So which size is right for you?
Bicycle Safety and the El Paso Streetcar Project
by Cat Cort
As many El Pasoans are aware, the $97 million El Paso Streetcar
Project is coming to fruition in 2018. The route is slated to run nearly five
miles, in two loops running downtown and uptown with 27 stops along the way.
From a bike rider’s perspective, maintaining cycling safety around the tracks
can at times, literally be a slippery slope. Many experienced urban riders have
already sustained injuries due to crashes in and around the tracks, as most of
the usual bike routes through the city and around the UTEP campus now run
parallel to the streetcar project. In even just a short trip downtown, cyclists
are forced to cross or ride parallel to the tracks due placement and other
obstacles (e.g. traffic, buses and parked cars).
Of particular concern are instances in which bicycle tires
become stuck in the track’s “flangeways” (gaps
in the road surface alongside rails) or when conditions are wet
and tires slide in or simply lose traction on the track surface. This is
especially dangerous when traveling downhill at high speeds and when turning to
cross the tracks – at any angle. There are several downtown intersections that have
no warning of the tracks a rider will encounter (see below photos) which adds
to the difficulty and danger inherent to navigating El Paso by bicycle. Hazardous
routes and unsafe conditions created by the addition of the streetcar tracks
serves to demotivate and intimidate bicycle users, especially beginner riders,
families with children, or visitors that may be interested in renting SunCycle
bikes to explore downtown.
A 2016 study of streetcar track-related bicycle crashes in Toronto
reported that crashes were more
common on major city streets with parked cars and no bike infrastructure, which
describes nearly all of the downtown avenues in El Paso. As per the
design of the City, the El Paso Streetcar runs on shared roadways rather than
having a dedicated rail right of way, which means cyclists on these streets
will be forced into making quick decisions and sudden safety maneuvers around
the tracks to avoid other accidents. Since the City has no apparent plans to make
these routes safer (e.g. creating physically separated bike lanes, protected
intersections, installing proper signage etc.) or to create connected,
alternate safe routes for cyclists around El Paso, the responsibility once
again falls to us, the commuters and recreational cyclists of El Paso, to watch
out for our own safety, especially in the downtown area.
Ways to be a smart cyclist around tracks include knowing and
planning your routes, riding a bike with thicker tires (though anything less
than a fat bike is still prone to getting caught), using lights at night and of
course, wearing safety gear such as helmets and gloves. Crossing tracks at a
perpendicular angle (optimally between 45-90°) and performing two-step left
turns are other ways to avoid crashes, but far from error-proof and can go
wrong in seconds during an unexpected maneuver or in inclement weather
conditions when road surfaces are slick.
Furthermore, why should 100% of the responsibility fall to
the non-vehicular road user? Although there are no formal design guidelines,
there are numerous infrastructure examples and studies from cities around the
world that include multi-use safety measures – basic research that could have
been integrated into the City of El Paso’s design from the start. Even if our current
infrastructure does not allow for creation of protected bike routes, the City
could look into rubber flangeway fillers that provide a level surface for
bicyclists but which the streetcar can safely pass over. At the very least, an
awareness campaign including proper signage or route designation (see video)
would certainly help alert unfamiliar riders how to safely interact with
streetcar tracks, but again this method isn’t foolproof and still doesn’t remove
the inherent danger that shared roadway designs pose to bicyclists.
While we welcome an alternative to driving between
attractions in El Paso and look forward to lightening the traffic load during
downtown events, we can’t help but feel as though the lack of proper
consideration for cyclists and non-vehicular users is an egregious infrastructure
planning error on behalf of the City of El Paso and the Camino
Real Regional Mobility Authority.
Have you experienced a crash and/or sustained an injury due to the
El Paso Streetcar Project? Let us know by emailing email@example.com or submit
a comment under “Contact Us” page. Remember, the single best investment you can make to improve conditions
for people who walk and bike El Paso’s border region is to become a member of
Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition today at http://www.velopaso.org/membership.
Video: How to Properly Cross Rail
Tracks on Your Bike
Alter, Lloyd. 2016. Cyclists and streetcar tracks don’t mix.
El Paso Streetcar Project at Sunmetro.net
Maus, Jonathan. 2011. A few ideas on how to improve streetcar track safety. BikePortland.org
Teschke, et al. 2016. Bicycling crashes on streetcar (tram)
or train tracks: mixed methods to identify prevention measures. BMC Public
Health 16:617. Biomedcentral.com
Vance, Steve. 2010. Bikes and Streetcar Tracks. Stevencanplan.com
“Staff reported that they are aware of the concern and are reviewing the pedestrian pathways to make any adjustments, as necessary.”
Photo courtesy of elpasotexas.gov
Reasons I ride a bicycle By Gabriel Slape The inevitable was coming and there was nothing either of us could do about it. No matter how we tried we would not be able to resist. We would have to let go of our 30s. Not too long ago both my wife and I were faced with the prospect of turning 40. Milestone birthdays can make you stop and think. The more I thought, the more I knew that I needed to get out and get more exercise. We already had some decent bikes hanging around in the garage, nothing fancy. They were still in good shape despite the fact that they had not seen much use in the last few years. We had always enjoyed riding and decided that this might be a way for us to get more active. That’s when the doubts start: Am in good enough shape to ride? Where can I ride a bike? Is it even safe to ride on the streets of El Paso, TX? They say that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. We have easily racked up more than a thousand miles since taking the small step of loading the bikes in the car and riding a few loops around Ascarate Park for the first time in December 2014. At first, just a few laps around the park at a very leisurely pace was challenging enough for us. Eventually we decided to expand to some longer rides on a “few” local bike paths that serve mainly as recreation. As time went by we gained the stamina and confidence to extend our rides. We found a weekly ride hosted by Chuck’s Bicycle Repair, a local bike shop and considered giving it a try. Then the doubts started up again: Are we good enough to ride with a group? Are these guys way more serious about biking than us? We once again ignored the doubts and joined the group ride where we found riders of all types and abilities. We had a great time and still make sure that we join the ride every week. This group ride helped us to gain the confidence and skills to go out and ride the streets and even after dark. Since last December we have progressed to riding 3-4 or more times a week. Aside from the obvious health benefits, we have realized many other perks from riding our bikes. We have met so many wonderful people while riding. We have also been able to explore our city and see it from a different perspective. The bicycle is the perfect speed to see the world. You can see so much more from a bicycle than you can from a car and you can cover more ground than can by walking. Riding together, my wife and I spend more quality time and work together as a team as we navigate our way through this great city. We enjoy riding so much that we have started using our car less, thus reducing congestion and air pollution and try using our bikes to take care of errands and shopping trips. The best thing about biking is that it does not require a lot of expensive accessories or complicated equipment. If you have the desire, a bike that is in good condition, properly fitting helmet, repair kit and pump for flat tires, and water bottle or camel back, you have nearly everything you need to enjoy endless miles bike riding fun. It doesn’t take any special skills and we learned to ride a bike when we were young children. All it takes is a minimal but conscious amount of preparation to have a fun and easy cross-town bicycle adventure. Riding is something that you can do solo, with your loved ones, or join one of the many weekly group rides. Biking can be more than just a hobby and there many people in El Paso that choose the bike as their main mode of transportation. If you a looking for a way to get active, explore the city, or simply want an alternative to driving, get on a bike and ride. Maybe you will take a weekly ride around your neighborhood or maybe, like us, you will keep finding new reasons to ride more often. I work in an office but do a small amount of physical work during the day. Biking is my primary form of exercise. Before biking I did very little exercise at all and now, aside from riding we try to walk more often instead of driving in instances where it’s more convenient to walk than bike. On a progressive 1-10 scale of activity, 10 being the highest, I was at level 0 activity before biking and at level 7 activity now.
Wouldn’t it be nice if our City Council thought about giving back to the taxpayers some of our tax dollars by paving and striping our residential streets and adding a few street lights? Maybe people would go for neighborhood walks in the evening if they could see what was going on in the neighborhood? (neighborhood rides)
Instead, all we see is worrying about Downtown, the trolley, ballpark and plaza, which benefit the few, while our streets are a disaster not only on residents but also for mail delivery, fire trucks, emergency vehicles, school buses and local drivers trying to go somewhere.
Think about it. It’s the homeowners’ tax money too.
Northeast El Paso via Letters- elpasotimes.com
Will you and your children be walking or biking to school on May 4th? Why not talk to your school about being a part of the National #BikeToSchoolDay
PS – streets should be safe for EVERYONE — not just cars
Velo Paso is excited to provide Bike Valet service at major events! Simply put you can park a dozen bikes in the space occupied by one car.
“The most common question Velo Paso hears from passers of the Bike Valet is: “When will this be done again?”
Our rates typically start at $95/hour, depending on event specifics.
For Bike Valet service at your next event, Please submit the Bike Valet Request Form to provide us with an understanding of your needs. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once submitted, we will contact you to confirm operational details, availability, and a price quote. We ask for a month’s notice before the event so that we can adequately recruit the volunteers to support our staff and help keep our costs down. Please note that requests submitted less than two weeks in advance will be subject to an additional fee to account for staff time.
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