Become a Member: Get Ad-Free Access to 3,000+ Reviews, Guides, & More

Inquiry may probe wire rope barriers

wire rope barriers road safety inquiry claims Irish

Riders are being urged to make submissions about the perceived dangers of wire rope barriers to a Victorian inquiry into the road toll.

Submissions to the Legislative Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee will be accepted online until 30 June 2020.

Committee member and Liberal MP for Western Victoria, Beverley McArthur, invited Motorcycle Safety Consultant John Nelson to make a submission on the perceived dangers of wire rope barriers, saying the remit of the committee is “very wide”.

She says a public submission “doesn’t need to be long, or detailed, or deal with all potential causes”.

Many submissions are “less than a page long, and detail a specific idea or experience”, she says.

John has long campaigned against WRBs and recently warned of the rollout of higher wire rope barriers which could be even more dangerous to riders.

New Safe Direction wire rope barriers
New Safe Direction wire rope barriers

“I encourage all Australian riders to make a submission no matter how small,” he says.

“Every submission will be read and considered.  Be vocal and to the point.  Silence and apathy does not achieve change.” 

Inquiry remitwire rope barriers road safety

Beverly told John in an email that the inquiry will consider all areas of road safety, including existing ‘solutions’.

“There is an important opportunity to investigate the whole issue of wire rope barriers thoroughly,” she says.

“It would be helpful, however, if you could encourage anyone who feels strongly to write in and briefly explain their opposition.

“The more submissions we get to that effect, the better the chance we will have of making it a high profile part of the inquiry.

I’d be grateful if you could pass this on to anyone who you know feels strongly about this.

“Having looked through the submissions to date, I only saw one which raised wire rope barriers, so I thought I would pass this on in the hope of stirring up some interest.”

John’s call for submissions on wire rope barriers follows his recent concerns about new wire rope barriers that will soon replace the current WRBs around Australia.

New wire rope barriers WRBThe BRIFEN MASH compliant cable barriers will supersede current NCHRP-350 systems that will be phased out from 30 September 2020 in NSW with other states set to follow.

Supplier Safe Direction say the Brifen system has been crash tested.

However, John says the new barrier type is primarily designed for cars and SUVs.

“Crash testing for motorcycles would not have been done, simply because the outcomes are already known,” says John who has also been a rider trainer and crash analyst. 

John Nelson wire rope barriers
John Nelson

“I was shocked to see the new WRB design and wonder how Brifen can create a barrier system that is even worse for motorcyclists impacting the barrier directly.

“The only scenario that is being touted by the road safety community is the out-of-control oncoming vehicle, and a rider is going past the site. 

“Each time I challenge the pro-WRB community to show the research and evidence that WRB saves motorcyclists, they can’t, won’t and disappear.” 

New design

New Safe Direction wire rope barriers
New Safe Direction wire rope barriers

The new design is higher and the cable is spread over a wider area with less space at the bottom. 

John says the original design meant riders were prone to going over the top and being injured by the cable and posts. 

“The new design would keep a rider from going over the top and extrude a body through the cable and posts,” he says. 

Many riders view wire rope barriers as “people slicers”.

However, Australian road safety consultancy Safe System Solutions Pty Ltd Research and Evaluations Lead and motorcyclist Dr Tana Tan says they have no issue with wire rope barriers on straights as riders don’t tend to fall asleep as much as drivers. 

“That’s because we have limited tank range so we stop more frequently, we generally monitor our fatigue better and we have to be alert to ride,” he says.

“The issue is with placing WRBs on curves.”

Wire rope barriers in Tassie on a gradual bend
Wire rope barriers in Tassie on a gradual bend

Transport departments throughout Australia adhere to the standards published in the Austroads Guide to Road Design which do not permit wire rope barriers on curves of less than 200 metre radius. 

  1. Unfortunately I think I would be wasting my time because the Andrews government wouldn’t listen anyway.

    1. You clearly don’t realise Dennis that the Inquiry Committee is made up of 7 members from both sides of the political fence, including independents.
      Bev McArthur, the member for Western Victoria, referred to in Marks article, is a Liberal Party member, and on the Committee.

      Regardless of their political persuasions, or yours, it is the road authorities who are tasked with advising the Roads Ministers, irrespective of which Party is in Government, and given the hazardous state of our rural roads currently, they didn’t get like that overnight, or since ‘the Andrews government’ came to office.
      Wire rope barriers have been around for over two decades, but utilised less extensively until the last decade. Older sections of wire rope barriers still exist on many regional roads, many of which were inappropriately installed without regard for manufacturer standards, or even AustRoads standards, as State & Territory road authorities have been allowed to implement their own ‘standard’ without any oversight or accountability.

      Ultimately, while every Party in Parliament, whether in government, or opposition, continue to allow the road authorities to dictate via their recommendations, how roads funding is spent, nothing will ever change.

      In the meantime, doing nothing is not an option, as achieves nothing.
      Be proactive instead of defeatist, and at least try, as the more of us who give up there are, the less hope we have of ever experiencing much needed change in road authorities processes, and governance.

    1. John, it is the ‘Inquiry into the Increase in Victoria’s Road Toll’ reporting date to Parliament that’s been extended to 17 November. ie to be tabled in Parliament.

      So Mark has reported correctly.

      Submissions extended to Tuesday 30 June – link to on-line/eSubmissions:
      Submissions by Mail to:
      > Committee Secretariat
      > Parliament of Victoria
      > Legislative Council, Economy and Infrastructure Committee
      > Parliament House, Spring Street
      OR by Email:
      > Subject: Inquiry into the Increase in Victoria’s Road Toll –
      > Terms of Reference
      > (1) current Victorian Towards Zero Road Safety Strategy 2016-2020 and progress towards its aim of a 20 per cent reduction in fatalities with 200 or less lives lost annually by 2020;
      > (2) adequacy and scope of the current driver drug and alcohol testing regime;
      > (3) adequacy of current speed enforcement measures and speed management policies;
      > (4) adequacy of current response to smart phone use, including the use of technology to reduce the impact of smart phone use on driver distraction;
      > (5) measures to improve the affordability of newer vehicles incorporating driver assist technologies;
      > (6) adequacy of current road standards and the road asset maintenance regime;
      > (7) adequacy of driver training programs and related funding structures such as the L2P program; and
      > (8) adequacy and accuracy of road collision data collection.

  2. I may be wrong, but I believe that the danger of WRBs is based upon the size of the top wire. The lower wires are less likely to cause the slicing because the impact would most likely be spread over two or more wires.

    However, if the top wire were either replaced by a larger diameter material or had some softer material wrapping it, it would be considerably less lethal and indeed reduce the cost of complete replacement by another alternative.

  3. They are illegal in many parts of Europe and if used can only be 20m to 30m away from the road as a last resort why can’t they do the same here. They are not designed to be less then 1ft from the roads edge. They also remove the area that could be used as a safe run off on highways if there is a wreak infront of you or someone like a truck merges into you in any vehicle you may drive or ride forcing you to potentially become part of that wreck. If anything is needed give me a concrete wall down the center of grass if any there or a metal barrier with the bottom blocked so if i come off my bike i don’t get sliced in half under it

  4. wrbs Are extremely dangerous to the lives of Motorcycle riders
    They are body slicers
    I’m totally amazed that this doesn’t occur to the minister of roads Or the Premiers of all states
    They ARE Totally Dangerous

  5. The obvious design of motorcycles /scooters is protrusions on the sides. Mirrors , clutch levers , handle bars , foot pegs & for those that have them, crash bars/roll bars . THESE ALONE , are not even thought about by the people who invented both systems, you don’t necessarily have to be a victim of an accident , you can be forced to make a manouver into the fenceline to save your own life through no fault of your own . Due to someone else’s error, or falling asleep or whatever. The fence designs in both cases, are at fault, as if you are forced into this line there is a MASSIVE chance of 1 , if not more of those protrusions catching on these poor designs of fencing . 2nd point is, have you ever seen a vehicle hit one of these fences at a different angle other than parallel , the fence reacts like a Shanghai or a rubber band & throws you back out into the lane you just came from , SO KEEPING THAT IN MIND , if an unfortunate circumstance of avoidance comes to a motorcycle /scooter rider into that fence line , & they survive not being cut to shreds, they can be catapulted back into oncoming traffic of the lane they just left to avoid being hit. It appears the design requirements need to be changed by law, so as to read , to control all motor vehicle usage & as to protect all road users. Not just 4 wheel vehicles.

  6. Solid concrete barrier is better more sufficient you would hit it stay against it and stop there’s barriers iv seen cars go over the top of them still you don’t think about anyone but yourself even with concrete barriers trucks would be reduced in speeds WRB ain’t stopping shit and wasting money thumbs up to the dumbass going ahead with this sincerely I rider and truck driver who can’t stand cars

  7. I watch dashcam videos and some by a number of tow truck operators as educational entertainment. Of all the videos I have seen involving all types of barriers and most vehicles types including trucks large trucks busses and passengers vehicles and SUVs I have not seen any where a WRB was in anyway superior to steel Armco they are mostly equal, they’re vastly inferior to most concrete barriers. Of the accidents where a concrete barriers has failed to arrest a vehicle a WRB would have faired far worse with far more extensive damage to the surrounding vehicles and huge amounts of dangerous debris being flung over a massive area. In one video an anchor post was whipped into the windshield of a vehicle traveling a safe distance behind and rocks and other debris was flung into the opposing lanes.
    In another video the occupants were trapped inside the vehicle held between the cables and the ruptured fuel tank pouring out all over the road.
    In several videos suvs trucks and large trucks have driven over them as if they weren’t there.
    In most glancing collisions with solid barriers the vehicles scrap along the barriers with little serious damage to either and wreckers can quickly remove the wreckage and often no repairs are needed to the barriers. With WRBs every single impact requires repairs and often total replacement. Minor glancing collisions with WRBs have resulted in large trucks rolling over onto the opposing lanes or having extensive damage done to their steering brake and fuel systems.
    WRBs are a fraud.

  8. It isn’t rocket science. If a rider is forced to ride wide by accident or to take evasive action, the wire rope barriers will kill him. They are a nonsense solution and a danger to any road user.
    Just recently the addition of a third armco rail at the bottom of an armco wall has shown to be more effective in reducing carnage.
    I cannot believe any clear thinking road authority could ever decide that wire rope barriers could be anything less than murderous to motorcycles.
    Get rid of them please?

  9. What croc !!!
    these are already installed in all states and are being rolled out
    I remember nearly 40 years ago these barriers were set to be rolled out a strong MRA and a bloke called Damien Codgnottio successfully stoped the Government by proving that these barriers are deadly to Motorcyclists and we’re aptly named. CHEESE CUTTERS where was rhe consultation before these killers were installed recently ??????????

  10. The concern is that wire barriers are placed in locations where they are not suited.
    The theory behind wire barriers is that the tension in the wire controls the errant vehicle.
    As a vehicle comes in contact, the resulting deflection increases the tension in the wire.
    This controls the vehicle sideways movements.
    I most cases the location is suitable, eg on straights & concave curves.
    However on convex curves the deflection results in less tension in the wires & the theory no longer works.
    I dont think many road engineers know the theory behind the things they make.
    That is why in these cases if a vehicle hits the wire the whole section fails as the wires loose their tension and consequently the resistance to stopping an errant vehicle.
    Many years ago when concerns were being expressed regarding the safety of motorcycles and investigations were undertaken in relation to a sleeve that fitted over the whole wire layout.
    I dont think anything came of it because of cost.
    In all road construction cost is a major factor.
    Wire barriers are cheaper than concrete ones.

  11. Further to my comment on wire barriers.
    There is now becoming a problem with steel beam guard rail.
    If you have a look at older sections you will notice there is a rigid post set in solid ground ( sometimes concrete ), with a spacer block that the rail bolts on to.
    The spacer block is there so that for a smaller car that hits the beam, and the wheel goes under the beam, the wheel does not hit the solid post and stops the vehicle dead.
    The idea of the beam guard rail is that the errant vehicle runs along the beam and slows down.
    If you notice a lot of recent beam installations the spacer block is not there with the beam mounted directly on the post.
    The wheel could go under the beam and be stopped by the post.
    For a motorcycle it all works if the bike is upright.
    Then it will slide along the beam or go over the top.
    The worst case is when the bike & rider are on their side and go under the rail and hit a post.

    1. Well spotted Donald!
      Observed recently, and noted not only as you have, that these new sections of steel beam guard rails, also have many more posts than older versions, and they’re very close together. As we know with wire rope barriers, the posts are a real problem for riders. They also don’t seem to be constructed from as sturdy a type of steel as the old W beams either.

      In reference to your first comment, yes, wire rope barriers are a cheaper option to install, but require loads more maintenance, and more frequently, which, if accounted for by road authorities when costing, would more than likely far outweigh the cost of a steel beam guard rail over its lifetime.

      1. A classic example of where you shouldn’t erect wire barriers is in the photo above ” Wirerope barriers in Tassie on a gradual bend”. If a vehicle hit any part of this section all the wires on this convex curve would go slack for the whole length & no longer prevent vehicles going over the embankment.

Comments are closed.