Danger! Loose orcas!

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Published on 16 January 2020 by Mike Waters

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Filed under Category: Features

The BMF continues to lobby for control of orcas – ‘safety’ features used to delineate cycle lanes – as reports of motorcycle accidents continue.

First introduced in 2014, orcas are an increasingly familiar sight on Britain’s roads. However, concerns over their danger to motorcyclists continue to rise and the BMF continues to intensify its lobbying for greater control over their use.

Orcas – or ‘orca cycle lane separators’, to give them their full name – are lumps of rubber used along the white lines of cycle lanes to discourage drivers from drifting into them. The Orca is a ‘light segregation device’ designed to provide protection to cyclists, with a concave profile on the cyclist’s side and a ‘half battered’ profile mimicking a kerb face on the side encountered by motorised traffic.

To remove any doubt regarding how seriously concerned the British Motorcyclists Federation is about the use of ‘light segregation devices’ – including Orcas, Armadillos and Mini-Orcas on our roads – the BMF issued a joint statement with the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) regarding them.

It read: “The use of light segregation devices, including ‘Armadillos’, ‘Orcas’ and ‘Mini Orcas’, on our roads raises serious safety concerns in respect to riders of Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs).

“Inadvertent contact with the devices can quickly destabilise any two-wheeled vehicle with the potential to throw the rider into the path of other road users. These devices are easily damaged and broken by heavy vehicles, leaving fixing bolts exposed and protruding from the road surface, thus creating a further hazard to riders and pedestrians alike. Visibility is easily compromised by scuff marks from contact with tyres, poor light and weather conditions, a build-up of general road grime and the presence of other road users.

“Neither the BMF nor MAG wishes these devices to be fitted to our roads due to safety concerns for all Vulnerable Road Users (VRUs), not just motorcyclists.

“Both organisations call for an urgent review of all current and pending light segregation schemes in light of the evidence demonstrating their hazardous nature.”

Despite these concerns being raised, light segregation devices continue to be deployed – with a continued negative impact on motorcyclists and vulnerable road users alike.

One BMF member, Tom McCabe, had bitter experience of the dangers Orcas represent to the motorcyclist.

“Dangerous loose Orcas almost killed me,” says Tom. “These Orcas in the road are lethal. I was almost killed as I hit a loose one on my Peugeot MP3 bike in Hounslow, opposite DHL on Bath Road. I was five days in the trauma unit and Hounslow Council have still not fixed it.”

Even cyclists and pedestrians, who these devices are supposed to protect, have fallen foul of them. The blog ‘Mad Cycle Lanes’ (link) has documented many of the places in Manchester where light segregation devices have been employed in the city, and criticisms include that they aren’t large enough to deter drivers while still being of sufficient size to be a hazard for cyclists; that they can be hard to see; and that they aren’t particularly durable.

Pedestrians are by no means all in favour of Orcas either. CCTV monitoring of a mini-Orca scheme in the City of London clearly showed the devices to be trip hazards, with 55 pedestrians having tripped on them within the first 24 hours of installation. This scheme has now been removed.

The BMF reiterates its opposition to the use of Orcas, not just for the sake of motorcyclists but for the safety of pedestrians and other vulnerable road users as well. The BMF does not wish these devices to be fitted to our roads due to safety concerns for all Vulnerable Road Users, not just motorcyclists.

We call for an urgent review of all current and pending light segregation schemes in light of the evidence demonstrating their hazardous nature.

 

This article originally appeared in the Autumn 2019 edition of BMF Motorcycle Rider.

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