Crash Barriers

This page to be updated – Shortly to reflect new information!

In December 2008 EuroRAP published a document – EuroRap – Barriers to Change: designing safe roads for motorcyclists – December 2008 pdf 2.4mb position paper on motorcycles and crash barriers.

Right To Ride’s Trevor Baird, was part of the panel who produced the document, as then representative of the Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA). Northern Ireland’s Department for Regional Development and Southern Irelands, National Roads Authority (NRA) were also part of the panel, so they are no strangers to the issues in Ireland as a whole.

The EuroRAP document commented that:

  • “Barrier support posts are particularly aggressive, irrespective of the barriers’ other components, causing a five-fold increase in injury severity compared to the average motorcycle crash.”

However, the panel’s position, reached by consensus (not all agreed), on wire rope barriers must be challenged.

The panel concluded that:

  • “despite the amount of high profile coverage that wire rope barriers have attracted, limited research does not warrant the inference that they are more or less dangerous than other types of barrier on the market.”

A study by DEKRA (Germany) and the University of Monash (Australia) carried out in 2005 contradicts this position and stated that:

  • “In all simulations the motorcycle slides along the wires until it hits a post, squeezing and trapping the rider’s leg against the wires as it does so. The post contact causes the motorcycle’s front wheel to snag lifting the front of the motorcycle up and throwing the rider’s torso and head forward.”
  • “Because the rider’s leg is trapped between the motorcycle and the wire ropes and the foot snags in the ropes, the head and torso slap into the front of the rising motorcycle. Eventually the leg becomes free as the motorcycle rotates and the rider is then catapulted over the barrier”

Mystery Solved EN1317-8 – Click Here

Potted History – Click Here

Motorcycle Friendly

Motorcycle Friendly barrier systems have not received an acceptable European wide standard.

However in the UK there are available to road engineers various “Motorcycle Friendly Barrier” systems which appear to focus on a sliding impact which can be fitted to barriers already in place.

These systems usually consist of a lower rail or covering that protects the exposed posts of the barrier being stuck. Other protection involves the post itself being protected with a covering.

However although these “Motorcycle Friendly Barrier” systems have passed a national standard for motorcyclist protection which does not affect the “operation” of the original barrier, there is no European wide standard for these motorcycle friendly systems.

Bikeguard – April 2009 pdf 3.7mb

Biker Safe – Energy Absorbent External Website

Flexguard pdf 1.1mb

Biker Mate – Crash Cushion for Roadside Objects External Website

What Should Happen!

Understandably road authorities and engineers have constraints and budgets to work within for the placement of crash barriers or vehicle restraint systems on Northern Ireland roads, but there does not appear to be any statistics that present data for motorcycles impacting these systems.

Road authorities in Europe, responsible for the fitment of crash barriers, should be encouraged not to be influenced solely by short term “commercial” cost benefit analysis which may exclude motorcycles, simply because they represent a minority of road users.

While engineering solutions may strive to protect the majority (i.e. cars), the long term impact may be far more costly due to the lack of consideration of motorcyclists and their injuries.

Motorcycle Friendly Barriers that are added to barriers in place should be considered and fitted where there is a risk to motorcyclists hitting barriers and consideration to the placement of new barriers and a review/audit of barriers already in place.

There should be a reconsideration of the use of Wirerope Barriers in Europe.

This in consideration that road safety engineers are responsible for designing the road network to be as safe as possible, for all types of road user.

They design road safety engineering schemes to reduce the number and severity of casualties and to prevent them in the first place.

Your Opinion

As always on motorcycling issues we welcome your thoughts and opinions.

Car impacting Wirerope barrier – Click Here Windows Media Player 1.1mb

View our Guardrail Album – Click Here

Virtual Library section – Click Here

What’s The Problem Then?

While we assume that Vehicle Restraint Systems fitted in Northern Ireland have passed European Standards (Committee of European Normalization (CEN – EN1317) there appears to be no specific European standard for motorcyclist protection for impacting crash barriers, either while the motorcyclist is in an upright position or sliding on impact.

According to a study by the European Union Road Federation (ERF), the Brussels Programme Centre of the International Road Federation (IRF) “Discussion Paper February 2009”, the severity of the impact increases if the road restraint system (when present) is not designed for the protection of motorcyclists.

The problem is the exposed posts of any barrier system being struck by a falling rider, wirerope barriers being the most “aggressive” of systems with its exposed posts either for a sliding rider or a rider on a motorcycle impacting in an upright position at whatever angle.

Therefore barrier systems that have passed European standards are fitted on the roads but are not motorcycle friendly specific.

Computer Simulation wirerope barrier sliding rider no protection right view Windows Media Player 9.49mb

Computer Simulation wirerope barrier sliding rider no protection left view Windows Media Player 8.7mb

Computer Simulation wirerope barrier sliding rider with protection right view Windows Media Player 4.52mb

Wired Up – Northern Ireland Gets More Wire Rope Barriers

It seems that Northern Ireland is getting wired up with the fitting of Wirerope/Cable barriers (Vehicle Restraint Systems).

We first noticed these barriers in Belfast, situated at the junction of Tesco’s at Newtownbreda, however stretches of wirerope barriers have been and are now being fitted on the A1 Dual Carriageway between Belfast and Newry.

The new A1 Beech Hill to Cloghogue dual carriageway (Newry By-pass), has open ahead of schedule on the 29th July 2010, which means that motorists can now travel between Belfast and Dublin in less that two hours.

However the 12km stretch at a cost of just over £150million and was part funded by the European Union, TEN-T (Trans-European Network Transport) Programme, seems to have ignored the exposure to risk of motorcyclists by installing a wire rope barrier system.

Read Right To Ride’s comments – Click Here

The wirerope barriers being fitted in Northern Ireland on the A1 Dual Carriageway between Belfast and Newry by Highway Barrier Solutions – Click Here

On Wednesday 23rd February 2011 the Roads Minister Conor Murphy, officially opened the £45million A2 Maydown to City of Derry Airport dualling scheme.

At the launch the Minister said: “The completion of this £45million project is an important step forward for the people of the northwest. The new dual carriageway will help ease congestion, resulting in improved safety and journey times for traffic travelling on this route.”

However what is clear at Right To Right is that when the Minister says that the “project” will result in improved safety for traffic travelling on this route, he has again forgotten about one mode of transport and that is the motorcycle and their riders.

A2 Bikers against Rope Barriers – (BARB)

Local members of the motorcycle fraternity were spurred into public action in 2011 and formed into an organized group called, A2 Bikers against Rope Barriers – (BARB)

The group unanimously agreed that a wrong and lethal decision has now been made by Roads Service, supposedly on our behalf, resulting in a 100% rejection by bikers, of this type of Vehicle Restraint System chosen for this stretch of road.

BARB continues by saying, “Either by a mistake or design, this decision has resulted in exposing a fundamental safety flaw.”

“It is our view as lay people that instead of decreasing a greater daily risk to us motorcyclists, it has multiplied the daily risk who have to use this stretch of road in the future. “

“This is compared to other types of safety barrier choices that were available to the engineers at the time.

Although at that time Right To Ride along with the British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) in Northern Ireland, were 100% behind B.A.R.B. and supported BARB’s  mission, “to stop DRD Roads Division from updating/upgrading our roads infrastructure with any more anti motorcycling safety rope barriers until an alternative suitable barrier has been agreed by all parties for this road and past and future development.” the group did not seem to carry the campaign forward!

Read the BARB full press release and information – pdf 126kb – Click Here

Cost – Maintenance – Injuries

The – Road Design for Future Maintenance – Life-cycle Cost Analyses for Road Barriers – document from Sweden by Karim Hawzheen looks at repair rates for barriers and associated repair costs as one of the major maintenance costs for road barriers and analyses the effect of several factors on barrier repairs costs, such as barrier type, road type, posted speed and seasonal effect.

The document also looks at the injuries associated with road barrier collisions and the corresponding influencing factors. The results showed significant differences in the number of injuries associated with collisions with different barrier types.

Some Conclusions

These are some of the conclusions from the document and we hope that the Roads Service can take note with the continued extensive fitting of wire-rope barriers in Northern Ireland.

The repair rate and the average repair cost per vehicle kilometre for median cable barriers is higher than for median w-beam barriers, regardless of road type.

The repair rate for median barriers along motorways can probably be almost halved by using w-beam barriers instead of cable barriers.

The rate of injuries associated with barrier collisions in Sweden is higher on roads equipped with cable barriers than on roads equipped with the other barrier types studied.

Road Design for Future Maintenance – Life-cycle Cost Analyses for Road Barriers – March 2011 pdf 1.78mb


  1. SMART Road Restraint Systems Project Final Event – April 23-25th – European Parliament

    The SMART RRS Project Final Event “European standard guardrails are death traps for motorcyclists” will take place from Monday 23rd to Wednesday 25th of April, 2012 at the European Parliament in Brussels, hosted by MEPs Wortmann-Kool (The Netherlands) and Ayala-Sender (Spain).

    Over three days the problem of motorcyclists and guardrails at the heart of Europe will be addressed, aiming at improving current standard guardrails, illustrating a major breakthrough in the improvement of guardrails for road users in general, and the safety of motorcyclists in particular.

    The Event includes:

    An Exhibition & Reception, on April 24th at 6:00pm – ground floor ASP Area Galerie Cafétéria – will showcase the cornerstone of the project and main final product, a fully functional road restraint system using integrated sensors and communication channels to transmit data on road conditions and accidents;

    A Lunch Debate at the Parliament’s Members Salon, on April 25th at 12:30pm, addressing the European challenge with motorcyclists’ protective guardrails.

    The exhibition will be open from April 23rd through April 25th.

    Details Click Here

    For further information about :

    - the guardrail problem, visit the FEMA campaign website – Click Here

    - the SMART RRS project, visit the project’s website – Click Here

    Contact: – Tel. +32(0)2 736 90 47

  2. Learn-2-Ride opposes the installation and use of lethal wire safety barriers in Northern Ireland on the grounds of motorcyclist safety, calls for a more motorcyclist-friendly solution to be implemented and fully supports Righttoride in this matter.

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