Bicyclist falls because tires got caught in old train tracks on Magnolia Avenue


Injury: Minor scrapes, bumps and bruises

What happened

Roadway description: Train tracks on the road

Your story: I was riding northbound on Elston Avenue just south of North Avenue. I turned east onto Magnolia Avenue. Magnolia is not a high-traffic street so I took it planning to reach North Avenue. However there are old train tracks on the road with wide gaps where my front tire got caught causing me to slide off the left side of my bike and falling off. I scraped my knees pretty badly. I was lucky the oncoming car on the opposite side of the road was still far otherwise I could have been run off since I slid into the oncoming road lane. The oncoming driver was nice and stopped to ask if I was ok. Fortunately I didn’t break anything, but my knees do hurt a lot.

Approaching the bad intersection

Looking north on Elston Avenue, where the bicyclist turned right onto northbound Magnolia Avenue.

Suggested improvements: My suggestion is, fixing the roads. Chicago officials take so much pride in making the city bike-friendly and bragging about during press conferences but they forget the number one factor for this plan to work: safe roads for EVERYONE not just for bikers. It is great to create bike lanes, but the roads are still extremely dangerous. These train tracks on Magnolia Avenue are old and not in use anymore. The city should invest in fixing all major roads and fixing roads where train tracks are no longer in use.

  • Christopher Murphy

    I feel your pain. Had this happen to me biking through Goose Island. Riding parallel to tracks is not something people warn you about until it happens to you.

    • Steven Vance

      Yup! There aren’t many tracks in Chicago to begin with, so it’s an issue that I think most people bicycling here won’t encounter.

      • Anne A

        There aren’t many grade-level tracks on the NORTH side. Many areas on the south and west sides have dozens of grade crossings, so it’s a much more significant issue for folks riding there.

        • stevevance

          You got me there! I can’t speak for much of the south side. I probably get more west side in than south side.

  • Kurtis Pozsgay

    I have done the same thing at those railroad tracks at that exact spot. Thought I broke my wrist. A car was right behind me and I rolled out of the way to avoid getting run over. Worst thing is they didn’t even stop or slow down or anything. Just kept right on going like nothing happened.

    • Steven Vance

      Fall, drop, and roll!

  • Anne A

    I’ve had a lot of experience with railroad crossings. The safest practice is to turn and take the crossing at an angle as close to 90 degrees as possible, so that your wheels are perpendicular to the tracks, not at a narrower angle.

    The narrower the angle, the greater the risk of your tire getting caught in the gap and taking you down. Turning to cross at a 90 degree angle sometimes means that you have to go across the traffic lane, which isn’t safe and practical in moderate to heavy traffic situations, both due to lack of room on the road and the likelihood of confusing drivers because you’re doing something that looks wacky to them. In those situations, it may be safer to get off and walk your bike over the crossing.

    • Steven Vance

      Crossing the tracks here isn’t an issue, but riding along them is. I don’t know of a way to communicate, except by publications and word of mouth, how people bicycling should operate themselves alongside railroad tracks.

  • Mike Keating

    I’m handling a case where my client was very severely injured on the same tracks near Magnolia. The tracks are owned by Union Pacific. City of Chicago owns the roadway. Who is responsible for maintaining the potholes varies depending on the exact part of tracks and/or roadway at issue.