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Euro riders support halt to wire rope barriers

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Wire rope barriers

Two European motorcyclist associations have lent their support to an Australian family’s campaign to halt the rollout of wire rope barriers (WRBs) and TV ads extolling their dubious “safety merits”.

Jan White’s husband, Phil, aged 60, died when his bike unavoidably hit a dead kangaroo on a 110km/h slightly sweeping bend of the Calder Highway in Victoria on November 5, 2017. Phil hit four support poles on the WRBs next to the road.

Click here to sign a petition against the rollout of WRBs.

Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads support
Phil and Jan White

The family now wants the Victorian Government to halt the WRB rollout and the associated “safety barrier” ad campaign.

She says her whole family is “heart-broken” by the “insensitive” ads.

“It’s devastating. It’s thoughtless and unfair. It’s causing all of us a great deal of pain and grief,” she says.

Euro support

The Belgium-based Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA) and Sveriges MotorCyklister (Sweden’s Motorcyclists or SMC) support Jan’s campaign and rebut the alleged safety of WRBs.

SMC spokeswoman Maria Nordqvist says WRBs are only safe for cars under 1500kg and not safe for motorcyclists and drivers of SUVs, trucks and buses.

FEMA general secretary Dolf Willigers says they oppose the installation of all dangerous barriers, including WRBs, particularly on bends.

“We are also opposed to the unjustified use of them in places where barriers are not really necessary. Also we are against not proper instalment, e.g. too close to the road,” he says.

Jan points out that the WRBs that her husband hit were close to the road despite being able to be positioned further away in a wide grassed median strip.

Maria says WRBs are also positioned too close to roadways in Sweden.

“The barriers are installed very close to the drive way here in Sweden which is a problem to riders and motorists(50 cm).  We need a recovery zone which just doesn’t exist,” Maria says.

“All research points out that there is a need of a roadside with no obstacles of at least 1.5-2 metres.

“There is hardly anywhere on a Swedish 2+1-road to park a car with for example a flat tyre. A result of this is that about 3-4 persons every year are killed when they are standing beside their car due to some technical problem. No one talked about this until a famous person was killed changing a tyre.  We tell our members to leave their vehicles and leave the road ASAP.”

The Victoria Country Fire Fire Authority has also criticised the rollout of WRBs, saying they are too close to the road and block access to crashes and bushfires

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Wire rope barriers close to road

Maria says the proximity of barriers close to the road has led to an increase in the costs of maintenance of damaged barriers with many WRBs replaced by concrete barriers.

“I am surprised that the road authorities in OZ aren’t aware of this fact since it was stated already 10 years ago in a doctor’s thesis,” she says.

“In countries like Australia and Sweden we have a lot of space.

“We should have enough room to create forgiving road sides as well as wider roads where the median barriers are installed further away from the roadside. In USA, the median barriers are installed 9-12 metres away.” 

WRBs in Europe

The European Commission has no official stance on WRBs and their use varies across Europe.

WRBs are used in Poland, Iceland, Romania, Sweden and the UK to a lesser extent, but are banned in Belgium and Norway, not supported by the Netherlands government and have never been used in Germany or other European countries.

“The fact that they are not installed at least suggests that the government and road authorities do not fancy them for whatever reason,” Dolf says.

FEMA understands and promotes the need to save motorists’ lives, “but the protection of motorists should not be at the expense of the life of motorcyclists,” Dolf says.

Sweden WRBs

Sweden is a glaring European exception where WRBs are used on a large scale.

“Every year several motorcycles are killed (in Sweden) in accidents with barriers, including cable-barriers,” Dolf says.

The Swedish Transport Administration (STA) reports an annual 10-20% fatality of motorcyclists in barrier accidents with WRBs representing 26% of those or 15 out of 57 casualties from 2004-17.

While Maria recognises the STA’s claim that WRBs have reduced head-on collisions, she says more lives could be saved with a different choice of barrier.

“A median barrier must protect not only from oncoming traffic, but also protect the road users who collide with them from serious injuries,” she says.

“This is not the case with cable barriers (WRBs). They are simply not designed for all road users, such as motorcyclists, motorists in SUVs, heavy trucks and buses. They are good for motorists in cars below 1500kg.”

Maria says research points out that the risk to riders of w-beam barriers (Armco) is the same as cable barriers because of the unprotected supporting poles.

In the case of Phil’s accident, he hit and knocked down four of the support posts.

Widow calls for halt on wire rope barrier adsWidow calls for halt on wire rope barrier ads support
Phil with his beloved Softail

Maria says she has also been in contact with the Motorcycle Riders Association of Victoria (formerly the Independent Riders’ Group) who support Jan’s call for a halt to WRBs.

  1. They make very good cordless angle grinders now. One of those is certainly a must have in the tool bag.
    I can imagine a lot of people improving the safety of these barriers that way.

    1. They are under tension so you’d want to be very careful doing something that stupid.

      1. Well Ferret, while I do not condone destruction of public property, the act would be completely safe. The ends of the wire rope would move away from the cutter and are remain controlled by the posts. A political solution is the only lasting remedy to this debacle.

  2. I know that in France, wire barriers are considered too dangerous for motorcyclists and have not been installed. May be the French association for riders, FFMC, could also support our cause in Australia

  3. Good article Mark.

    WRB is killing road users. We need a win in the Coroner’s Court to stop the carnage. It’s an election year in Victoria. Riders should go see their MPs and candidates. Talk to local media too. Election day – November 24. BAD ROADS RALLY – BENDIGO – November 18. Damien. MRA. Melbourne

  4. All barrier systems without post protection (continuous sheet metal that prevents a rider sliding under the barrier and hitting a post) are potential killers for motorcyclists, some in the UK had under barrier protection to prevent the posts killing people, but in many cases it has been removed as a maintenance cost saving measure. Wire barriers add to the problem with their ‘cheese wire’ effects, open top cars involved in collision with them are especially bad news.

  5. In NZ they are commonly called cheese cutters, as that is what a biker looks like they have gone through with these.

  6. Having seen two motorcyclists killed right in front of me during the last decade, by losing control;

    * one hitting concrete cultivate ten to fifteen metres from the road,


    * another hitting a tree six to seven metres off a bend,

    both deaths were instant, wire rope would have prevented both.

    The point is, a motorcyclist once they have lost control at speed on any street, road, highway or freeway will stop suddenly after hitting a fixed object.

    Wire rope barriers are only placed in high-risk areas.

    It’s logical fallacy wire rope barriers are killing motorcyclists.

    As the loss of control during an incident passing high-risk areas is killing motorcyclists.

    Furthermore, there is no way to prove more motorcyclist are dying due to wire pope barriers.

    This cause and effect fallacy, that wire rope barriers are killing motorcyclists is misguided a fear. Logically, if the risk riding is so bad it’s terrifying, just stop riding a motorcycle.

    1. If two motorcyclists killed right in front of you during the last decade I’d make sure you weren’t behind me, thanks for the warning.

      Swedish Transport Administration (STA) reports an annual 10-20% fatality of motorcyclists in barrier accidents. That’s a lot more dangerous than hitting a car.
      You have no idea whether wire rope would have saved them, in fact it would have made these deaths more certain.

      Now, let me guess where you work . . . .

  7. Motorcyclist was killed on the Oxley when he came off (no injuries so far)
    then his head hit the post holding up a safety sign – yes, a safety sign!
    Dead – broken neck.

    Now they’ve installed hundreds of thousands of vertical posts – wire rope
    on the outside of just about every bend, close to the edge of the bitumen, leaving NO recovery area
    (over 95% of transits past edge of bitumen recover without mishap IF there is no barrier.

    This dangerous placement contravenes installation guidelines.

    State transport ministers are being badly advised.

  8. Where were you when we needed you.. In NSW 3 or 4 years ago a number of groups lobbied both state and federal governments to have the cheese cutters removed, 15000 signatures, Nothing, totally ignored, why.. Who knows, but my cynical guess is that somewhere in the system, the company that produces these killer barriers, or hands out the contracts, is related to a minister or some other official somewhere in the bureaucratic red system. I know of several contractors that were paid to lay them who were previously plumbers, carpenters, and even a horse breeder. Ans till we continue to put these up. Even after extensive research in europe and NZ, even testing large plastic covers to protect motorcylists, they still persist. AND THEY DONT STOPS TRUCKS..Waste of space.

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