Street redesigns needed at Luas tracks to reduce bicycles slipping on tram tracks — TCD study

To reduce the number of bicycle falls around Luas tram tracks rubber inserts into tracks are likely only a suitable solution for a small number of high-risk locations and focusing on education is unlikely to be effective alone. A new study by Trinity College Dublin researchers instead suggests street redesigns as the main solution.

The study is the first of its kind to use computer-aided video trajectory and fall analysis to plot the direction and type of falls across tram tracks.

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The paper, ‘Computer vision-based assessment of cyclist-tram track interactions for predictive modeling of crossing success’, was published last month in the Journal of Safety Research. It was compiled by TCD researchers Kevin Gildea, Daniel Hall, Clara Mercadal-Baudart, Brian Caulfield, and Ciaran Simms.

The authors said that their analysis focuses on weekdays, and peak commuting hours. They said that while initially, their sample included both dry and wet conditions, “a significant preliminary analysis found no falls during dry conditions” and that previous research shows that “Wet road conditions are a significant factor for cyclist falls on tracks.”

As previously reported, the researchers found that people cycling being forced into crossing Luas tracks at shallow angles increases the risk of falling. Authorities should “encourage crossing angles of 60 degrees or more ideally 90 degrees”.

Researchers found that 92% of unsuccessful crossings of tracks “involved obstacles that limit crossing angle, ie, kerbs or nearby/passing vehicles/other cyclists. Many cases involved passing/nearby motorised vehicles…”

This led the authors to recommend that “physical separation of cyclists from tram tracks be prioritised, and at locations where cyclists are expected to cross tracks, sufficient space should be available for safe approach and exit angles.”

This includes segregated cycle paths and, in some cases, relatively simple adjustments of kerbs. One of the suggestions is using jughandle-shaped turns for people cycling to line them up at close to 90 degrees to the tracks.

The researchers said that authorities should also look at track design modifications including the positioning or alignment of tracks, reducing vehicle traffic and speeds in urban areas with tram tracks, and rubber/plastic rail fillers.

Regarding track inserts, however, the researchers warn: “There are effectiveness and feasibility concerns. One potential issue is that the fillers may not fit perfectly into the gap between the tram tracks and the road surface, which could lead to other safety issues.”

Such inserts might be mainly a viable solution in areas with a high risk of cyclist falls or where there is a large volume of cycling traffic such as at College Green. But even at that, the researchers say that “further assessment is required.”

At Westmoreland St./College St. failed crossing of the tracks was due to the proximity of a kerb and also likely influenced by traffic pressures, and the curvature of the tracks. The crossing angles at this location were on average 17 degrees vs. 43 degrees overall. The authors suggest that this could be improved by widening the space available at this location to “allow for safe crossing angles would likely have a significant effect” on the number of unsuccessful crossings.

READ MORE: Computer vision-based assessment of cyclist-tram track interactions for predictive modeling of crossing success

11 comments

  1. Turning from College Green right onto Dame street is very tricksy- there is no time to think or slow down and get the angle right with cars, buses pushing up behind you as you move across 2 lanes, including tram tracks.
    Perhaps they could reduce the footpath outside Trinity and get a cycle lane in- which they should have done in the first place when planning Luas. Or at least a pausing spot where you can sit safely before crossing.

    Reply
  2. I frequently observe traffic flows through College Green from Regent House (Trinity) as it gives an overview of the interactions of bike users with the tram tracks and the permitted traffic.
    One obvious issue is the sheer number of taxis that run through this area, most with no fare on board.
    The other issue is how close following vehicles come up to bike and scooter users in the zone – tailgating is unnerving for these riders. One mistake could lead to a fall and crushing under a taxi or bus/coach.

    Reply
    • Stopping abruptly in the middle of the street might be something a limo driver does, but it’s dangerous and cyclists shouldn’t be forced to do it. Plus it relies on them making an informed judgement, and if they’re a new cyclist or haven’t encountered that situation before, they’re not guaranteed to make the right call.

      Instead of fobbing it off as the usual “education” problem, why not just fix the infrastructure?

      Reply
      • All road users have to make informed judgements. Why should cyclists be any different. On the one hand there are calls for more active travel initiatives. So how about more luas lines. Unfortunately the metal tracks are lethal to cyclists in the wet and also the wheels can get caught in them anyway. As a cyclist and motorcyclist too, I have to use my common sense no matter what type of transport I’m using. If you have to cross a tramline or go over a metal manhole cover, one has to use common sense and forward planning. not expect that being a cyclist means you stop for nothing. The road is a shared space, live with it.

        Reply
          • To be completely honest, I never do because I know how to cross them. I also don’t stop for red lights when cycling, but I am careful and respectful of others and always travel at a speed that I can manage to stop should I need to. As I professional driver the same applies. The road is not a race track. This applies to all types of transport, yes even bicycles.Your life is your own responsibility. Don’t expect others to always take responsibility for your actions. We all have to negotiate situations that aren’t ideal every day. We don’t need a nanny state.

            Reply
            • None of that really helps answer what I asked.

              You have gone off on an impressive number of tangents including thinking your above the law while your first comment was that it would somehow be “common sense” to dismount “for a few seconds” every time people encountered tram tracks.

              I’d love to see you dismount in the middle of the street in College Green etc. you might then realise why such an action would be not just unthinkable but plain daftness.

              Reply
  3. “Peter the ‘Libertarian’ Driver” is it?
    It’s not and shouldn’t be every one for themselves because some road users are more vulnerable (pedestrians and Cyclists) than others (lorry’s, Buses & Professional vehicles). Your simple cynicism sounds like the fare we hear on late night radio but it just bores people in intelligent discussion forums like this excellent site.

    Reply

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