Limerick railway crossing is ‘lethal’ for cyclists

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

Turlough Herbert with Eva and her dad Peter Moynan on their bikes at the railway crossing at Lisnagry and below, the warning signs. Picture: Michael Cowhey
A COUNTY Limerick level crossing has been described as a “potential death trap” after a litany of serious incidents occurred there over the past six months involving cyclists being thrown from their bikes as they cross over the tracks.

A COUNTY Limerick level crossing has been described as a “potential death trap” after a litany of serious incidents occurred there over the past six months involving cyclists being thrown from their bikes as they cross over the tracks.

A bike shop owner says he has heard of a minimum of 10 people who have fallen from their bike at Lisnagry railway gates in recent months, including a garda superintendent who was left unconscious

Well-known solicitor Turlough Herbert – whose family run Herberts pub, located 150 metres from the crossing on the Limerick to Castleconnell road – says there is an incident almost once a day at the railway gates which he described as “just lethal”.

“The first time I had a bike, when I was a small fella, I came off the bike down there and I was nearly rolled over by a cement lorry. It’s deadly – I would avoid it if I was cycling.”

Roger Spain came off his bike two weeks ago when he was out cycling with a friend. “It’s only when you fall that you hear of lots of other people who have fallen,” said Roger, who lives outside Nenagh.

“We were out on a bit of a trip. You are cycling along and you are coming out from Limerick and there is a fair old descent so you are probably doing up to 35kmh. The very second the tyre goes on that track, it’s the same as if someone kicked the wheel from under you – it’s that instant. You are gone. It’s the same velocity as a door being slammed.”

Roger’s friend, he explained, “got a bad doing as well. “We could have broken something and been out of work. If you are on the road injured and a car comes along – it doesn’t leave much to the imagination in terms of what could happen. My glasses fell off. If you didn’t have a helmet or proper gloves on you would have been skinned alive.”

There is a sign erected on the approach to the crossing advising cyclists to dismount from their bicycle. Keen cyclist Keith Butler came off his bike at the exact same spot just over a year ago and was out of work for three days after the fall.

“I was heading in towards Limerick. I was on my own and had a mobile phone and a pump in my pocket. The back wheel just went straight down and I damaged my hip, my backside and leg. I landed on the pump and my mobile phone – I broke the mobile phone and broke the pump,” said Keith, who cycles with Nenagh Cycling Club.

“After I fell there I never cycled over it again. Someone could seriously be killed because when you fall, you actually fall into the oncoming traffic. My friend was very lucky, he fell in front of a car. It was a woman in a Starlet and she was travelling so slow that she could stop but it could have been a lot worse. It’s ongoing –there are a lot of people falling from various cycling clubs.”

The danger, Keith said, is more acute for people on racing bikes.

“I think it’s to do with the tyre – a slimmer tyre like a racing tyre on a racing bike. If you go over it on a mountain bike or bigger wheel there isn’t a problem but it catches a slimmer wheel,” he explained.

The problem, Roger Spain said, is exacerbated by the fact that the tracks are running diagonal to the road. “Obviously, we can’t change the tracks but if they were running perpendicular with the road you might get over it,” said Roger.

Peter Moynan of Moynan’s Bike Shop in Nenagh said he heard of three fallers last Sunday week. “A garda superintendent has been unconscious as a result of falling there. It’s a potential death trap - it’s horrendous,” said Peter who cycles with North Tipperary Wheelers. “We go that route but because of the angle of the railway crossing, we have to cross out to the middle of the road to cross the crossing and then go back again. There is a knack to it to get it right and when you get it wrong, it’s not good. I had people with broken wheels, with damaged tyres and damaged wheels. It’s the fallers are the big problem – the medical issue if they fall.”

Another Limerick cyclist who fell in recent weeks said: “The tracks are diagonal across the road and it seems that the only way to negotiate them is to practically slow down to a snail’s pace and cycle into them at right angles. It’s quite simply down to the narrowness and smoothness of a bicycle wheel meeting the smoothness of a railway track at that angle. Your bike just flips – it has no grip.”

A spokesperson for Iarnrod Eireann said she wasn’t aware of the number of incidents at the crossing in recent times. In relation to the safety of the crossing, she quoted from a booklet which the Road Safety Authority has issued. There is a section for cyclists and horse riders crossing a railway. It says: ‘As you approach the level crossing you must obey the sign, slow down and be prepared to stop. Cyclists, cross at right angles to the track or else dismount to avoid getting the wheels caught in the grooves’. The spokesperson said that crossing at a right angle isn’t an option there “as you will go out onto the road, so my advice would be for cyclists to dismount in order to prevent injury.