New wire rope barriers ‘more dangerous’

New wire rope barriers WRB

Higher and “more dangerous” wire rope barriers (pictured) will soon replace the current WRBs around Australia.

The BRIFEN MASH compliant cable barriers will supersede current NCHRP-350 systems that will be phased out from 30 September 2020 in NSW with other states set to follow.

Wire rope barriers promise
Shorter WRBs to be phased out

Supplier Safe Direction say the Brifen system has been crash tested.

However, Motorcycle Safety Consultant John Nelson, 62, says the new barrier type is primarily designed for cars and SUVs.

“Crash testing for motorcycles would not have been done, simply because the outcomes are already known,” says John who has also been a rider trainer and crash analyst. 

John Nelson wire rope barriers
John Nelson

“I was shocked to see the new WRB design and wonder how Brifen can create a barrier system that is even worse for motorcyclists impacting the barrier directly.

“The only scenario that is being touted by the road safety community is the out-of-control oncoming vehicle, and a rider is going past the site. 

“Each time I challenge the pro-WRB community to show the research and evidence that WRB saves motorcyclists, they can’t, won’t and disappear.” 

New design

New Safe Direction wire rope barriers
New Safe Direction wire rope barriers

The new design is higher and the cable is spread over a wider area with less space at the bottom. 

John says the original design meant riders were prone to going over the top and being injured by the cable and posts. 

“The new design would keep a rider from going over the top and extrude a body through the cable and posts,” he says. 

Many riders view wire rope barriers as “people slicers”.

However, Australian road safety consultancy Safe System Solutions Pty Ltd Research and Evaluations Lead and motorcyclist Dr Tana Tan says they have no issue with wire rope barriers on straights as riders don’t tend to fall asleep as much as drivers. 

“That’s because we have limited tank range so we stop more frequently, we generally monitor our fatigue better and we have to be alert to ride,” he says.

“The issue is with placing WRBs on curves.”

Wire rope barriers in Tassie on a gradual bend
Wire rope barriers in Tassie on a gradual bend

Transport departments throughout Australia adhere to the standards published in the Austroads Guide to Road Design which do not permit wire rope barriers on curves of less than 200 metre radius. 

17 Comments

  1. Interesting out here – central tablelands of NSW (west of Orange) they are removing the cheese cutters and replacing them with ArmorGuard , the cheese cutters were being repaired all the time , costing too much money to maintain ????????????

  2. Next time any “Motorcycle Safety Consultant” discusses the WRB’s with anyone in a position to make any changes, ask the road authority rep if they would like their young son or daughter coming off he back of a motorcycle at 100kmh and sliding along the ground into one of these “safe” wire rope barriers?

  3. A little research on YouTube will give you hundreds of videos of WRBs failing to achieve their stated purpose. Large vehicles simply drive over them rupturing their fuel tanks ripping off brake hoses and other components turning what may have been a simple recovery into a day’s long cleanup operation with or without everything going up in flames.
    I have seen several videos where a vehicle that has swerved to avoid an accident gets caught up in the WRB and if it is not stopped it can be flung into other vehicles not to mention the dangerous debris that can easily decapitate someone even in their cage.
    The only good these things do is line the pockets of whoever is being paid to force them on us.

  4. They could be more dangerous, why not electrify them just to make really sure, come on its a cheap alternative to armcor barriers. Barriers are being installed specifically with bikes in mind through the Adelaide hills the testing prior to installing these wire cutters have not included bikes,well well lets call in the experts their knowledge of two wheel transport is quite evident.

  5. It concerns me that no where else in the world are wire rope barriers used so extensively. More research is needed into their effectiveness compared to safety for vulnerable road users as against say solid barriers. As far as running off the road on straight sections. I have witnessed a mate have a rear shock failure (bottom bolt snapped and spear off highway one onto the side median strip before riding to a halt. I’m sure he and his wife would not walk away from that if WRB were there. Also, having suffered a flat tyre at speed on a straight stretch of road- you need run off. WRB raise more questions than answers in my opinion and I don’t believe advertising that espouses how many lives they’ve saved. Again I was present in a truck when the driver dozed off…. ran off onto the gravel and corrected. Many of these WRB’s are positioned so close to the road verge that any slight error means you are tangled up in it. For a motorcyclist, that means disaster.

  6. Motorcyclists have always been small in road safety initiatives, simply because we’re a small group in the overall scheme.
    I don’t like any barriers, concrete islands or metal signage, that constricts maneuverability not allowing vehicles to perhaps avoid collisions, causing injury or death.
    Yes wire rope barriers are dangerous for motorcyclists, but so is everything else on the road for us riding.
    We ride motorcycles, our best protection is skill, observation, suitable protective gear & a well maintained bike……oh & luck!

    1. You may well be responsible for your own health. You also might be the best rider in the World and travelling under the speed limit but that won’t save you when some imbecile inadvertently causes you to come off.
      If you are lucky you might just roll down the lane and not come into contact with these barriers….although you might get splattered by the following traffic.
      Sounds like you have never had to take evasive action when something came off a truck or a Roo bolted across the Highway.
      Hope your lucks lasts.

  7. How about we get Dr Tana Tan from Safe System Solutions Pty Ltd Research and Evaluations get on his bike and run in to one of these fences and them tell us how safe they are.

  8. Wire rope barriers are a cheap and nasty system, that has no practical use, on any road system in world, polycarbonate barriers mounted on posts, are a far safer system for all vehicle types.

  9. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but the design of this fence, with its very clear interval posts and raised height, seems to have autonomous or heavily-computer-aided vehicles firmly in mind, and, in the light of the known safety concerns and the potential liability issues, whoever’s putting them there doesn’t envision motorcycles even being allowed on those roads in the the future (as autonomous vehicles and motorcycles don’t mix).

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