• Was This The Worst Road Safety Idea for Motorcyclists?

  • Cheap But Definitely not Cheerful for Motorcyclists Steel cables will do the same job as solid steel barriers but at a hideous cost to motorcyclists
  • Armco Steel Barriers Still potentially dangerous for motorcyclists but a lot less lethal than cables
  • Nothing is Perfect There are issues for motorcyclists with both methods of restraint but at least with solid barriers there's less chance of decapitation or sawing off a limb.

Thankfully, the Irish Have Done Something About It

LISTEN 02:33

For many years, Armco steel barriers have lined not only race tracks but also highways and byways. Then someone had the bright idea to use cables as barriers which might be fine for cars and trucks, but not so great for a sliding motorcyclist.

Steel Cable Barriers Banned In Ireland

Was This The Worst Road Safety Idea for Motorcyclists?
- image 1022554
Cheap But Definitely not Cheerful for Motorcyclists
Steel cables will do the same job as solid steel barriers but at a hideous cost to motorcyclists

Motorcyclists are vulnerable enough without putting extra obstacles in their way. The advent of Armco steel barriers along highways and other major roads stop us from careering into oncoming traffic or solid roadside objects such as trees and telegraph poles and so on, but they are rather unyielding unless you are a ten ton truck.

Then, someone had the bright idea of substituting the steel barriers with steel cables; cheaper and would do the same job. However, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that a steel cable, when impacted at speed by an unprotected human body, is more like a saw blade, with catastrophic results.

The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) in the UK has long been lobbying to have the cable barriers recognised as a hazard to motorcyclists. In 2020, this recognition was given governmental approval and the Northern Ireland government has decided to act to remove the cable barriers and replace them with sold steel ones.

Was This The Worst Road Safety Idea for Motorcyclists?
- image 1022555
Armco Steel Barriers
Still potentially dangerous for motorcyclists but a lot less lethal than cables

It won’t happen immediately across the whole of Northern Ireland. Rather than a rip-them-out-and-replace task, it will be implemented slowly as cables are damaged or become due for replacement. They will be replaced with steel barriers that have a life of 50 years or more.

Speaking on the rule change, MAG NI Representative Martyn Boyd has said:

“We know we won’t see wire rope barriers being ripped out wholesale and replaced immediately, but it is still great news for rider safety in the long term and I’m confident that I achieved the best realistic result possible. I’m very pleased to have achieved such a positive outcome for motorcyclists regarding this issue.”

Was This The Worst Road Safety Idea for Motorcyclists?
- image 1022556
Nothing is Perfect
There are issues for motorcyclists with both methods of restraint but at least with solid barriers there’s less chance of decapitation or sawing off a limb.

While it might seem like a small victory, it does have huge implications for future motorcyclists. While it is only being implemented in Northern Ireland at the present time, who’s to say that the legislation won’t spread around the world? Motorcycle safety is often largely ignored by governments or, at best, ill-informed. This should be seen as a positive effect of a dedicated group of ordinary people talking to an intelligent government.

Hang on, did I just say ’intelligent government’? Surely there’s no such thing!

Harry Fisher
Harry Fisher
Motorcycling Contributor
Born and raised in England, he has lived in South Africa with his family since 2002. Harry has owned examples of Triumph, Norton, BSA, MV Agusta, Honda, BMW, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Kawasaki and Moto Morini motorcycles. He regrets selling all of them.  Read full bio
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