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Wire rope barriers criticised

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Wire rope barriers

Riders may be divided on whether wire rope barriers are good or bad for motorcyclists, but the Victorian Country Fire Authority says they block access to crashes and bushfires.

VicRoads now faces a $2 million cut to retrofit emergency access points in the more than 2000km of wire rope barriers (WRB) they have installed.

Victorian Independent Riders Association spokesman Damien Codognotto says it vindicates their opposition to the barriers, although the CFA made no mention of the impact of WRB in motorcycle crashes.

He says VicvRoads will reportedly spend $4 billion on wire rope barriers between 2015 and 2020, yet admits WRB posts pose a deadly threat to riders.

“The fact that they pad WRB posts and promised not to put WRB on roads frequented by motorcycle and scooter riders gives weight to this admission,” he says.

Wire Rope Barrier
Paded wre rope barrier post

However, there is little research into the effect of barriers on riders and no conclusive proof from the scant research available.

Divided on wire rope barriers

Rider groups are divided on whether WRB are a good or bad thing.

Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shaun Lennard says riders are better off hitting any roadside barrier in a crash than having no barrier and hitting a tree.

Shaun Lennard safety barriers status national motorcycle safety sentence rope
Shaun Lennard

“They’ve been around in Australia for 25 years now and if the wire barrier was anywhere near the concern that some riders think, there would have been a significant number of fatal crashes caused by the barrier, but there have only been a handful,” he told us earlier this year.

“Many more motorcycle riders are killed hitting trees because there was no barrier than have been killed hitting wire rope barriers,” he said.

Shaun even suggested that the proliferation of cheaper wire rope barriers on straight sections of highway may be a good thing because it means more money can be spent on providing safer barriers on winding roads where riders are more likely to hit them.

“The number of riders running off straight sections and hitting barriers is minuscule,” he says.

However, Damien points out that a rider in Victoria was killed a few months ago because he hit a kangaroo and then ran into a WRB.

Until specific scientific research is carried on the effect of WRB on riders, they will remain divided on whether they impact our safety.

Read some of the many stories below for more views on roadside barrier safety.

  • What do you think about wire rope barriers? Leave your comments below. 

  1. The burden of proof is on motorcyclists. Rather than test if they are dangerous for bike riders before use they put ’em up first and will only take them down if there is strong evidence that they kill people. Ah not real people, just lunatic lemmings who don’t care about safety anyway 😉

  2. (Quote): “Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shaun Lennard says riders are better off hitting any roadside barrier in a crash than having no barrier and hitting a tree”. (end quote)

    I think I’d rather take my chances with a tree…assuming there’s even a tree behind the wrb’s.
    I don’t know what it’s like in other States but here is Victoria you often see wire rope barriers protecting nothing more than open paddock.

  3. I hear praise for WRBs from people who think they are a good thing stopping cars an almost stopping trucks from crossing to the wrong side of the road.
    But careful investigation of the majority of WRB involved crashes would indicate that this praise is wrongly given.
    Of the incidents I have seen in video the WRB has either caused the accident or totally failed to arrest the vehicle before it has crossed the median or both.
    The primary reason for WRBs cause accidents is that they are normally positioned close to the road in what would normally be a run off area.
    When a vehicle swerves to avoid a collision and enters the median normally there is no accident and the undamaged vehicle can return to its journey, with a WRB in place the vehicle will if lucky suffer fender and tire damage but usually it will be a write off as the wire will catch the front wheel and steer the vehicle fully into the barrier causing extensive damage to both. If this happens to a large truck it can cause it the cross the median into on coming traffic, roll, jackknife, rupture fuel tanks and brake lines and catch fire or all the above.
    WRBs aren’t cheap either! They cost half to two thirds the cost of a single concrete barrier to install initially but you need two of them and they require a thousand times more maintenance than concrete. The un maintenaned life of an undamaged concrete barrier is over one hundred years, it is only twenty five years for a WRB. Often an impacted concrete barrier requires no repairs or very minor and usually only the struck area. Any impact with a WRB will usually require extensive repairs and often an entire stretch of wrb is rendered useless not just the bit that was hit .
    So the questions are : why are they placed so close to the road instead of nearer the middle of the median? And how many fatalities have been caused by WRBs?
    And I’m not just asking about motorcyclists, I’m sure numerous people have been killed as a result of tangling with a WRB , I saw one dashcam where the car behind a car that hit a WRB had the anchor post and wire whip through the windshield just missing the occupants.

  4. As riders tend to come off at shallow angles putting a barrier next to the road creates a hazard where there was none before.

    This is in breach of Vic Roads own installation guidelines.

    Riders are very unlikely to hit a tree because they are generally much further off the road than any barrier… so Shaun’s point is mistaken and he ought to know better.


      1. Ditto
        But it is better to hit a barrier instead of a tree as long as it’s one of those airbags they use at races or even some hay bails but hitting a WRB wouldn’t count as a barrier in the instance of a person striking it the small crosection of the wire and the posts make WRBs worse than a tree

  5. I have been against the chaff cutters since they were introduced. It beggars belief that our road authorities continue to install them while there is not scientific investigation into their effects on riders. Maybe there is a nasty subliminal road safety message behind them. ” If you come off near me I will kill you, so just don’t ride”.
    It may be that they are softer than a tree, but they are now being installed even where there are no trees. Every one of us knows that coming off is not what hurts, but if you hit something solid, then it hurts.
    Vicroads give us some slide room. That would improve our chances.

  6. Wire Rope Barriers (WRB) and how Vic Roads are implementing the role out is a total disaster on many fronts. Its not just about the risk to motorcyclists , mind you motorcyclists have the greatest risk, its about many things and different scenarios.
    Vic roads have a report that says its better to hit a barrier than a tree or other roadside object. so they have jumped on it and are putting up WRB or Armco on 2000 kilometers of roads without consultation (a few info sessions perhaps) on roads that in many cases do not need safety barriers of any description.
    The affected roads are now “traffic gutters* Vic roads have missed the point ” Country roads are not the “Western Ring Road”
    A brief list of hazards and traffic flow problems
    1. On the bike if a ride has to swerve to miss a wandering car or animal then into the WRB, the rider gets cut up and either thrown over the barrier or back int o the traffic to be hit by a car. If he/she slides on the road then into the support posts. If no barrier the rider has a chance of riding out of the problem or slowing down in the run off area.
    2. Animal strikes, Kangaroos, Wombats and Deer. This is the country, many off theses animals get onto the road and are in a hurry to get off the road. With the WRB the animals become panic struck and run or hop along and across the road trying to find a place to get off the road. This has resulted in an increase in animal strikes in areas where WRB are installed. The CFA and other emergency services have also highlighted the difficulty in getting off the road to attend to emergency situations.
    3. Fire prevention: Contractors used to cut the grass on the sides of roads as a fire prevention
    method. Where the WRB are the long grass goes up to the WRB increasing the fire risk to the local community and all road users.
    Break downs. Large trucks use these roads and it is not uncommon for them to break down, in the past they would move off the road on to the verge and wait for help. Now the trucks have to stop on the road creating a further hazard for motorists the truck driver and service crew.
    4. Fatigue. Vic roads and TAC (Transport Accident Commission) are always on about if you are fatigued have a rest. If you are road user of any description you will have noticed many grey nomads towing their caravans around the nation. You will also notice that often grey nomads and other road users have pulled off the road to have a power nap. Where these barriers are it is impossible to stop on the side off the road and be safe. (Vic Roads have plans for 2000 klm of WRB)
    I could go on about this for many more points yet but I think I have demonstrated that we have a big problem with the Vic Roads role out of WRB.
    As motorcyclist maybe a class action to the Human Rights Commission against ViC Roads as the are discriminating against motorcyclist by installing WRB that can be demonstrated are a danger to the “Health and Safety” of Motorcyclist?

  7. It’s a myth to claim that WRB is cheaper than concrete.

    They’re about the same price to install… and if you take maintenance costs into consideration concrete and other barriers are cheaper.

    It is also highly likely that grading the roadside (removing hazards) is cheaper than installing any barrier… but that option is rarely used.


    1. The figures I have heard are half to two thirds the cost of a standard concrete barrier depending on the site difficulty. Where they start to become far more expensive than concrete is in the maintenance and repair costs. Concrete barriers don’t need much and it takes a fair bit to damage them. WRBs need a lot and they are easily damaged, any little bump that a car truck or animal can drive away from can shift the cables off the guide posts and possibly render the barrier useless.
      The theory that they operate under is to stop vehicles crossing into oncoming traffic. This they do for cars and small trucks most of the time, for large trucks they can actually cause them to cross the median or they pose no barrier at all.
      Animals. The theory is that an animal will climb through or over a WRB but many animals are dumb and when startled by a vehicle see the barrier as a wall that they can’t get past so that kills that theory.
      The safety nannies very often make bad even dangerous choices when trying to make us safe but WRBs don’t have sufficient edge over concrete in cost or safety so the reason that they have become so prevalent and poorly located must have something to do with how they’re marketing them perhaps there is a large cash back bonus offer that gets shared around thousands who make the decisions?

      1. This article has figures on costs.
        It also says:

        “We are very happy with the decision of our transport minister in 2005 to ban cable barriers in the Netherlands.
        We did not need a lot of research to explain why these “killer cables” never should be used in our infrastructure.

        Fortunately our government showed common sense and the cable barrier in the Netherlands became part of history.
        It still is at least remarkable that authorities in other countries simply deny the potential dangers of this type of barrier, in particular for motorcyclists.

        Nico Perk
        Chairman of the Dutch riders organisation MAG
        (Motorrijders Actie Groep) “

  8. Crash barriers can be killers of motorcyclists.
    The statistics are stark: hitting a crash barrier is a factor in 8 to 16 per cent of rider deaths, and riders are 15 times more likely to be killed than car occupants.
    Barrier support posts are particularly aggressive, they can cause a 5-fold increase in injury severity compared to the average motorcycle crash.

    lots more here

  9. I know one thing about them….they scare me and I always ride very carefully when they are installed on the road I’m riding. Maybe that’s a good thing…I don’t know…

  10. I can’t believe the STUPID COMMENT that –
    “its better to hit a barrier than a tree or other roadside object” –
    WTF ? Who are the MORONS who Made this comment AND Who are the MORONS who think that THIS is the Better Option ???
    I just DO NOT GET IT – That The Motorcycling Community ALONG with the Motorcycle Dealers & Rider Support Groups just KEEP LETTING THIS SORT OF CRAP HAPPENING …
    WHERE ARE THE OLD FASHIONED PROTEST RIDES – You aren’t going to GET ANYTHING POSITIVE DONE by sitting in on the useless bloody meetings where MINDS have ALREADY BEEN MADE UP.
    FOR your OWN DAMN SAKES – PROTEST and PROTEST LOUDLY about STUPID LEGISLATION/S and the DUMB PEOPLE (MORONS) who come up with & support such DUMB Irresponsible & Reckless ideas that are made into Legislation –

    Haven’t YOU – the Rider – HAD ENOUGH of being treated like a bloody nuiscance and being inconscsequential on the roads & highways – I can’t figure you dumb modern bikers/motorcyclists out – you just sit and whinge about things – DO NOT BE AFRAID to SPEAK YOUR MIND about RIDER SAFETY – it SHOULD ALWAYS BE – RIDER SAFETY- RIDER SAFETY – RIDER SAFETY – For Christ SAKE DO NOT FORGET IT – IT IS YOUR LIFE on the LINE or the possiblilty of Permanant Disability from Legislated Barriers (what ever they put up)…..
    GET off your Arse (Not ASS) and Get things DONE or SHUT UP YOUR WHINING !!!
    (Old School Biker)
    (Yes Damien – it is Your Old Mate)

  11. What all roads departments are doing is utilizing the energy absorbing capacity of any vehicle as it hits the rope or other barrier . Then there is the cost of repair.
    Instead they should be modifying the shoulders and run off areas such that a driver might come to a stop or regain control before hitting something .This of course is a different mentality from that which exists now . If you come off the bitumen bike or car then it is good night nurse , and the roads departments have a vision as narrow as the roads being laid down or the old horse and dray tracks which existed before bitumen was laid over it.
    With all the petrol excise being ripped off motorists , should it be directed to roads as was supposed , this then would be possible.
    A completely revised attitude to building roads is required so that the capacity and characteristics of 21st. century vehicles be accommodated , and not some add on bits from when vehicles were just an alternate method of travel to horses

  12. The CFA’s criticism really has nothing to do with rider crash or injury risk, so doesn’t actually vindicate the opposition of rider groups. It does, however, point to poor planning and implementation, which may also be reflected in other aspects of decision-making (i.e., lack of objective risk assessment for riders).

  13. Perhaps, one way of addressing the issue is to take Vic Roads to court if/when a rider is obviously the victim of the WRB. The way I understand it, some countries have moved away from WRBs. Here, I stress it is important to understand why the WRBs were abandoned in the Nederlands (see response from Nico Perk) and possibly other countries that may have also gone down the same path. Was it really due to their understanding that the WRBs were posing a danger to some road users, such as riders? If that is the case, would it not be possible to challenge Vic Roads in their failure to exercise due care? I believe that authorities like Vic Roads have a clear responsibility not only to provide transport routes but to also ensure that their design and construction of such routes minimise trauma. If WRBs are really known to be a hazard, then to have them installed in the light of that knowledge is a very significant negligence on their part. Perhaps, the MRA or similar organisation with the appropriate legal minds may like to comment on this approach.

  14. “VicRoads will spend $4 BILLION on wire rope barriers ”

    What a c-c-collossal waste of public money, no wonder the roads are crap.

  15. Vic Roads new wire barriers, sure do limit the Hume Highway shoulders and can make stopping a problem .
    If a B/Double has to stop or breaks down its a problem ,but neither of these things are insurmountable.
    The thing that craps me off is, for the last few years the ongoing 110km down to 40 km in a few places between the NSW border and Melbourne’s northern suburbs .

    But if One stays on the good stuff and keeps to the 110km limit ,it wont be a problem for any rider .
    Highway roadside grass cutting, could be a problem ,but doesn’t seem to be so far ,bring out the `Roundup` !!

  16. Photo at top of article says it all.
    Road has a wide, clear grass strip “safety zone” at the side. Obviously they weren’t having enough accidents, so they installed a row of closely spaced teeth – posts – right at edge of the bitumen, leaving no room for safety.
    After the posts rip your leg off, the wire will tip you over the top.

    1. The wire rope actually makes it MORE dangerous because the wire guides the motorcycle/rider combination into the posts. There’s no escape.

  17. I cannot believe anyone representing Motorcyclist could make a statement that Shaun Lennard made and can actually believe that. How can hitting a tree be more dangerous than hitting a steel post, both will kill you.
    The trouble is previously we had some trees now in the case of the road between Sale & Bairnsdale Vic Roads are adding thousands of steel posts to the side and the middle of the road where there were no trees especially in the middle of the road. Everyone of these posts has the potential to kill you and prior to this there was only a occasional tree to hit and in most cases a run off area that gave a chance for survival. Now there will be none.
    The passing lanes that will have a barrier in the middle of the road are now the most dangerous place to be, if you are passing a car and he decides to pass a vehicle we all know what the result will be. The erection of these barriers defy logic when you think in terms of motorcycle riding. I have written to VIcRoads asking them to provide their testing that proves the WRB is safe for motorcycles. In their propaganda they mention how safe it is for cars & small trucks but no mention of M/C and to date have not been able or willing to provide any study with actual testing of the safety has been provided.
    What they have said (and expressed it in Emails) is that it is safer for the majority of the road users. Obviously the M/C as a minor user is expendable and our death doesn’t count as long as the car driver is protected.
    I can list many more reasons all of which are obvious to us as to why the erection of WRB should not continue.
    I recommend that Shaun Lennard be asked to resign his position as he is not representing the concerns of Motorcyclists or simply does not have a real grasp on the dangers represented by all the supposed safety road improvements that are currently being made in the name of safety.
    Obviously some one is making millions of dollars at the ignored dangers to the motorc

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