A combined study done by Ryerson University and UBC has found that streetcar tracks are directly involved in one third of bike accidents in downtown Toronto.
The study also suggests that the number of accidents could be reduced with the implementation of separated bike routes.
Researchers explored 276 crash reports in which hospital visits were a part of incidents between May 2008 through November 2009. Researchers discovered that 87 accidents directly involved streetcar tracks while 139 occurred in areas that had tracks.
On several occasions, cyclists attempted to avoid a collision by steering away from cars, pedestrians or other cyclists only to have their wheels get caught in the gap alongside the rails. In other cases, cyclists took a spill after their wheels slipped off the rails itself.
“Riding as a cyclist in Toronto you always feel that streetcar tracks are a hazard, and we all have our near misses, but our study is one of the first to put a number to this risk,” said Anne Harris, assistant professor in the school of occupational and public health at Ryerson University. “The fact that about a third of the Toronto bike injuries in our study involved streetcar tracks really underlined the danger to me.”
The research goes on to point out that the tires of many commonly sold bikes are narrower than the smallest track gap.
Specific danger areas for bikes travelling downtown include streets with tracks and parked cars, and left turns at intersections with tracks.