The other night, riding home here in Brussels, I watched a man on a bike path being harassed by a tram. The conductor was using his bell alarm in full alert mode, pressing the rider to relent and pull over so he could get past. The cyclist was moving at a decent clip, was in his bike lane and was doing nothing wrong. But the harassment was intimidating. He eventually stopped, just barely off the track, and turned to give a piece of his mind to the driver – before letting him go ahead. So, the harassment was rewarded.
It is far from the first time I have seen this – and I have experienced it. There is nothing safe about it. I have this clear memory of riding the line own Ave Louise – where this photo was taken. The path was clear ahead and I was riding fast. When I started, there was not tram in the distance. But the tram raced up behind and the ding, ding, ding of the bell started. I tried riding faster and he just sped up and refused to see we were both at a decent speed for the city. I eventually had to bunny hop off the lane and he passed a second later.
I do not like bunny hopping when there area few tonnes of moving steel behind me. They tend not to slow down fast enough, should I fall.
Brussels has many kilometres of bike paths that run inside the two tram track rails. To ride inside places the cyclist in the car door zone. Riding outside and you have oncoming traffic – not to mention masking it hard for cars to get past when there is opportunity.
But the multi-ton trams are dedicated to the rails and they, many of the drivers, feel they have priority, even when the space is clearly indicated as a cycling path. So much so they race up behind, remain just a couple of metres from the cyclists rear wheel, and then ding, ding, ding, ding, ding the bell until the cyclists are forced out
Now I am an experienced cyclist. I can ride fast and hold a line. But I hate negotiating tram tracks, especially those arrangements where one line bleeds into another, rather than the simple intersection. Racing tires slip into the rail space all too easily and a fall can happen, even if you are careful. Add a bit of moisture and that rail is slippery.
Even when riding a good clip up the road, when the space is clear, the tracks are fast for the tram. It is an opportunity forth to make up lost time. They will press and intimidate cyclists.
With the blasé aggression, this places public transport at odds with cyclists, not as cooperators in the same environment.