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Anger at 'biker-friendly' guardrails delay

Monday 22nd June 2009

Motorcyclists have attacked a European technical committee for delaying the adoption of a standard for ‘biker-friendly’ guardrails (Surveyor 18/06/09).

The European Committee for Standardisation’s technical committee on road equipment did not consider a draft standard at its annual meeting in Berlin because too many comments were received, according to the Federation of European Motorcylists Associations (FEMA).

Aline Delhaye, general secretary of FEMA, said: “I believe that some participants of the committee forget the reality behind the objective. The truth is that motorcyclists are being killed sliding on our roads.”

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Further to my previous, I would like to highlight the comments from Jan Wenall from VTI Sweden - these comments along with others can be found on the IRF news blog (motorcycle safety)

Jan Wenäll on June 25 2008 - 06:37 AM

Representing an accredited test house, and with close to 21 years of experience of running approval tests on roadside safety features, and with experience also from the work within the groups CEN/TC226/WG1/TG1 and CEN/TC226/WG10, I would like to make a comment out of a test house perspective.

The EN1317 is clearly a test procedure, requiring a function. That function is verified by crash tests. While performing such a valid crash test, the most important thing is to control any details that can cause variations in the outcome. The test procedure itself is merely a tool to determine the relevant outcome, the result of the product. Actually, the test procedure must no replicate a real world accident in all respects, but must be possible to repeat over and over again. (It is good if the test procedure replicates some type of typical accident, but as long as all different test laboratories do exactly the same thing, we can still compare the results, even if the test is not a perfect replicate of a real world accident.)

While thinking about test procedures, the process of writing a good test standard must not to start with the actual test procedure itself. I am a bit afraid that we are losing the perspective when we start talking about speed, angle, impact point, helmet types, motorcycles etc. It is instead essential to start by defining what is a good outcome and what is a bad outcome, the approval or failure limits. As an example, what is an acceptable outcome of a motorcycle to guardrail crash? Do we allow the dummy to pass over the guardrail? Which probably is not a desired behaviour for a bridge parapet? Shall we restrain the motorcycle or the person that is sitting on the motorcycle? Do we know relevant biomechanical limits to define a valid pass/failure criteria. And will the outcome be affected by the helmet, the dummy response, the clothing and the motorcycle iself? I will gladly run quite a few tests, but to be able to distinguish bad products from good products I do need that pass/failure criteria to be defined by objective values that can be measured and quantified. Please remember that EN1317 is a test procedure with functional requirements, and we need to be able to verify anything that we request from such an approved product.

I am pretty sure that if someone out there can show me and the rest of the experienced people in CEN/TC226/WG1/TG1 how a good guardrail, in respect of motorcyclist protection, shall function during an impact and also how this differs from a bad motorcyclists guardrail we, the crash testing experts, quite easily can define a repeatable and objective test procedure to determine those differencies.
Dr Elaine Hardy UK

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Inspite of the inference that the views of the 192,000 members of FEMA represent all European motorcyclists, this is not always the case.

Specifically the issue on the adoption of standards for biker friendly guardrails is slightly more complex than the FEMA press release suggests.

The standard that Ms Delhaye is pushing for is the Spanish standard. However the Spanish only test motorcycle friendly barrier systems with a sliding dummy (30 degree angle) in their standard (one of the issues with this is that the dummy is not a “motorcycle dummy” but is an adaptation of a car dummy).

The reason for a delay appears to be because other road safety technicians would prefer to include more specific crash scenarios, including riding the motorcycle with rider sitting on it, as well as different collision angles and so forth. This view considers in-depth studies such as the German In Depth Accident Study data which develop crash scenarios focusing on the real world. According to Swedish Road Safety technicians, studies had shown that 51% of riders were sitting upright on the motorcycle while hitting the barrier and about 47% were on the ground, sliding towards the barrier. So implicitly the Spanish standard only covers less than half the problem.

Ultimately the various European countries need to work together to ensure that crash barriers are fit for purpose, especially with regards to vulnerable road users. So yes, a standard to include motorcyclists must be a priority, but not at any price.
Dr Elaine Hardy, UK

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