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Letters: Light rail tracks pose a safety risk to cyclists and motorcyclists


I had pause for reflection recently whilst lying sprawled in the middle of the A662 in Droylsden, Manchester, over the wisdom of mixing rails for light rail systems with tarmac for road users.

The two are clearly designed to do different jobs as I found out to my cost when crossing the rails by bicycle.

Whilst repairing my bike with the assistance of a nearby motorcycle shop I learnt that my experience was not a one off , with a number of motorcyclists having come off their bikes in the last few weeks on this section of road alone.

These events have clearly not escaped the attention of the local authority as once I continued my journey I met regular warning signs advising cyclists to take care crossing the rails. If this situation was only during the construction phase that would be one thing, but the permanent road and rail layout requires the acute crossing of the rails at a number of places where the Metrolink line leaves the road alignment.

Clearly my accident will not be the last on this section of road, which is one of the main routes to the nearby National Cycling Centre, and I question whether the CDM responsibility of the scheme designer to avoid foreseeable risks to health and safety can be discharged through the provision of copious warning signs.

  • John Rigby-Jones (M), director, RJM Ground Solutions,

Readers' comments (7)

  • Reliance on signage is equivalent to reliance on PPE to protect from hazards of work, and is equally as commonplace - and wrong. Much of Manchester's layout originated in a time when design for safety was not well developed, though I don't know about the specifics of the A662. Having been personally responsible during the 2000s for many many kilometres of complex integrated track/street layout design for Edinburgh, Dublin and Merseyside, I gave a huge amount of time and care to situations where two-wheelers, those with pushchairs or wheelchairs, need to cross the rails. In some limited circumstances, it is possible to do this with informal in-flow crossing 'zones' with angles of intersection (for 2-wheelers) of at least 15deg, ideally 30deg, and these would be most commonly used where a cyclist needed to turn right across tracks in the centre of the street to a side road, but also preceding nearside tramstop platforms. In these instances, road markings and signs are used to inform and guide only. However at busier road/rail crossings (eg busier street junctions, tramstops and such like, formal separation (or possibly segragation) of modes should prefix formal crossing using toucans or signals integrated into the junction signals.

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  • David Williams

    Yes, they are a hazard but at least Manchester's rails have a purpose. In Weymouth we also have rails but for us they serve no purpose whatsoever; they are a hangover from a bygone age during which a boat-train would be drawn through the streets to the Channel Island's ferry. It was fun to watch and must have been even more fun to ride.

    Since the demise of the ferry there has been a succession of proposals alternating between using and removing them. The opportunity for either has now passed; the £16 million of 'Olympic' money was spent on a 'Transport Package' that mostly comprised replacing three not-perfect but generally functional roundabouts with multi-lane intersections controlled by a forest of traffic lights.

    While local drivers remain unimpressed they, unlike those of us who cycle, are are protected in their steel safety cages. The control of these intersections encourages competitive driving and their multi-lane configuration obscures cyclists. By comparison, the tramlines are benign. and who knows? One day, someone with an imagination might do something useful with them.

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  • Will somebody please tell me what the point of a tramway is? Don't wheeled buses do the same job without the excessive cost (and danger, it seems) of laying a track?

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  • Where's all the other letters for this week?

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  • David Williams

    To answer David Watts's question:

    The point is access. While a tram is waiting at a tram stop the thresholds of the doors are only a few millimetres from the edge of the platform and at the same level; there is no gap and there is no step. When I first explored the Croydon tramway some years ago the thing that struck me most was how many wheelchair users there were and how they were all wheeling themselves on and off without assistance. The tram had returned to them a degree of independence.

    In contrast, when my wife and I visited the Hospital for Neurological Diseases in Queens square recently, getting her wheel chair on and off the 'wheel chair friendly' bus was a demeaning experience for both of us. It was not something she could have attempted on her own.

    The current fashion for raised kerbs at bus stops does not achieve the access of the tram. It depends upon on the driver getting the bus into exactly the same position at every stop, every time, every day of the year - simply not achievable.

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  • David Solan

    I'm also at a loss as to the benefits of trams vs buses.

    Wheelchair access on to buses is an interesting challenge. I'm certain that a more cost effective solution can be found than building a tramway.

    Presumably there are other benefits to trams that I'm not aware of?

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  • David Williams

    I think the answer to that has to be "see for yourself". Croydon is worth a visit for anyone making provision for disabled travel. I think it is difficult for anyone to begin to understand the difficulties and discomfort disabled travellers face without studying it. Perhaps there is a place for a Disability Awareness Course in Engineer training rather like there is a Speed Awareness Course for drivers.

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