Wired Up – Northern Ireland Gets More Wire Rope Barriers
It seems that Northern Ireland is getting wired up with the fitting of Wirerope/Cable barriers (Vehicle Restraint Systems).
We first noticed these barriers in Belfast, situated at the junction of Tesco’s at Newtownbreda, however stretches of wirerope barriers have been and are now being fitted on the A1 Dual Carriageway between Belfast and Newry.
The new A1 Beech Hill to Cloghogue dual carriageway (Newry By-pass), has open ahead of schedule on the 29th July 2010, which means that motorists can now travel between Belfast and Dublin in less that two hours.
However the 12km stretch at a cost of just over £150million and was part funded by the European Union, TEN-T (Trans-European Network Transport) Programme, seems to have ignored the exposure to risk of motorcyclists by installing a wire rope barrier system.
Read Right To Ride’s comments – Click Here
The wirerope barriers being fitted in Northern Ireland on the A1 Dual Carriageway between Belfast and Newry by Highway Barrier Solutions – Click Here
On Wednesday 23rd February 2011 the Roads Minister Conor Murphy, officially opened the £45million A2 Maydown to City of Derry Airport dualling scheme.
At the launch the Minister said: “The completion of this £45million project is an important step forward for the people of the northwest. The new dual carriageway will help ease congestion, resulting in improved safety and journey times for traffic travelling on this route.”
Local members of the motorcycle fraternity were spurred into public action and they formed into an organized group called, A2 Bikers against Rope Barriers – (BARB)
The group unanimously agreed that a wrong and lethal decision has now been made by Roads Service, supposedly on our behalf, resulting in a 100% rejection by bikers, of this type of Vehicle Restraint System chosen for this stretch of road. Both Right To Ride and the BMF supported this group.
What is clear at Right To Right is that when the Minister says that the “project” will result in improved safety for traffic travelling on this route, he has again forgotten about one mode of transport and that is the motorcycle and their riders.
Car impacting Wirerope barrier – Click Here Windows Media Player 1.1mb
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What’s The Problem Then?
While we assume that Vehicle Restraint Systems fitted in Northern Ireland have passed European Standards (Committee of European Normalization (CEN – EN1317) there appears to be no specific European standard for motorcyclist protection for impacting crash barriers, either while the motorcyclist is in an upright position or sliding on impact.
According to a study by the European Union Road Federation (ERF), the Brussels Programme Centre of the International Road Federation (IRF) “Discussion Paper February 2009”, the severity of the impact increases if the road restraint system (when present) is not designed for the protection of motorcyclists.
The problem is the exposed posts of any barrier system being struck by a falling rider, wirerope barriers being the most “aggressive” of systems with its exposed posts either for a sliding rider or a rider on a motorcycle impacting in an upright position at whatever angle.
Therefore barrier systems that have passed European standards are fitted on the roads but are not motorcycle friendly specific.
Computer Simulation wirerope barrier sliding rider no protection right view Windows Media Player 9.49mb
Computer Simulation wirerope barrier sliding rider no protection left view Windows Media Player 8.7mb
Computer Simulation wirerope barrier sliding rider with protection right view Windows Media Player 4.52mb
Are You Sure There Is A Problem?
Right To Ride’s Trevor Baird, was part of the panel who produced the document, as then representative of the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA). Northern Ireland’s Department for Regional Development and Southern Irelands, National Roads Authority (NRA) were also part of the panel, so they are no strangers to the issues in Ireland as a whole.
The EuroRAP document commented that:
- “Barrier support posts are particularly aggressive, irrespective of the barriers’ other components, causing a five-fold increase in injury severity compared to the average motorcycle crash.”
However, the panel’s position, reached by consensus (not all agreed), on wire rope barriers must be challenged.
The panel concluded that:
- “despite the amount of high profile coverage that wire rope barriers have attracted, limited research does not warrant the inference that they are more or less dangerous than other types of barrier on the market.”
A study by DEKRA (Germany) and the University of Monash (Australia) carried out in 2005 contradicts this position and stated that:
- “In all simulations the motorcycle slides along the wires until it hits a post, squeezing and trapping the rider’s leg against the wires as it does so. The post contact causes the motorcycle’s front wheel to snag lifting the front of the motorcycle up and throwing the rider’s torso and head forward.”
- “Because the rider’s leg is trapped between the motorcycle and the wire ropes and the foot snags in the ropes, the head and torso slap into the front of the rising motorcycle. Eventually the leg becomes free as the motorcycle rotates and the rider is then catapulted over the barrier”
However in the UK there are available to road engineers various “Motorcycle Friendly Barrier” systems which appear to focus on a sliding impact which can be fitted to barriers already in place.
These systems usually consist of a lower rail or covering that protects the exposed posts of the barrier being stuck. Other protection involves the post itself being protected with a covering.
However although these “Motorcycle Friendly Barrier” systems have passed a national standard for motorcyclist protection which does not affect the “operation” of the original barrier, there is no European wide standard for these motorcycle friendly systems.
Bikeguard – April 2009 pdf 3.7mb
Biker Safe – Energy Absorbent External Website
Flexguard pdf 1.1mb
Biker Mate – Crash Cushion for Roadside Objects External Website
What Should Happen!
Understandably road authorities and engineers have constraints and budgets to work within for the placement of crash barriers or vehicle restraint systems on Northern Ireland roads, but there does not appear to be any statistics that present data for motorcycles impacting these systems.
Road authorities in Northern Ireland, responsible for the fitment of crash barriers, should be encouraged not to be influenced solely by short term “commercial” cost benefit analysis which may exclude motorcycles, simply because they represent a minority of road users.
While engineering solutions may strive to protect the majority (i.e. cars), the long term impact may be far more costly due to the lack of consideration of motorcyclists and their injuries.
Motorcycle Friendly Barriers that are added to barriers in place should be considered and fitted where there is a risk to motorcyclists hitting barriers and consideration to the placement of new barriers and a review/audit of barriers already in place.
This in consideration that road safety engineers are responsible for designing the road network to be as safe as possible, for all types of road user.
They design road safety engineering schemes to reduce the number and severity of casualties and to prevent them in the first place.
Cost – Maintenance – Injuries
The – Road Design for Future Maintenance – Life-cycle Cost Analyses for Road Barriers – document from Sweden by Karim Hawzheen looks at repair rates for barriers and associated repair costs as one of the major maintenance costs for road barriers and analyses the effect of several factors on barrier repairs costs, such as barrier type, road type, posted speed and seasonal effect.
The document also looks at the injuries associated with road barrier collisions and the corresponding influencing factors. The results showed significant differences in the number of injuries associated with collisions with different barrier types.
The repair rate and the average repair cost per vehicle kilometre for median cable barriers is higher than for median w-beam barriers, regardless of road type.
The repair rate for median barriers along motorways can probably be almost halved by using w-beam barriers instead of cable barriers.
The rate of injuries associated with barrier collisions in Sweden is higher on roads equipped with cable barriers than on roads equipped with the other barrier types studied.
As always on motorcycling issues we welcome your thoughts and opinions.
See Also In Europe – Click Here
See Also Mystery EN1317-8 – Click Here
See Also Potted History – Click Here