best cross them. And so while the paint is a step in the right direction, it seems more practical to remove the hazard (not necessarily move the tracks, mind you)

  27. I'm glad your friends have started cycling JDballard, however you may want to share the following URL with them

    The vast majority of bicycle accidents are caused by the rider, and thus I would highly suggest you talk them into going to a class, we can not control the actions of others but we can vastly reduce our risks by learning to ride properly.

  28. My opinion that the road I spoke of be limited to local/commercial/ped&bikes holds. There are alternatives to Leary or 45th/Shilshole, how about Ballard Way? No bike lane, less trucks….

    I'm a safe cyclist, thanks.

  29. “Ballard Lawyer” I'm not sure who represents the Ballard Chamber, but if they need a SEPA specialist that pretty much ties their hands. They would be fools to hire someone based on their geography over expertise.

  30. I'm with you there, SPG. SBSG is in the heart of this thing, and if I had business to take away from them, I would.

    aresident is talking about boycotting all Chamber businesses. That's beyond pointless, it's self-defeating — it's a great way to drive a wedge between cyclists and the rest of the community.

  31. Thanks Greg.

    I agree with you.

    But as I scan the above comments, there were 3 or so people who mentioned a husband falling, themselves falling, or knowing people who have fallen at that site.

    So my friends aren't the only one.
    My only point being–either there needs to be giant warning sign and a kiosk with a brochure for people to read before crossing the tracks (joking, obviously) or we simply have to look at the facts.

    People are getting hurt. Over and over. While it is critical to keep asking people to be educated cyclists, human nature says most people aren't going to enroll in these classes or will never hear about them until AFTER they are running into problems. Therefore the tracks are a problem for people, whether experienced or not.

    So can we advocate for protecting the uninformed or unlucky? Or just shake our heads and call them amateurs, suggesting they deserve it for not knowing better?

  32. Well to be 100% honest I think we should require licensing like we do for boating, A once in a life class and test which is slowly introduced based on date of birth.

    I think this would be helpful in reducing the injury rate, however this is political impossible IMHO.

    Note that with the introduction of light rail the number of grade level crossings is going to go up massively.

    The statistics are what really pushed me in this direction, as I am just as likely to be injured by another cyclist as I am via a car. But even with those two risks there is still the reality that if I am injured that there is about a 68% chance that it will be my own fault.

  33. I think this would kill us in the long run, we have to realize that there are multiple needs here, tactics like this are why some in the chamber fear a bike route through the industrial area. I don't want further bike trails encumbered by such a precedent.

    Also note that bike on bike injuries occur at about the exactly same rate as bike on car injury accidents.

  34. 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 . . .

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. 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

  39. 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 :-)

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

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

  52. 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!!

  53. 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%

  54. …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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. 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

  58. 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.

  59. “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.

  60. 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!

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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!

  64. 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.

  65. 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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