Safely Crossing Railroad Tracks

In my experience, crossing railroad tracks can be extremely hazardous. On my first self-supported bicycle trip across the United States, I crashed crossing wet railroad tracks, ending my trip. To help avoid a similar disaster, here are the steps I take to safely cross railroad tracks .

  • Slow down – Exercise caution when approaching a railroad crossing.
  • Check for Trains – Be sure that there are no trains coming and never cross when the warning lights are flashing.
  • Pick the best path – Avoid large ruts that can swallow or damage a wheel.
  • Cross perpendicular – Always cross at a 90 degree angle to the rails.
  • Slightly lift off the seat – Let your arms and legs absorb some of the shock from the tracks.
  • Position the pedals – Level the pedals to a 3 and 9 o’clock position and gently squeeze your saddle with your thighs to stabilize and keep the bike upright.
  • Never lean – Leaning the bike from one side or the other while crossing railroad tracks can cause the tires to slide out from under you.
  • Slippery when wet. Railroad tracks, and manhole covers for that matter, are extremely slippery when wet.

This video illustrates how danagerous railroad crossing can be, especially when not crossed perpendicularly.

Ken Whittaker