Newbie Cycling: Sarah meets the streetcar tracks
When I started cycling in the city, there was one piece of advice more common than the rest: Avoid streets with streetcar tracks.
As a newbie cyclist, I want all the advice I can get about how to be a successful, confident cyclist in the city. But, I figured, what's the harm on riding a bike on a streetcar route, as long as I'm in the right lane?
So I ride along King St. E., every morning to work and every afternoon home. Usually, because I travel against the traffic, I have lots of room in the right lane. Some days, I'm the only one in it.
But this week, construction sprang up just past Parliament, with concrete barriers blocking my beloved right lane. On Monday, there was no problem, I was able to snake through them and stay in my lane. For my Tuesday afternoon ride, I wasn't so lucky — the lane was blocked with construction materials. So I moved into the left lane.
There was one car ahead of me, a van who was waiting to turn left into a parking lot. He sat there with his blinker on for at least five minutes. I had to get off my bike because I couldn't keep my balance just sitting there. I decided to move as far to the right as possible in case a car came up behind me.
I stood in the middle of the right streetcar track and that concrete barrier that sprung up this week and waited. When finally the truck turned, I gave a glance behind me and hopped back on my bike.
As a new cyclist, I'm still looking at finding my balance — especially when I'm starting off. Normally, when I'm stopped at the side of the road with one foot resting on the sidewalk, I'm okay. But when there's nothing but ground, I start a little wobbly.
As I began to push off, I felt my bike begin to fishtail. I pedalled on, hoping to get myself out of it. As I tugged on my bike, it got caught in the streetcar track. I kept going straight, but at a speed I can't explain, and I was far from able to keep control of myself.
It was a mere seconds, but I felt like I had been dragged by that track forever. When it ended, I had a few scrapes on my hand, but other than that I — and the bike — were no less for wear.
After that, I was a bit shaky so I walked my bike to the end of the concrete barrier and back to my beloved right lane. Despite my nerves about what just happened, I got back on my bike to ride the rest of the way home.
As I glanced behind me to check traffic, I noticed that van that I was stuck behind who wanted to turn left was now exiting the parking lot. He just wanted to turn around. I cursed him, wishing he had decided to do that at the lights that were just a few metres past the parking lot, even though I knew it wouldn't make a difference.
I know my spill was lucky, but now understand why people are advising me to stay off the tracks. I'm interested in hearing your streetcar track stories and, as always, your advice on how to cycle with them.