Guardrails aid vehicles but cyclists see danger

19:09, Jan 02 2014
Higgins Contracting crew install a new barrier on the south side of the Elevation near Picton, on State Highway 1

Roadside safety barriers on State Highway 1 between Blenheim and Picton will reduce the risk of the serious injuries and fatalities which have occurred on the stretch of road in the past five years, the New Zealand Transport Agency says.

The agency is spending $2.5 million to install 18.5 kilometres of guardrails. The work began in September and is expected to be completed in April.

According to Marlborough Roads, there have been 17 serious or fatal accidents on the highway between Blenheim and Picton during the past five years.

Marlborough Roads highway manager Frank Porter said the safety barriers being erected were proven to reduce the risk of serious injuries and fatalities.

The barriers were an internationally proven way to make the roadside more forgiving, he said.

"Time and time again barriers like this are struck and road users are able to walk away from a crash that would have otherwise seriously injured or killed them.


"They have saved lives and prevented debilitating lifelong injuries." The barriers helped absorb the impact of crashes. They were designed to capture the vehicle or direct its trajectory alongside the barrier. The barriers were being placed according to crash history or where safety analysis had indicated there was potential for a crash.

Wire rope and metal W-section barriers were proven life-savers on busy roads such as State Highway 1, Mr Porter said.

"Barriers can also have a ‘traffic calming' effect by creating a sense of visual confinement that helps to rein in speeds.

"If you're just weaving to the side to allow room for a passing vehicle, there should still be adequate space between you and the barrier."

Concerns about cyclists or motorcyclists being flung into other lanes was based on conjecture, he said.

But former traffic engineer and Picton resident Chris Davies is questioning the placement of the barriers on the highway for that very reason.

It was easy to see they were forcing cyclists out into the road in many of the places they had been put up, Mr Davies said.

While the barriers might crumple and catch a vehicle, a cyclist would bounce out towards the highway or be thrown over their handlebars as they were far lighter in mass.

"Much better to have spent the money putting up barriers in the middle of the road," he said.

Rumble strips were of real value when painted on the middle line, particularly on bends, he said.

Road barriers only reduced speed on far narrower roads such as country lanes.