Photo by Dan Malouff.

Earlier this month, Dan introduced us to one of the street design tools that planners use to ensure safe mixing of bikes and streetcars, the bike sneak. That’s one of a whole toolbox full of strategies.

Seattle’s South Lake Union streetcar line runs along Westlake Avenue, which cuts diagonally across the grid. Because the street is a diagonal, almost every intersection is at an odd angle, meaning cyclists crossing Westlake could easily get their wheels caught in the tracks.

One solution that Seattle has applied is to use sharrows painted to encourage cyclists to cross at the safest angle. I’m not sure if this technique has an official name, but I like to call it the “sharrow serpentine.”


Westlake “sharrow serpentine”. Photo by Matt Johnson.


Portland employs a similar technique where one of its bike lanes crosses streetcar tracks:


Portland curved bike lane. Photo by Ritch Viola.


Portland also does some interesting things with streetcar stops. Lovejoy Street has a bike lane parallel to streetcar tracks, immediately to the tracks’ right. With the bike lane between the tracks and the curb, something had to be done at stations. So they routed the bike lane onto the sidewalk, behind the streetcar stop.


Lovejoy sidepath. Photo by Matt Johnson.


Portland’s solution for Lovejoy Street isn’t perfect, because despite pavement markings the passengers waiting for the streetcar occasionally stand in the bikeway. But it certainly beats the alternative of forcing cyclists to merge into the streetcar lane to go through stations.

Seattle will take this idea one step further on its soon-to-be-built First Hill streetcar, which will share Broadway with a cycle track located behind the streetcar stops.


Broadway cycle track. Photo by the City of Seattle.


Closer to home, Arlington is designing its Columbia Pike streetcar with new bikeways on adjacent parallel streets. Instead of finding ways to mix bikes and streetcars safely, they’ll put the bikeways one block over.

Arlington’s parallel bikeways will be “bike boulevards,” which are common on the west coast but will be the first local example in the Washington region. Bike boulevards are streets that cars and bikes share, but on which car traffic is calmed in order to optimize the street for bikes.


Portland’s MLK bike boulevard, which allows bikes to go straight but forces cars to turn. Photo by BikePortland.org on Flickr.


Do you know of other solutions for mixing bikes and streetcars? Surely there must be some interesting examples from Europe. Please share your photos and ideas in the comments.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Capitol Hill. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.