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Video evidence has helped city redraw cyclist approach

An astonishing video showing 53 cyclists crashing on the same railway crossing in the USA has helped academics work out the risk factors for people crossing slippery tracks on two wheels.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee noticed a cyclist falling from their office window, which overlooked an intersection, and decided to look further into the problem.

The discovered dozens of people were falling every week, and that “group riders, women, and wet roadway conditions” had the highest chance of crashing.

They wrote in the Journal of Transport and Health: “A railroad crossing on Neyland Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee was chosen as the field study site because of high bicycle traffic on a skewed crossing and that could easily be continuously monitored. We observed 13,247 cyclists traversing two sections of the railway over about two months. The crash rates were much higher than expected and almost all of them were unreported.”

Chris Cherry set up a video camera in a colleague’s office, to gather more information about the nature of the crashes.

"Sure enough, the first weekend we had the camera up there were three crashes in two days and we realized, 'Oh, wow, this is actually a pretty high frequency of crashes,'" Cherry told Knox News.

He went on to work with the local authority to change the shape of the approach to allow cyclists to hit the tracks at a 60 degree angle.

"We really want to evaluate how effective this fix is," Cherry said. "The paper was really about looking at the reasons why people crash. Now that there's a fix in place, it would be interesting to see, with the fix, if people do still crash and why."

"What we found is 60 degrees was good enough," Cherry said. "We didn't find any crashes above a 60-degree angle."

Creating a 90-degree approach to the tracks would have cost as much as $200,000 because of the involvement it would require from different groups and the proximity of the tracks to the Tennessee River, Cherry said.

Instead, the 60-degree approach ended up costing the city around $5,000.

 

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

10 comments

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Leviathan [2668 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

No one has died yet so it must be okay.

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zanf [932 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

There is a pattern to how they ride across: the first rail they aim for perpendicular but then do a slight turn right then try to cross the second rail at an angle.

The infills for rail crossing have been around for ages. Its amazing that this is still an issue everywhere.

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StuInNorway [125 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
zanf wrote:

There is a pattern to how they ride across: the first rail they aim for perpendicular but then do a slight turn right then try to cross the second rail at an angle.

The infills for rail crossing have been around for ages. Its amazing that this is still an issue everywhere.

My guess for that is that the rail sits slightly above the road surface, and the "fill" between the tracks that appears to be some form of panels. After the first bump, landing on the panels in the centre of the tracks seems to cause a wobble, even on those taking a line close to a 90 degree crossing. 
I bet the last guy in the first segment after the new bike route was markedregretted not following it...

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The _Kaner [1122 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

what a palaver...would have been better with Benny Hill music...

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zanf [932 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
StuInNorway wrote:

My guess for that is that the rail sits slightly above the road surface, and the "fill" between the tracks that appears to be some form of panels. After the first bump, landing on the panels in the centre of the tracks seems to cause a wobble, even on those taking a line close to a 90 degree crossing. 
I bet the last guy in the first segment after the new bike route was markedregretted not following it...

The type of infill I meant is like this

You can see that people 'twitch' when going over the gap of the second rail, causing them to take it at a weird angle. Using a fill like the one Ive linked above, would eliminate that.  All you would have to deal with then is riding across metal when its wet!

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Augsburg [20 posts] 1 week ago
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zanf wrote:

The infills for rail crossing have been around for ages. Its amazing that this is still an issue everywhere.

In the U.S., the manufacturers of the steel rail do not make bike friendly "girder" rails, as is common in Europe.  The girder rails used in urban conditions have a much smaller gap to catch bike tires.  The U.S. federal government insists that rails used in federally funded projects are U.S. made under the "Buy America" law.  Local government bureaucrats go along with the federal rules, as otherwise they'd have to pay for the rails.  Cyclists, (the bane of many Americans), are caught in the crossfire.  Thanksfully, the university in Tennessee is studying the problem, bring it to a higher profile of attention.  

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Twowheelsaregreat [83 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

This what Hyperloop is designed to avoid

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schneil [5 posts] 1 week ago
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This video should be shown to transport for greater Manchester. The tram tracks on cross street in MCR city centre are dangerous. And it's a signed bike route

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Mungecrundle [803 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Why did it take 53 potentially fatal incidents before the people monitoring the images thought to put up some warning signs? They did do something to help prevent a serious accident didn't they?

Or is it a bit like wildlife photographers. Don't interfere, let nature takes its course?

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fuzzywuzzy [85 posts] 6 days ago
0 likes

Ouch - if some of the ones where they crash out into the carriageway had happened at 1:20 there would have been a fatality