Light Rail Transit – A deathtrap for cyclists?

I echo the values espoused by supporters of LRT; livable spaces, sustainable cities, pedestrian friendly, automobile independence etc … but there’s one picture with LRT that scares me.

And I don’t want it to be me!

picture from the Globe and Mail

On King Street the goal is to fit trains, cars, trucks, bikes and pedestrians all on the same narrow street. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.  In the case of LRT, it’s too dangerous.

It bugs me when bike lanes are used as buffers to protect parked cars but now cyclists are going to be the buffer between a train and automobiles … are you kidding me? The visuals provided by the region clearly show where cyclists are going to get squeezed.

In the King Street visual above, a bicycle traveling north is clearly going to have vehicles on one side and a train on the other (the blue lane is for the train). Below is a present day picture of King Street.

Uptown Waterloo today

I realize that addressing a growing population, curbing urban sprawl while trying to step away from our culture’s reliance on the automobile will be difficult. There won’t be a silver bullet (the future is indeed multi-modal).  We will have to work together, compromise together and build together.  Let’s not do it at someone else’s expense.

9 thoughts on “Light Rail Transit – A deathtrap for cyclists?

  1. It looks like the plan would slow down car traffic to a crawl like it did on Kitchener’s King St. I take the bike on errands in downtown Kitchener sometimes and the low traffic speed is perfect for vehicular cycling. I just take the lane because I can pedal faster than the speed of traffic. For all intents and purposes, I think Waterloo’s King St. renovation would have the same effect on traffic and vehicular cycling. If they put up physical barriers between the train track and the traffic lane, it would be even better.

    My comment is based on the small picture of what downtown Waterloo will look like, but it’s not exactly clear what the north side of the road will look like, so I guess only time will tell. Maybe they’ll put in a two way bike lane on that side of the road instead of a sidewalk. That could have its problems too.

  2. Good observation. Other visual renderings have bike lanes, so I’m assuming there are none on King Street. I like the idea of rail to move people in Waterloo Region, but as a cyclist I want the urban design to increase the safety of cyclists not make it worse! Also at this point in King Street the buildings are 22 meters apart. If you have sidewalks, 4 lanes there’s no room for additional bike lanes. I’ll be doing a post on the plans to reduce car lanes on King Street in the near future.

    (refer to the link –

  3. Looking at the plans, I’m surprised how little thought was put into a proper space for bikes overall.

    I suppose it boils down to ones definition of an LRT. I always thought they were similar to what places such as Amsterdam, Bordeaux and so many more European cities have. They tend not to travel at high speeds.

    As for the TTC street-car, I would say they are not LRT’s, though in defence of the street-cars in Toronto, there haven’t been many issues with bikes. The above picture a cyclist went through red light.
    The main issue cyclists have in Toronto are the tracks themselves which are difficult to travel across, especially this time of year.

    Charles Street Terminal looks a bit iffy for bikes also. Are they suppose to ride on the road with cars and have the tram to the right?

  4. Actually the cause of above is even more interesting. Don’t be so quick to blame the cyclist like our automobile friendly media :)

    Where the cyclist was standing he couldn’t see the street car traffic light. As an aside I would argue that Toronto Street cars are LRT, have you seen the recent improvements to the Spadina Line? At times it’s underground.

    Quote taken from this article ––cyclist-killed-by-streetcar-may-have-missed-traffic-signal?bn=1

    “When the man was standing on the median about to cross, he would have been right under the traffic signal and could have not seen the green arrow for the right of way,” Smith said. “It would have looked like all the other traffic would have stopped.”

    Wondering if the design of the intersection was to blame. It would be great if someone who has used this intersection could comment. I’m going to check it on google maps later today.

  5. I don’t see why it’s worse to get killed by LRT than by an automobile.

    As for the *chances* of getting hit, I’d feel a lot safer next to a streetcar. It’s not going to veer into my lane because the driver can’t see me. It’s not going to cut me off by surprise, because I can see where its tracks are headed. Its passengers are not going to throw their door open in front of me.

    I agree, however, that designs for King Street should include bike lanes or sharrows or something to that cyclists have a place of their own.

    1. Joey Jo-Jo says:
      December 6, 2010 at 5:09 pm As for the *chances* of getting hit, I’d feel a lot safer next to a streetcar. It’s not going to veer into my lane because the driver can’t see me. It’s not going to cut me off by surprise, because I can see where its tracks are headed. Its passengers are not going to throw their door open in front of me.
      I agree, this is why I’d rather ride next to a street car/LRT as well. Cyclists just need to learn how to safely cross the track.

  6. The detailed design has not been done yet. It certainly needs to take into account all street users, and that is a part of how the Region is doing its street design now. (See the Regional Transportation Corridor Guidelines for more on that.)

    That said, there will be a physical separation, likely in the form of some kind of curb, between the roadway and the LRT tracks. Modern light rail systems do not present serious dangers to cyclists.

    I looked at the Toronto crash site on Street View, and it looks like an incredibly pedestrian- and cyclist-hostile place. That’s not really about streetcars or LRT.

  7. There’s a reason I don’t cycle between two lanes of cars.
    Goes the same for cycling between one car lane and one train lane.

    It’s nice to have the sidewalk to fall down on if things get hairy. That way you don’t have to worry whether it’s safer lying down in the car lane or the train lane.

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