Living in North Balwyn and riding both a scooter and a bicycle, I have always been acutely aware of the dangers of tram tracks in my area. Until today, I had managed to avoid any issues with them.
I was riding home from uni down High Street in Kew East on what was/is a very wet day. A large truck had pulled up in front of me (riding between the tram tracks) and then moved into the left lane to let traffic overtake.
Overtaking trucks, 4WDs and other large vehicles is important for motorbikes/scooters/bicycles because of limited visibility to oncoming traffic. This fear is borne out by the fact that the highest number of crashes in a single category are side impacts at intersections.
To avoid being hit at the dangerous Belford Road/High Street intersection, I overtook the truck in the right lane and intended to go straight on at Harp Junction. This involves merging back into the left lane and over tram tracks. This section of the road is also quite steep, requiring acceleration.
The combined factors of rain, acceleration and the tram tracks resulted in my back tyre slipping on the metal. I accelerated further and turned to the left trying to regain stability, but this was unfortunately in vain. I fell on my right and was dragged along the road for about 4-5 seconds, starting at about 50-55 km/h (I ride slower in the rain/wind).
Credit must go to the driver of the black 4WD behind me who was driving to the conditions and had left enough spacing between her and I that she didn’t run me over when I went down. She was also the only one who stopped to see if I was ok, so thank you to her for being considerate and driving safely.
I am unhurt, other than graze on my right knee, a sprained ankle and my pride. My scooter has some additional cosmetic features on its right side and the rear vision mirror was broken off (a fact that I didn’t realise until I tried adjusting it later), and part of my rain jacket was torn.
I should add that I always wear full protective gear, including a full-face helmet, body armour, reinforced riding gloves and kevlar jeans, and the jeans almost certainly saved most of my leg’s skin from the bitumen.
In the photos below, you can see how the water from the road surface got through to the pants I was wearing underneath (right) but the jeans (left) took the brunt of the drag.
An instructive lesson in the importance of wearing the right gear if there ever was one.
So, what did we learn (or tl;dr)?
- Tram tracks are awful in the wet – remember to always cross at a minimum of a 45 degree angle, but even this is no guarantee of safety. Ride to the conditions and look ahead to minimise the number of times you need to cross.
- It is vital to leave adequate stopping distance – if the 4WD had been closer to me, grazing my knee would be the least of my problems. Remember that scooters, motorbikes and bicycles take longer to stop than cars, especially when it is wet or windy, so leave that little bit of extra room.
- Always wear full protective gear – it’s no good if you wear only part of the full suite of protective gear. If you only wear a helmet and gloves, that’s not going to help much if you come off at 60 km/h and scrape your leg along the ground for 5-6 seconds (you won’t have much skin left). Conversely, it’s no good if you wear a helmet and kevlar jeans. If you come off and stick your hands out to break your fall, you won’t have much of your hand left either. Each piece of gear is designed to do a different job, so make sure you’re always wearing them.