Tuesday, April 14, 2015

In London it's Trucks Whilst in France Authorities Fear Upsurge of Level Crossing Cycling Fatalities

Impatience Blamed for Latest Incident as TGV Near Miss Televised
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – Following the recent death of royal designer Moira Gemmill in London, killed by a tipper truck whilst cycling to work, it seems across the Channel there are concerns in a nation for which riding a bike is tantamount to a religion. The French national railway SNCF, has made an official complaint with the police, against several cyclists that deliberately crossed a level crossing during the one day cycle road race, the Paris-Roubaix, after the safety barrier had closed and just seconds before a high-speed train hurtled across and whilst live television covered the incident.

In the UK there were 109 cycling fatalities in 2013, 14 of which were in London, compare this to Paris where only 12 people died between 2007 and 2012, with not a single such fatality in 2011. Fatal incidents at level crossings have fallen in recent years in France with 2014 seeing 25 deaths as against 29 the previous year. The passenger and rail freight company is now worried that the wilful disregard of the safety barrier will cause an upsurge in illegal crossings and subsequently a higher fatality rate.

In this latest case the risk the riders took in jumping the gun was for naught as the race organisers slowed down the leading pack to allow the stopped cyclists to catch up. The cyclists could now face legal proceedings in the French courts. The riders were also meant to be disqualified under race rules which states that ‘it shall be strictly forbidden to cross level crossings when the barrier is down’, though Guy Dobbelaere, President of the Jury of Race Commissioners defended their actions saying that

“It wasn’t possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely. The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close. By neutralising the race for a few moments to not penalise those who stopped, we respected the spirit of the rule.”

Trains travelling at 100km/h take around 1000 metres before they can stop, for cars it’s around 80 metres. Excluding the LGV, trains travel around 160 km/h on average, even in the city. According to SNCF, 99% of accidents at level crossings are due to the behaviour of road users, primarily impatience. SNCF says that it invests over €30 million a year to secure crossings and to conduct information and prevention campaigns. The railway has now filed a complaint against the riders, leaving it up to the ensuing investigation to determine exactly which parties were involved and their levels of responsibility. In a statement, SNCF said:

“Several riders wilfully and contrary to all safety rules crossed a closed level crossing in the municipality of Wallers. Millions of viewers were able to see this extremely serious and irresponsible [incident, which] could have been tragic, live. Indeed, a few seconds later, a TGV train travelling on that track could have hit the peloton.”