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Railroad Crossings

There are 3 types of railroad crossings; DANGEROUS, VERY DANGEROUS and EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

I still see and hear about bicycle crashes when crossing railroad tracks …. a closer look ….


These are the standard type of railroad track crossings. The road is dry, the rail is dry, MAYBE. Steel rails are often colder than their surroundings and sweat, condensing water on them making them slippery. The gap between the rail and the adjacent roadway is normal and the steel rail is not higher than the adjacent roadway.


This is a crossing as described in the Dangerous description PLUS being visibly wet from prior or ongoing rain. The steel rail is slippery, the adjacent roadway is slippery, and your bicycle tires are slippery.


This description is as described in Very Dangerous PLUS the gap between the steel rail and the adjacent roadway is large “AND/OR” the steel rail protrudes above the adjacent roadway.

If you are approaching ANY railroad crossing at ANY angle (the sharper the angle, the greater the risk) you are putting yourself at risk of having your front wheel twisted out of alignment. Your front wheel will tend to drop into the gap between the rail and the roadway and follow the tracks, or to skid sideways, effectively taking your front wheel out from under you resulting in a crash.

THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO CROSS A RAILROAD TRACK …. straight on at a 90-degree angle to the track, and your bicycle at a 90 degree angle to the roadway (no leaning). When you cross the tracks stop pedaling and put your crank arms parallel to the ground. Push forward on your handlebars to keep your front wheel straight. Take a little weight off your seat and flex your knees and elbows to act like shock absorbers to minimize wheel bounce. After you have COMPLETELY crossed the tracks proceed at normal.

ALSO REMEMBER…you may know how to cross railroad tracks safely, but other riders may not or lack discipline. If someone in front of you or beside you crashes, you may become a secondary crash; give yourself more room.

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