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.