Photo of the Day: Cycleway Rail Crossings

Our photo today shows a glimpse of what the future will look like for some of our cycleways that cross railway lines. Historically, the old approach on busy pathway level crossings was to provide a “maze” that contorted you to look both ways (in theory) before crossing the tracks. That was in theory, as I’ve always suspected that most riders were too busy focusing on the ground to negotiate their way through the tortuous path, rather than actually paying much attention to any approaching trains.

Partly for this reason, NZTA and KiwiRail commissioned some work a year or so back to develop some new guidelines for pedestrian/cycle railway crossing design (disclosure: I was the lead consultant for this work). The resulting guidelines are now starting to take effect in new crossings being developed. The Little River Link major cycle route was completed some months ago now, but just the other day I noticed that they finally upgraded the railway crossing on Grove Rd:

Look for trains (but you don’t have to do contortions while trying to…)

This layout introduces the concept of using friendlier “chicanes” by means of holdrails or fences. They still steer you somewhat to the left and right to help you check for trains in each direction, but don’t require advanced bike handling skills to negotiate them {although if anything, these ones seem a little too unrestrictive…}. That should hopefully improve the likelihood of approaching riders becoming aware of both the crossing and any trains.

Railway corridors can be useful desire lines for cycleways as well, but they come with their own unique risks. Crossings are particularly an issue, and most of the recent level crossing fatalities have involved either cyclists or pedestrians, with distraction being a common factor. So it’s not surprising that the bar is being raised in terms of safe cycleway crossings (and if that risk is high enough then they will get automatic gates like at Matai St). So look out for more upgrades of railway crossings in the near future.

What do you think of this style of railway crossing along pathways?

6 thoughts on “Photo of the Day: Cycleway Rail Crossings”

  1. I use this crossing on my daily commute. I like the concept but it needs finishing off as the ruts either side of the railway lines need smoothing/filling.

  2. On Annex road they appeared to have filled the gaps next to the tracks with some kind of rubber layer to make it easier to ride across. It would be nice to see that at all cycle rail crossings.

    1. The new guidance provides more information about these engineered rubber products; they’re certainly useful for ensuring that you don’t end up with asphalt ruts and gaps that can occur otherwise (with all the hazards that creates for pedestrians/cyclists). Generally they should be used with most new crossings, although that will also depend on the relative risk (e.g. a more skewed angle crossing like Annex Rd warrants it more).

    2. I ride over the Annex Road crossing regularly and the rubber infill mats are really good. Should be a standard feature on level crossings.
      With more people using the Harman Road crossing, there is often a small traffic jam there as it is one at a time through there! The design works well overall.

  3. The improvement looks good. I’ve used that route a few times this year and suspect the original crossing that was the reason why quite a significant portion of the riders leaving Hagley Park riding south chose not to use the cycle path. Not a good look from motorists point of view as appeared like cyclists were ignoring the ‘expensive’ cycle path. Instead they rode on left side of the road rejoining after crossing Harman street. Hopefully this will move them back onto the path.

  4. The mazes were terrible. I only used Matai St once and then went to Kilmarnock which has no restriction. It worried me at the time that by refusing to use Matai it looked as though the expensive cycleway was being ignored! Now the auto barrier is there it’s fine.

    I also use Groves Rd a bit and find it good to ride across , you’re aware you’re crossing a line, but not unreasonably restricted.

    Great job!

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