MAG Victory for UK bikers – Common Sense Work on ‘Killer Kerbs’ is brought to a halt

A precedent setting ‘cycling safety’ proposal to install raised curb ridges between lanes on UK roundabouts, which could injure or kill bikers, has been brought to a dramatic halt by the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG). 

Following months of campaigning by MAG, the Department of Transport (DfT) and Bedford Council have suspended a precedent-setting ‘Turbo Roundabout’ cycling safety scheme planned for March 2014. Policy & Campaigns Adviser, Dr Leon Mannings, says ‘implementation now depends on further investigations into the impact on safety for riders of Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs). I’m pleased MAG has been invited to assist investigations of critical aspects of it. It’s fair to say this is our most important campaigning achievement this year so far. It’s literally a life saver.’

Dr Mannings, who led MAG’s negotiations, has praised the DfT and Bedford Council for their thoughtful response to MAG’s intervention about proposed raised kerb dividers between lanes. ‘When we heard that funding had been granted for this proposal, including the kerbs, we instantly saw that such a scheme would create new hazards for riders that could cause serious or fatal injuries. Far from reducing risks, it would massively increase them – and probably for cyclists too. Raised kerbs between lanes on bends are a dangerous obstacle for all two wheelers. On a clear sunny day in minimal traffic and with no cars, vans or trucks the dividers might be easy to avoid. However, when a motorcyclist or cyclist is cornering in dark or wet conditions and amidst heavy traffic, any change in direction by others can force riders to alter course, potentially fail to see the raised kerb – and crash.’

MAG’s Director of Comms & Public Affairs, Lembit Öpik, has also praised the DfT’s measured approach. ‘Leon identified the peril. Transport Ministers such as Robert Goodwill MP – and officers in London and Bedford – listened. Steve Baker MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Motorcycling Group also deserves credit for lobbying in Parliament, as does local MP Richard Fuller. Politicians get a lot of flak, but their response to our concerns shows how they can help deliver crucial progress. It’s a victory for common sense.’

MAG has been invited to assist with an in-depth review of the proposals, and the processes involved with their development. Leon adds, “We strongly support plans to improve safety for all Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs), but we are against proposals that increase danger for some. Let’s make sure that safety measures help all VRUs, and not just a chosen few. Now, we’re about to start work with the authorities at Local and Central Government level so that plans for this and similar schemes will truly deliver safety benefits for all. And, we hope it will be a really productive partnership. Minister Goodwill demonstrated that talking things through works and can have a positive impact on policy.’

MAG Chairman John Mitchell says ‘Leon and Lembit have done great work, not just for riders’ rights to have their safety considered in Bedford, but throughout the UK. They’ve shown that MAG’s approach, with proper research and measured intervention, is impressively effective. We’re grateful to them – and to the Government for working as team players in the interests of safety.’

Editor’s Notes.

  • The Bedford ‘turbo’ scheme as originally proposed would have been the first in the UK to use hard engineered lane dividers.

  • MAG Policy & Campaigns Adviser, Dr Leon Mannings, led talks with Bedford and the DfT about the controversial element in the ‘turbo’ styled roundabout at a busy junction in Bedford.

  • The most critical element in the Bedford proposal was a series of raised kerb dividers between lanes on the roundabout. Proponents hoped that this would enable cyclists to ‘feel safer’ as the hard engineered dividers could ‘encourage’ drivers and riders to stay in one lane until they reached their chosen exit.

  • MAG and others with expertise on motorcycling are sure that the divider kerbs would have serious adverse impacts for Powered Two Wheeler (PTW) riders, and that these had not been given enough consideration to date.

  • As diesel spillage is quite common on roundabouts, a combination of spilt diesel on a wet road in the dark with a trip hazard ridge between lanes, could easily have deadly consequences if the kerb causes riders to fall off into the path of another motor vehicle on the roundabout.

  • The campaign has taken many months of effort, including the arrangement of a recent meeting between key officers from the DfT and Bedford to address MAG’s concerns.

  • MAG has been invited to assist in further investigations of riders’ concerns and to develop a more in-depth assessment of the potential impacts of this type of approach for all road users, and especially Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs) – amongst which PTW riders constitute one third of the traffic, with Cyclists and Pedestrians also included in the considerations.

  • Leon and Lembit of MAG worked with the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Motorcycles Group, Steve Baker MP, and local Bedford MP Richard Fuller, to raise the concerns.

  • A formal note from the authorities confirms the postponement of the scheme.

  • MAG has outlined a series of areas which need to be researched to understand the full impact of the scheme, and has offered to assist with this research.

  • Had the scheme been introduced, this may have been used as a precedent for other such schemes.

  • Accidents on a ‘Turbo’ roundabout scheme may have led to legal action in the event of an accident, on the basis that the dangers had been highlighted prior to the scheme being implemented.

  • Cyclists have expressed grave concerns about the Bedford proposal and that proponents of the scheme may have misunderstood some key aspects of ‘turbo’ roundabout principles as actually used in practice in The Netherlands.