Tar snakes ... not to be confused with real snakes!
Dangerous roadworks with a mass of slippery “tar snakes” or liquid tar crack sealant have now been repaired and warning signs installed in a win for motorcycle riders.
It’s too late for the three motorcyclists and one cyclist who crashed on the dodgy roadworks on Mt Tamborine Rd, but a win for all the other recreational riders who use what’s referred to as “the Goat Track”.
The admission that the liberal use or overuse of crack sealant was not safe is also a win for riders around the country who grapple with dodgy and lazy roadworks and clean-up after they are finished.
TV crews and local media arrived to be greeted by a Main Roads crew photographing and surveying the site, but no repairs were done.
This week a Main Roads team of geotechnical experts was sent by Minister Mark Bailey to investigate the “tar snake” repairs.
Last night, a Transport and Main Roads spokesperson issued this statement:
Due to community concerns, an inspection of the hairpin bend on Tamborine Mountain Road was carried out by Transport and Main Roads’ maintenance contractor.
Maintenance has since been undertaken to provide a smoother road surface.
Road users are reminded to drive and ride to the conditions and take note of all advisory and warning road signage.
The corner, where the crack sealant is in place, is clearly signed with a maximum 20km/h advisory speed limit on both traffic lanes.
‘Slippery’ warning signs have also been installed on the approaches to this sharp curve.
The tar snakes, or liquid tar crack sealant, are on a hairpin corner of Mt Tamborine Rd, about 1.5km north of the Canungra turnoff.
The TMR also says: “This method of crack sealing is commonly used on roads across Australia.”
However, that doesn’t make it right.
A recent Austroads report says crack sealant has low skid resistance and may be more dangerous to motorcyclists than the cracks themselves.
One of the crashed riders, primary school principal Lex Bowden, said fixing the roadworks could “save the life of a father or mother”.
His Hayabusa hit a tar snake, skidded off the road and down a steep embankment. He was lucky to escape with minor bruising.
“I’m not sure exactly what repairs have been done but it seems the emphasis is still on the assumption that the rider was at fault and was speeding,” Lex says.
“It still seems as though they accept the practice of using tar snakes on sharp bends is safe. If they still have this mindset, then the problem will just move to the next corner that they have covered in tar snakes.
“It’s unfortunate that they cannot look at how they had repaired the corner and clearly see it was not safe for bike riders. It seems like total ignorance of what is necessary for bike safety.
“I wonder if the Minister’s kids ride bikes … would more thought go into proper road repairs?
“I’m glad they’ve fixed that corner. I’m sure it will save future riders from a slide that my cost them their lives. I’m lucky. It just cost me my bike. It got written off today and has left my a few thousand dollars out of pocket. But it could have been so much worse. ”
The Motorcycle Riders’ Association of Queensland described the Mt Tamborine patch-up repair job as “careless”.
“The long crack repairs are a problem but more so the large area repairs that have been done with the liquid tar fill because they now make a greater single area of low traction which will cause a two wheel vehicle to loose control,” an MRAQ statement says.
“This system of road maintenance is a low-cost one aimed solely at preventing water entry into the road surface which could cause further deterioration.
“However little or no consideration of vulnerable road users appears to be taken into consideration when this type of repair is done and in this particular instance the repair type appears to have been done in excess of any reasonable limit.”
The statement says Main Roads is using high-traction aggregate mixtures to resurface other roads with tight corners such as the M1 turn-off to the Gateway.
“Unfortunately it appears only to be used on higher-volume road surfaces,” the MRAQ says.
“Consideration of the traction quality of the road surface and in particular when performing any repairs must be part of the final solution mix and the MRAQ calls upon all levels of government and road construction contractors to have much greater consideration of the whole vehicle fleet that use our roads when formulating any program of road repair or construction.”
The MRAQ also expressed concern about “excessively large areas of road profiling left unfinished when resealing or resurfacing is being performed” and loose material left behind after road repairs.
“A greater duty of care needs to be considered by all those concerned with the building and repair of Queensland roads,” the MRAQ says.
The shoddy repairs on Mt Tamborine are an example of shoddy roadworks that are endemic throughout our nation.
The repairs to the repairs is a win for riders and sets a precedent for other shoddy repairs, although it falls short of an admission of guilt.
Too many road repairs are done on the cheap and the roadworks crews do not properly tidy up afterwards, leaving behind lumpy tar snakes, gravel and other potential hazards to motorcyclists.
This has led to many motorcycle crashes, injuries and even deaths. It should not be tolerated. We need to report shoddy roadworks and thump our chest about it – as has been done on this occasion – until something is done to fix the problem.
Yes, we should all ride to the conditions, but when the conditions are changed by unexpected shoddy roadworks procedures, we should demand something better of our governments.
Motorcycles are the fastest-growing motorised sector and we are the most vulnerable road users. Those two factors mean more effort should be put into protecting motorcyclists, particularly from expedient and shoddy road repairs like this.