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.
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