Railroad tracks can be one of the most vicious surface hazards. The metal can be slippery when wet, and a rough crossing can cause a pinch flat. Tracks should always be approached with caution, slowing the group to reduce the chance of someone going down.
Tracks that don’t cross the road at a right angle are the most tricky for bicyclists and they require a special technique for safely leading a group across. When tracks are at an acute or obtuse angle to your direction of travel, you need to position the group to cross them as perpendicular as possible so no one’s wheels get caught.
This maneuver requires both a front and rear leader. The front rider leads the line in achieving a safe angle, the rear rider keeps motorists from trying to pass during the maneuver.
An acute angle requires the group to move to the far right edge of the lane and cross toward the center line. The initial rightward move could send the wrong signal to a following motorist, so the rear rider must stay left to prevent a bad pass as the group crosses the tracks.
An obtuse angle requires the group to move to the far left and cross toward the edge. The rear rider may need to stay more centered in the lane to discourage a motorist from trying to pass on the right, especially if the lane is wide.
It’s important for group leaders to know ahead of time where the angled tracks are, and direction of the angle. There might be a sign indicating the track angle, but this isn’t common. So it’s a good idea to explore this during route planning.
Communicating this maneuver to the group can be done in advance with a pre-ride briefing, but it can also be done very effectively on the fly. With the simple protocol that riders in the group echo calls, the ride leader can