100% Biker 188

100% Biker 188
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Last month, several hundred motorcyclists turned out in East Anglia to demonstrate against the installation of wire barriers. And every biker in the UK should take note of the A11 Riders Action Group’s protest.

While hitting any road barrier presents a danger to a motorcycle, wire barriers – officially known as Wire Rope Barrier Fences – considerably raise the chance of serious injury or death. Along with the ‘cheese wire’, WBRFs also have, unlike traditional ‘w-beam’ barriers, exposed sharp-edged metal posts at frequent intervals. In 2005, German safety body, DEKRA, and the University of Monash in Australia concluded that the combination of wire and posts presented an unavoidable danger to every rider involved in a WRBF accident.

The Highways Agency, Transport Scotland, the Welsh Assembly and the Department for Regional Development Northern Ireland all use the ‘Design Manual For Roads And Bridges Requirement For Road Restraint Systems’ which describes the procedures for the design and provision of barriers. It includes a risk-based framework to make the right choice for a particular road.

Motorcyclists are ignored. In fact, the document actually states that ‘The Road Restraint Risk Assessment Process (RRRAP) is not capable, at present, of assessing the risk to motorcyclists.’
Of the A11, a Highways Agency spokesman said that ‘wire rope safety fence has been installed because it is a compliant, approved system and is deemed to be an appropriate safety measure for this location’. It was also pointed out by the Highways Agency that there ‘has been no significant accident history regarding motorcycles’ on the A11 New Elveden bypass. This could be down to the fact that it’s a new road and not even fully open…

Quite simply, European testing standards for road barriers ignore motorcycles. That’s not dramatic rhetoric – no mention is even made in those standards of motorcycles, despite the fact that, in a collision with a crash barrier, a rider is 15 times more likely to be killed than someone in a car. WRBFs have been used in the UK since 1972, but there is a surprising lack of accident statistics. European riders’ rights body, FEMA, has, however, stated ‘In Scotland, between 1990 and 2005, the fatality rate for impacting motorcyclists is 100% for wire rope barriers against 58.3% for other barrier types. In England from 1992 to 2005, the fatality rate is 66.7% for wire rope barriers against 58.7%.’ Small wonder that countries such as Holland and Norway are banning them. 

In 2011, a draft proposal for EU document (EN1317-8) set out a standard which would have meant an end to the use of WRBFs on European roads. The UK voted against it.  

The bottom line is that WRBFs are considerably cheaper than w-beam barriers, making them attractive to the Highways Agency and local authorities, although repair costs – and WRBFs have to be repaired after even minor damage – are three times higher than those of conventional barriers. Perhaps we should have realised all along that this is about money, not safety, and a biker’s life is always considered to be cheap.