Bicycle Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


Correction for a skewed rail crossing through the provision of a widened paved shoulder or bike lane. Illustration from Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Design Guide, Oregon DOT

Photo by Carl Sundstrom Example of a bike lane to the right of a streetcar track.
Photo by Carl Sundstrom




Streetcar Track Treatments

As streetcars and light rail have regained popularity in U.S. cities, there is an increasing hazard for bicyclists due to the gap in the road caused by the rail flangeway. Rail lines are typically placed in the curb side lane of two-way streets and therefore must be traversed by bicyclists when moving to the center of the lane or changing lanes for a turn. If steered across the rail flangeway at a narrow angle, bicyclists' wheels may get stuck in the rail and cause a crash. On one-way streets, it may be possible to run the rail lines down the left side of the street, thus reducing the risk to bicyclists. Providing bike lanes also reduces the risk to bicyclists as it gives them more room to maneuver. If bike lanes or left-side rail cannot be provided, consider the surrounding street network and whether it may make sense to guide bicyclists to a parallel route (see wayfinding).

The narrow rail flangeway also causes a challenge to bicyclists making a left-turn at intersections as they must traverse the rail at a narrow angle to perform this maneuver. One option is to add a two-stage turn box (see intersection markings) at intersections to give bicyclists an opportunity to cross the rail at a 90 degree angle.

Rail lines may also cross the street at an angle less than 60 degrees, which can allow a bicycle wheel to be caught in the flangeway and cause a fall. In these locations, space should be provided, either through a bike lane or shoulder, to allow a bicyclist space to cross the rail line at a safer angle. Care should be taken to give bicyclists enough warning of the change in bikeway direction so that the curve does not catch a rider by surprise. Signing should also be used to alert bicyclists of the hazard.


Streetcar and light rail tracks pose a crash risk to bicyclists whose wheels may get stuck in the flangeway opening at skewed crossings and during turning and lane-changing maneuvers.


  • Allow bicyclists to cross rail lines at as close to 90 degrees as possible through bike lanes, paved shoulders, and two-stage turn boxes.
  • If possible, avoid bike routes along rail lines running in the rightmost lane.

Estimated Cost

No additional cost when incorporated into the original design.


To view references for this countermeasure group click here.

Case Studies