Thousands of Brits will be taking to two wheels as the summer holidays begin this week, inspired by the Tour de France – and with many cycle paths meeting railway level crossings, Network Rail is issuing a timely reminder to cyclists to take extra care as they bike through the countryside.  Its new safety campaign is backed by Sustrans, the charity behind the creation and management of the 14,000-mile National Cycle Network.

Britain’s level crossings are among the safest in the world, but injuries and near misses still happen regularly. In the last five years, there have been around 140 incidents involving cyclists with four of these tragically being fatal.

The safety campaign encourages safer cycling behaviour to keep cyclists and their bikes from harm at level crossings.

The campaign reminds cyclists:

  • To dismount at footpaths crossings. Footpath crossings weren’t designed with cyclists in mind and some have found that their bike wheels can get stuck when crossing the railway. By walking across, you can more easily stop, look and listen for trains, and the risk to cyclists and their bikes is reduced.
  • That amber warning lights at road level crossings means ‘stop – a train is coming’. *

The campaign will be delivered locally by Network Rail’s 100 level crossings managers, who will speak to cycling groups and clubs across the country as well as leisure cyclists. It will enable them to get across additional safety messages such as:

  • Headphones can be a distraction and may mean that the wearer doesn’t hear the alarms sounded at level crossings or by an oncoming train.
  • Never assume that there is only one train coming or think that you know the timetable to guess when a train might come.

David John is a level crossing manager at Network Rail and a keen cyclist. He explains: “As a keen cyclist myself, I know the hazards that riders encounter every day. Some people can see level crossings as a hindrance, but to keep safe we’re reminding cyclists to stop when the flashing amber lights come on as a train will soon coming through, and to dismount at footpath crossings.

“I know getting off the bike isn’t always ideal but I do this to make sure I can safely stop, look and listen to check no train is coming, and to protect my bike as I wheel it across. We’ve seen quite a few cyclists get their wheels stuck while crossing the tracks, so this will help keep you and your bike safe.”

Huw Davies, Sustrans National Cycle Network Director, said: “Getting on your bike is a quick way of going from A to B for everyday journeys, but is also a good way to stay healthy and explore the countryside through the National Cycle Network.

“With there being thousands of level crossings on roads and cycle routes, it’s important that when the public are out and about this summer enjoying the Sustrans Network they are aware of how to use these crossings in a safe and sensible manner.

“Level crossings can be confusing to people who aren’t used to using them, but by following a few simple rules people can learn how to cross them with safety and confidence.”