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The Hidden Danger of Bicycle Tire Entrapment

Bicycling may now be more popular than ever in the U.S. Since the shutdown of many recreational activities, people have dusted off their long-forgotten bikes or have flocked to bicycle shops to purchase new ones. Since the emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, sales of commuter/fitness bikes and leisure bikes have soared and increased by 121% and 66%, respectively. Are all of these new or newly returned bicyclists safe on the streets and roads?

While there are many obvious hazards that most bicyclists must avoid to be safe, there are some that lie hidden, waiting to inflict injury on the unsuspecting. Bicycle tire entrapment by light rail (streetcar and trolley) tracks is one of those hidden dangers. The thin tires of a modern bicycle can slip into and be trapped by the trench in which light rail tracks are laid. If a bicyclist rides parallel to a rail track or crosses it at too low an angle, a tire of the bike can become entrapped and the bicyclist can be violently thrown from the bike and suffer injuries.  Ideally, a bicyclist should cross rail tracks at a high angle (90º –perpendicular) and avoid riding parallel to them. The operators of streetcars and trolleys should install signs directing bicyclists to cross the tracks at a high angle and to stay a safe distance from the rails while riding parallel to them. Unfortunately, such warnings are not always provided and the burden falls to each bicyclist to navigate safely around rail tracks.

Maintain your bike in safe working order, wear protective equipment, practice situational awareness, and stay safe. For more information, feel free to contact us.