York Street Interchange

Flyovers – Underpasses –  Joints – Barriers

2nd July 2011

In early June the Transport Minister Danny Kennedy announced a consultation on a proposed scheme which would provide direct links between the Westlink and M2 and Westlink and M3 motorways.

The scheme or project aims to make major changes with a new road interchange at York Street in Belfast, to replace the traffic signal controlled junction, which would mean 100,000 vehicles passing through it on a daily basis with either flyovers or underpasses.

The minister said, “I am keen to hear as many views as possible on the proposals. It is important that everyone affected by the proposals has input to the process.” Adding “The money may not be available immediately but this is why it is important to get this scheme right.  It could cost up to £100m so it is important that we get it right.”

This is reiterated on the Department for Regional Development (DRD) website which says, “Construction of the preferred option will be dependent upon the successful completion of the necessary statutory procedures, a detailed economic appraisal and the availability of funding through the normal budgetary process.”

Public Consultation

A public consultation was launched in early June via a public exhibition, this aimed to provide members of the public with the opportunity to view and comment on four options for the junction.

Unfortunately although the “consultation” was published online on the Department for Regional Development (DRD) website, it seemed to be based around the dependence of attending the public exhibition and taking,  “a few minutes to complete this questionnaire to make your views known” to be placed a box provided or returned by post.

However, assessments starting in 2012 with a detailed development of the preferred option in liaison with key stakeholders will lead to a formal public consultation.

Apart from this consultation the Roads Service has prepared a Preliminary Options Report published in 2009 and brought forward from previous consultations in 2006 and 2008 on various issues regarding the scheme, which has led to the following specific objectives being identified:

• to remove a bottleneck on the strategic road network;

• to deliver an affordable solution to reduce congestion on the strategic road network;

• to improve reliability of strategic journey times for the traveling public;

• to improve access to the regional gateways from the Eastern Seaboard Key Transport Corridor;

• to maintain access to existing properties, community facilities and commercial interests;

• to maintain access for pedestrians and cyclists; and

• to improve separation between strategic and local traffic.

Video From UTV Player

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The present consultation ends on Thursday 30th June 2011 and deals with Roads Service’s objectives for all road schemes that should reflect the Government’s overarching five objectives for transport:

• Environment – to protect the built and natural environment;

• Safety – to improve safety;

• Economy – to support sustainable economic activity and good value for money;

• Accessibility – to improve access to facilities for people with disabilities and those without a car and to reduce severance; and

• Integration – to ensure that all decisions are taken in the context of the Government’s integrated transport policy.

Our main interest at Right To Ride regarding the proposed project is one of the Government’s five objectives for transport which is to improve safety.


Therefore our position on any chosen option for the junction must be as safe as possible for motorcyclists.

This includes the road surface, the position of painted lines and what paint is used; the type of crash barriers (guard rails and median barriers), crash cushions (primarily serve to decelerate errant vehicles to a complete stop) and end terminals on guard rails.

However, riders have identified an issue with the current construction of the M3 Lagan Bridge specifically, the bridge joints.

Bridge Joints

In October 2010 Right To Ride reported that riders had voiced concerns and were warning other riders of the hazard of new joints on the M3 Lagan Bridge in Belfast.

According to Roads Service the bridge joints where replaced during June and August to ensure their continued high performance in coping with today’s traffic volumes.

The joints appear to be fine in dry weather and were intended to be an improvement to the “dips” prevalent in the previous joints, (which were only a few inches wide but created a slight jolt when ridden over).  However the new joints are nearly 2 feet wide and riders have found that they cause their motorcycles to lose grip when these joints are negotiated in wet weather.

In communication with Roads Service, the DBFO Co (Design, Build, Finance and Operate Contracts), the designers and the joint manufacturer assured us that they are taking this issue very seriously and are actively investigating the issue.

Roads Service informed us that, “There have been numerous discussions with the DBFO Company on this issue over the past 2 months. Testing has been undertaken and we have been in discussion with the DBFO Company regarding the results.  Action currently lies with the DBFO Company to review the test results and liaise with the joint manufacturer to conclude if they plan to carry out any remedial works.

The independent consultant who is monitoring these joints is being kept informed of progress has been made aware of this issue throughout the testing period. The 12 month monitoring period ends in August 2011, hence I am hoping a conclusion to this issue will be resolved by then.”

One rider recently contacted us and stated, “As a few weeks ago, I was heading towards Bangor and was stuck in traffic jam just before M3 starts to elevate …. As I crossed one of the joints at about 10mp-15mph, the back wheel spun out .. it had been raining previously , so the joint was wet. And to be honest, every time it rains and I cross any of the joints on the bend, I get a nice wee front AND rear wobble.”

The issue is not about the speed when crossing the joints, there is a 50mph speed limit on this section of the M3 Lagan Bridge, it is the grip.  Perhaps this type of joint has no requirement for in-service skid/slip resistance or Polished Skid Resistance Value in road safety standards.

Perhaps there are standards which take into account skid and slip resistance but do not take into account that a motorcycle as a “single track” vehicle, performs in a vastly different manner than a vehicle with four wheels or more.

Therefore it is our opinion that the “new construction” should take into consideration motorcyclists in the fitting of any bridge joints.

Read the issue in full on Right To Ride regarding the present bridge joints on the M3 Lagan Bridge in Belfast – Click Here

Safety Barrier Provision

Contained in the report, “York Street Interchange Preliminary Options Report Vol 1” is a section which refers to the provision of safety barriers.

Although the report considers that safety barriers, “must meet crash-testing guidelines for the type of road being designed”, it also details that, “the design of a safety barrier system is an important detail that will contribute to the overall look or theme of the Preliminary Option design; therefore, in addition to safety, the selection of an appropriate barrier design should include aesthetic considerations.”

The report states that, “The requirements of Design Standard TD 19/06: Requirement for Road Restraint Systems (DMRB 2.2.8) have been considered in the development of the Preliminary Options.” and that the provision of safety barrier will be investigated in detail in the assessment.

Department of the Environment’s (DOE), “Northern Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy To 2020” states regarding roads that it will:

  •  Consider the needs and vulnerability of motorcyclists when designing new roads and implementing safety measures on existing roads.

It further states regarding motorcycle “friendly” barriers:

  •  Consider provision of specific route treatments for popular motorcycle ‘runs’ such as motorcycle ‘friendly’ barriers and additional signing.

By combining these two statements, motorcyclists should be considered when designing new roads and recognise the option that motorcycle “friendly” barriers are available.

Motorcycle friendly barrier systems have not received an acceptable European wide standard.  However, at a recent CEN (European Committee for Standardization) technical committee on road equipment (TC226) in Stockholm opted for a Technical Specification regarding motorcycle friendly barrier systems that are added to original barriers and original barrier systems that have motorcycle friendly aspects. This Technical Specification, TS1317-8, is now available for countries to adopt.

However in the UK various “Motorcycle Friendly Barrier” systems are available to road engineers. These systems usually consist of a lower rail or covering that protects the exposed posts of the barrier. Other protection involves the post itself being protected with a covering.

For example Bikeguard in the UK is fully tested to BS EN 1317 part 2 and fully approved by the Highways Agency for use on the UK trunk road network. (“HA Accepted EN1317 Compliant Road Restraint Systems”) as is Flexguard and Biker Safe which have been tested to meet the standards EN1317 and UNE 135900 relating to vehicle and dummy post impact tests respectively.

There are other various designs of these under guard rails as well as protection for the upright posts of guardrails, which have been utilized by authorities across Europe.

Crash Cushions – End Terminals

By observing sections of guard rails at the start and end, they will either taper off into the ground or they will be fitted with an end terminal.

These are usually painted with black and yellow diagonal stripes, so you can see them clearly, just as you are about to hit them, the European Roads Assessment Programme (Eurorap) has christened them “terminators” as regards to motorcycling.

There is a more “motorcycle friendly” pad which can cover these terminals and crash cushions which are more forgiving regarding other vehicles.

However both are primarily there serve to decelerate errant vehicles to a complete stop, so hitting any of these on a motorcycle or the rider him/herself will most likely end in injury or worse.

They are there to protect vehicle users from impacting the end of barriers, toll plazas, bridge piers and other hazards, but for motorcyclists they should not be more dangerous than the object they are trying to protect.

Manhole – Service Covers

Another issue that affects motorcyclists are metallic manhole or service covers these offer almost no traction, and are slippery when wet.
Although it is not clear if these will be placed in the road regarding this project it is worth mentioning the issues and solutions regarding these.
The IHIE Guidelines for Motorcycling, which we understand Northern Irelands Roads Service takes notice off, sets out several times the issue of Manhole Covers or Service Covers – Utility Covers.
“When redesigning an existing layout consider the position and level of utility covers, especially on bends and within braking or steering areas. Avoid forcing riders to over-run them whenever possible. If it is unavoidable, use covers with a skid resistance similar to the surrounding road surface.”
Solutions are available through products at Grip Top – www.griptop.co.uk and through the Get A Grip campaign – www.getagripuk.org


Whatever option is chosen for the new road interchange at York Street, our concern is with the layout and construction that simply must take into consideration motorcycles and their riders.

Those involved in the construction should not use the excuse or reasoning that the standards for construction, the road infrastructure and the fitting of objects to it have simply been fulfilled.

Motorcycles behave differently than other vehicles. The new road interchange at York Street offers an opportunity to fully consider that difference by incorporating a motorcycle friendly road infrastructure and build a road that takes into consideration ALL road users.


York Street Interchange – Public Consultation information leaflet – Click Here

York Street Interchange Preliminary Options Report Vol1 – Click Here

Right To Right Virtual Library on Crash Barriers – Click Here

Read More

Read the issue in full on Right To Ride regarding the present bridge joints on the M3 Lagan Bridge in Belfast – Click Here

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