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Near-miss train cyclist contacts police after video goes viral

A woman who narrowly avoided death when she attempted to ride across a level crossing in Cambridgeshire at the very moment a train sped through has contacted police after a video of the near-miss went viral on the internet.

The video released by British Transport Police shows the bike rider ignoring the lowered barrier on the left hand side of the crossing, as well as the warning lights. There's no sound on the video, but such crossings are also equipped with bells.

At the very last moment, the cyclist realised her peril, and slammed on her brakes. Luckily, they were working, and it was also her good fortune not to go over the handlebars. Wiping her brow, the cyclist moved over to the side of the road, no doubt shaken by the near miss.

A woman contacted British Transport Police on Thursday, and has made an appointment to speak to them in person on October 9.

The incident took place at Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire on Thursday 12 September and the video has been released in an effort to trace the woman as well as to highlight to others the danger of ignoring warnings at level crossings.

PC PC Matt Mildinhall of British Transport Police said: “The footage shows a woman approach the crossing around 6.30pm as the barriers are down. She passes through the barriers and onto the line before braking hard, just seconds before a train passes through.

He added: “We are very keen to speak to the woman in this footage and explain the danger she not only put herself in but others around the crossing at the time.”

A recent safety campaign from Network Rail called Track Tests highlighted research that found that one in three people believe they would hear an approaching train in sufficient time to get out of the way.

Network Rail's Richard Schofield said:  “This is one of the closest incidents of near miss we’ve seen. The person using the crossing not only didn’t hear the train but ignored the warning lights and barriers, putting her life, the lives of passengers and the train driver in danger.

“Warning systems at level crossings are there for a reason, to protect users from the railway. I hope the release of this footage will highlight the importance of following the safety advice at level crossings.”

In May last year, Network Rail launched a TV advert called See Track, Think Train to highlight the dangers of level crossings used by cyclists and pedestrians.

The same month, 34-year-old cyclist Phil Dawn from Kirkby-in-Ashfield died when he was struck by a train as he rode through a level crossing between Sutton Park and Mansfield railway stations in Nottinghamshire.

According to police, he was wearing headphones at the time. Network Rail has previously run a campaign fronted by the rapper Professor Green warning of the dangers of listening to music while negotiating level crossings.

However, the father of a teenage girl killed at a level crossing in Essex seven years ago, insisted that it was wrong to place all the responsibility on crossing users.

Chris Bazlinton, whose 14-year-old daughter Olivia was killed along with her 13-year-old friend Charlotte Thompson, told Sky News last year:  "The sighting at that time was appalling, you couldn't see anything, you couldn't hear anything.

"The maximum time you could see a train is three seconds from that position.

"They were both quite short and they couldn't possibly see anything so they just stepped out in front, and they were killed instantly."

Network Rail was fined £1 million as a result of breaches of safety legislation in connection with that incident. A footbridge has now been put in place, and the level crossing gates have automatic locking.

Last year, Network Rail announced a £130 million upgrade programme for level crossings, including:

A closure programme which will see 750 crossings removed from the network by April 2014. More than 600 had already been closed by October 2012

Replacing footpath crossings with footbridges

Installing warning lights as an additional safety measure at footpath crossings

A new schools programme – Rail Life – teaching both primary and secondary schoolchildren about how to stay safe when crossing the railway

Rolling out 10 more camera enforcement vans

Investing in new technology including obstacle detection lasers

Introducing new cost effective barriers to open crossings

Employing more than 100 new dedicated level crossing managers

Community safety managers who work closely with local groups, councils and schools to raise awareness.

 

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.