Cyclists forced into crossing Luas tracks at shallow angles increasing risk, researchers find

— A crossing angle of at least 60 degrees and closer to 90 degrees reduces risk of falls.

People cycling are often forced into situations where they have little alternative than to cross tram tracks at shallow angles which increases the risk of calls, researchers in Dublin have found.

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The research using hours of video footage where people cycling across tram tracks found that roughly 3 in every 1,000 cyclists faced issues relating to the tram tracks.

Nearby or passing vehicles, including other bicycles, and the road layout were found to be contributing factors in falls on the tram tracks.

“Visual assessment of the footage across the city highlighted that most unsuccessful crossings involved obstacles that limited crossing angle, ie kerbs or nearby/passing vehicles/other cyclists. Many cases involved passing/nearby vehicles, aligning with international findings that traffic pressure contributes to many falls on tram tracks,” they wrote in an RTÉ Brainstorm article.

RTÉ Brainstorm is a regular feature on RTE.ie which is described as where the academic and research community can contribute to public debate. The full research paper is due to be published in the Journal of Safety Research.

The authors wrote: “Our findings support guidelines from the recently revised Cycle Design Manual, that infrastructural planners should aim for intuitive, self-explainable road layouts that allow for and encourage crossing angles of 60° or more – ideally 90°. However, it is clear from our analysis that cyclists are often forced to cross at shallower angles throughout Dublin, highlighting a clear area for improvement.”

The researchers said that the angle of crossing tram tracks is a “strong predictor” as to if a cyclist will cross the tram tracks safely.

“Logistic regression modelling was used to establish the relationships between cyclist velocity, crossing angle and crossing success. As expected, we found that the angle at which a cyclist crosses tram tracks is a strong predictor of whether they’ll make it across safely,” they wrote. “On the other hand, cyclist velocity didn’t have a statistically significant effect. The model allows for estimation of the likelihood of crossing success based on the angle at which a cyclist crosses.”

The research was carried out by Dr Kevin Gildea at Lund University in Sweden and Daniel Hall, Clara Mercadal-Baudart, Prof Ciaran Simms, and Prof Brian Caulfield at TCD in Dublin.

4 comments

  1. The NTA back in the day refused to consider rubber inserts in the tracks at set crossing points because they would ‘wear out too often’ – but they have never actually trialled this system as far as I know – and if they got a few months out of them, why not use them? There only needs to be a thin painted crossing point at key spots like on College Green to Dame Street etc.,

    Wouldn’t be hard to at least paint thin crossing points to help get the angle right.

    Even a little raised area would help to make more of a minor ‘jump’ to avoid the slide on the metal into the groove- which is 10x more dangerous when tracks are wet.

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  2. Even a simple measure such a swing-space would greatly help cyclists cross the track at safe angles when turning. I suggested this to DCC numerous times for the junction of Parnell St and Parnell Sq West where it is almost impossible to turn right without catching in the tracks or bunny-hopping! A small indent into the traffic island would allow cyclists to swing left before turning right at a far safer angle.

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  3. The very first time I encountered them, when they had been laid down bit the Luas wasn’t running yet, I got BOTH wheels stuck in one of the tracks on Adelaide Road. My front wheel slid in and I couldn’t turn (or brake properly), then the back wheel slid in, before being ejected violently and painfully.
    My wife fell off her bike a few years later on the tracks at Eden Quay I think.

    Honestly I’m surprised at the very low incident numbers reported here. They’re a really dangerous design. You quickly learn to make fairly sharp turns when crossing them, avoiding the shallow angle issue here, but that puts you at greater risk to other vehicles.

    I’ve heard some other European tram systems use some kind of spring-loaded or rubber cover that allows the tram wheels to pass through while protecting bike wheels from slipping into the groove. Wish they’d seriously considered that here.

    Reply

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