Obey the warning sign and don’t end up injured and prone on the road says Richie Clifford Picture: Michael Cowhey
THE gatekeeper at a “notorious” County Limerick railway crossing has said a cyclist will be killed unless they dismount when passing over the tracks.
Legendary fitness trainer Richie Clifford, known as 'Limerick’s Mr Motivator', is trying to motivate more people to get off their bike going over the track, or put their feet on the ground and walk across.
It is located 150 metres from Herbert’s pub on the Limerick to Castleconnell road. What makes it especially dangerous is that the track goes over the road at an angle.
When cyclists arrive at speed their skinny tyres slot into the grooves and they are thrown off onto the road.
Richie, who has been the gatekeeper for 40 years, would be a rich man if you gave him €1 for every stricken soul he has helped over the decades.
The Limerick Leader has been contacted about two incidents in recent weeks. The first involved a woman who fractured her shoulder and bruised her hip. Her helmet was cracked such was the force of the fall. In another a motorist had to swerve his car when a cyclist came down in front of him.
However, Richie says he picks someone up “most days”.
“On wet days it could be every day. If you don’t get off your bike, there’s a massive chance you will fall. When it is wet, there is no doubt about it, you will fall.
“People have been hospitalised, ambulances have been called, damaged hips and elbows and stuff like that. We had a group down from Dublin last year – one fell and he took down nine people. Very expensive bikes broken,” said Richie.
While broken bones and bruises will heal his worry is a cyclist being hit by a car or truck.
“They’ve a tendency to fall out onto the road, they never fall inward. You will always fall out onto the road. When people fall, they fall quite vigorously because the bike is taken out from underneath them, the wheel is gone on the track. They could be strapped into their bike,” said Richie, who believes there will be a fatality unless more obey the seven warning signs to dismount.
“Absolutely, no doubt. I’ve seen many a close one, from sand lorries to articulated lorries to buses to cars, there’s no question about it, we must put out the message now that there will be a fatality there, it’s not an if, but or maybe. Somebody will die there.”
Richie is not being “holier-than-thou” as he admits to falling there himself.
“I’m a cyclist and I have fallen there. I got a right good bang but I learned. The public are not taking the advice of the seven signs - it’s 50/50. We need to get that much higher. The people that are learning are the people that fell.
“It will only take three seconds, slow down, take one foot out and walk across. You don’t even have to get off your bike. What I have noticed is, there are lots of organised groups going in and out of Limerick and they get off their bikes. It is because there are experienced riders with them,” said Richie, who as a fitness trainer is delighted to see so many people out on their bikes but he doesn’t want the novices to get hurt on the rail crossing.
One of many experienced riders who know the lie of the land is solicitor and Newcastle West Cycling Club member, Darach McCarthy.
He describes the rail crossing as “notorious”.
“I haven’t been in anyone’s company when they fell off their bike but I am aware it is a dangerous junction to be particularly wary of.
“You have to be super cautious and especially in very cold, wet weather but tracks are slippery at the best of times. They are at an angle going across the road which makes them exceptionally dangerous and especially in cold weather,” said Darach, who has heard a lot of stories over the years of people coming down there.
“Any time I go over those tracks I go very slowly on the approach, go very, very slowly over them and speed up again. At any railway crossing you express caution but this is an exceptionally difficult one due to the angle. You might get your wheel caught in the track,” he said.
“Iarnród Éireann is engaging with stakeholders to mark the day and raise awareness of safe use of level crossings,” said the spokesperson.