Tram/bicycle integration report left to gather dust for years

IMAGE: The layout of the remaining space on Parnell Street in Dublin after the installation of Luas tram tracks (behind the tree line).

Rubber inset solutions to make Luas tracks safer for cycling “could be considered for high risk areas in an extension to the Luas network” said a report commissioned by the National Transport Authority a number of year ago. The document was finalised in 2012 before construction started on Luas Cross City, an extension of Dublin’s green line tram route.

The report, titled ‘International Experience of Cyclist/Tram Integration‘, said that “Bicycles must be integrated into tramway planning processes from the earliest stages” — however, a major review of the provision for cycling around the extended green line route only started months before it is due to open in December.

International consultants Jacobs, who authored the report, found that: “Separated routes are universally preferred, usually in the form of a grade separated cycle way, but sometimes in the form of a parallel low-traffic bicycle route.”

Jacobs looked at three types of solutions to fill in track gaps with rubber products — designed to compress down with the weight of trams but stay in place when bicycles cross, thus filling in the gaps which otherwise are an added risk to cycling. The products examined included VeloStrail, a large panel system with rubber near the tracks; the Phoenix Rail Filler, a rubber insert; and the Safety Profile for Grooved Rails.

The last product was deemed to be “recommended only for rarely frequented”, the report’s authors said: “This type of product (also offered by other manufacturers) is not suitable in its present form for use in heavily trafficked areas until the longevity issue is solved.”

However, while both the VeloStrail and Phoenix Rail Filler were viewed to be costly for widespread implementation, the consultants said the following of both: “This solution would require extensive demolition and rebuild if it were to be retrofitted to existing embedded sections of the Luas system but could be considered for high risk areas in an extension to the Luas network.”

It it understood that even limited use of rubber inserts were not used to avoid any extra costs. This echos the suspected reasons why the notorious new utilities cabinets on some of the city’s busiest footpaths, dubbed Luashenge on College Green, were not put underground.

Overall, the report’s main recommendations are:

  • Separated routes are universally preferred, usually in the form of a grade separated cycle way, but sometimes in the form of a parallel low-traffic bicycle route.
  • Bicycles must be integrated into tramway planning processes from the earliest stages
  • Facilities should where possible facilitate right-angle turns by cyclists
  • Additional cyclists and motorist education (in terms of safety warning and alternative routes)
  • Leave sufficient space between tram track and platform curb such that bicycles can proceed safely or provide sufficient advanced warning and opportunity for the cyclist to cross the rail.
  • Cycle lane detours behind the tram stop are not generally a preferred facility type, but if they are used care must be taken on downhill alignments to keep bicycle speeds low and avoid conflicts with pedestrians.
  • Lowering vehicle volumes and speeds on tram routes can create safer conditions for cyclists when crossing the rail as they have more time and feel less threatened by the traffic flow.

It is unclear from the report what supports the conclusion that “cycle lane detours behind the tram stop are not generally a preferred facility type” — this design is common on streets in the Netherlands where there is no space for car lanes in both sides of tram tracks. The design, which is the tram equivalent of a “bus stop bypass“, is used on some of the most central and busiest streets of Amsterdam.

ALSO WATCH AND READ: Cyclists Vs. Rails in Zurich

3 Comments

  1. Odin wept. :(

  2. The work I did with HMRI and NET is mentioned in TO 29 and I have more recently been involved with the UK approvals for use of veloSTRAIL on mainline railways plus STRAILastic rail embedding systems.

    Research into cyclists’ falls in Toronto revealed the major influence of other road users in triggering the loss of control in locations where the riders had regularly crossed rails without incident. Surface repairs for the pavement abutting the rails also plays a part, as experienced riders report loss of control and can clearly identify the feature causing it, and in many cases this was not the groove.

    Bear in mind that TO29 noted that the original arrangement of running trams down the MIDDLE of the street was a better solution, as it was for the major expansion of many systems, and current projects in many cities across Europe, often with grass to deliver a carbon credit and many other benefits to the city (1 ha grass (2Km of double track tramway) converts COx and NOx into oxygen for 166 adults, and filters out PM’s, and attenuates flood surge)

    Happy to discuss incidents and possibly tackle more detailed review.

  3. It’s interesting that you mention other road users being a major influence. This is certainly my experience with the track around college green, although I never actually fell. Being squeezed between the rails and a continuous flow of cars reduced my ability to cross the rails at a decent angle when they started to curve across my path.

    I’ve noticed cyclist complaints here being discounted by saying that rails on roads work fine lots of other places and cyclists in Dublin just need to learn how to handle their bikes properly. This is true to some extent but it does seem that there are a significant amount of issues with rails on road in other cities but because they are not headline incidents people just assume they never happen. I’m aware of Edinburgh having some problems and I’d be interested to know roughly what percentage of accidents in the centres of cities like Amsterdam are due to tram tracks. We are given to assume it is 0 at the moment which I doubt is true. It also seems that they might have better separation between cars and cycles which, as you say, seems to be a significant factor.

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