Level crossings and just sporting opportunity

Road racing, by definition, uses roads, and some roads sometimes include level crossings. I'm sure race organisers do not seek out level crossing gates on purpose, but on occasion the desired route and nature of the course means that their inclusion is unavoidable. And that means that interruption of the race is a risk that should be actively considered, and not just treated with a shrug.

After Paris Roubaix 2015 (and was it LBL U23 the same year), the UCI felt obliged to reinforce the rules. Yesterday was the most high profile issue since then, and while I fully support regulations that punish reckless dashes under the gates to gain a sporting advantage, we have all seen too many race/season/career/life changing injuries arising from the deceleration of the peloton from 50km/h to 0 in too short a distance.

Many have spoken of riders being unaware of traffic signals as they are used to ignoring them in races, and of the impossibility of stopping as soon as the lights begin to flash. We all know that the train will not come until some time after the gates have totally lowered, and most of us will, on foot, bike or in car, have made that little dash to get through. If this middle aged man is tempted to do so on a journey of no particular time pressure, then a cohort of adrenaline filled racers will feel a greater urge to do so. We, and presumably the UCI and organisers, don't want riders to be disqualified/fined/banned for a month just for following racing instinct.

Neither race organisation (at this level) nor railway companies are small organisations with no available personnel or means of communication. Is there any reason why there cannot be a letter, months in advance that says:

Dear Rail Company, we are the organisers of a major international bike race that will take place on Someday 32nd of Neveruary; it has a high international profile, global TV coverage and is considered an important part of local sporting culture. It is to pass your level crossings at points X and Y between 12 noon and 1pm, but the nature of racing is that we cannot be precise. We understand that you cannot provide confident closure times of level crossing gates in advance, and do not seek to disrupt your train services in any way, but we are anxious to be able to ensure that the high speed peloton can be safely brought to a stop if necessary. Please provide a telephone number that race marshals can use to find out, between these times, whether a closure is imminent. We will be happy to include acknowledgement of your co-operation in our promotional materials.

Cost to rail company: a few phone calls to a line supervisor who, I presume, is already in front of a screen monitoring train movements. Benefit: small amount of publicity/good PR.

Cost to race organisers: a line at the bottom of a poster and on their web-site, and a motorbike in front of each group detailed to make such a call. Benefit: If the gates are going to close, instead of first warning being the red lights flashing, which riders are unaware of until they have technically committed a disqualifiable offence, there will be knowledge that the gate will close in 30 seconds, and those not yet at it can be ordered to slow down over race radio. If the system fails, or if there are too many groups that they can't all have outriders, then we at least still have the current position, we are no worse off.

Anyone here work with railways and able to comment on the feasibility of that? I would imagine (and as an occasional passenger, hope) that they already have somebody who, if asked by the fire brigade "Is a train likely to pass point Z in the next 3 to 5 minutes?" could give a confident answer: all I am proposing is brief access for the organisers to that person.
 
Perhaps there should also be some debate as to how delays incurred by level crossings, or other factors, are treated by the rules.

Rule 2.3.035 (subdivision of section 2 into a and b is my only edit to this)
The following rules shall apply:

1. One or more riders who have broken away from the field are held up at a level crossing but the gates open before the field catches up. No action shall be taken and the closed level crossing shall be considered a mere race incident;

2. a) One or more riders with more than 30 seconds' lead on the field are held up at a level crossing and the rest of the field catches up while the gates are still closed. In this case the race shall be neutralised and restarted with the same gaps, once the official vehicles preceding the race have passed;
b) If the lead is less than 30 seconds, the closed level crossing shall be considered a mere race incident;

3. If one or more leading riders make it over the crossing before the gates shut and the remainder of the riders are held up, no action shall be taken and the closed level crossing shall be considered a race incident;

4. If a group of riders is split into two groups following the closure of a level crossing, the first group will be slowed down or stopped in order to allow the delayed riders to return to the first group;

5. Any other situation (prolonged closure of the barrier, etc.) shall be resolved by the commissaires.
So good news for the break if the peloton is delayed (rule 3), and for the peloton if the break is not yet well established (2b) or is delayed but not caught (1), while 2a tries to preserve the status quo. Given the rapidly fluctuating gaps that we see reported, the determination of whether it is 30 seconds advantage or not is likely to be inexact. Is rule 1 not an incentive for the peloton to approach very slowly, so that they do not actually catch them at the gates (ie to avoid triggering 2a)? I guess teammates of the escapees will, in a switcharound from the norm, drive the peloton to ensure the "catch".

Rule 3 could provide an incentive to make the time just before a level crossing the time to make a break. It has a small chance of yielding a large time benefit for no more effort than any other breakaway.

Rule 4 ought to negate any incentive in "making a dash for it", as in theory it only takes one rider to obey the red light to require the whole group to have to wait on the other side, but I suspect thoughts of "that b*gg*r's going to get away with it, I'd better make sure I do too" outweigh those of "What a foolish fellow; doesn't he realise that the integrity of this group is protected by regulation 2.3.035 subsection 4?" I can, however, imagine those with a teammate ahead keeping a close eye on the warning lights, with a little prayer as they approach them.

Just, fair and appropriate?
 
Whatever about interrupting Sunday service in for Paris Roubaix, one of the biggest races on the World Tour calendar, disrupting timetables for a relatively minor race like Scheldeprijs, during Wednesday pm commuting hours, is always going to be a non-starter.
 
What I don't get is that the situation is managed differently depending on the race sitation, as shown in the quote in the second post.
Wouldn't it be much simpler to simply always consider it a racing incident?

But, yeah. Should be possible to find a way to determine more precisely where the train is. Might not even need a phone number; some "train tracking" apps may be available.

ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
And if there aren't any? Not all level crossings come with a convienient nearby bridge.
 
Re:

ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
This. And if there are no nearby bridges, then choose a different route. There is no adequate solution to both the sporting and safety problems that frequently used level crossings pose. So they should be avoided.
 
Re:

Armchair cyclist said:
I don't think anyone is suggesting changing train schedules, just getting precise info from rail companies about the closure of railway crossing gates.
Yeah, sorry, i didn’t have time to read your full op.

I think yes, a bit of straightforward communication with race organizers liaising between train company and riders during the active phase of the race would seem like the simplest solution. A preemptive neutralization to be triggered if any group in the race is close to the tracks less than, say, 2 minutes before a train is due at the crossing should be straightforward enough, particularly with gps tracking on riders to confirm time gaps etc.
 
Re: Re:

DFA123 said:
ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
This. And if there are no nearby bridges, then choose a different route. There is no adequate solution to both the sporting and safety problems that frequently used level crossings pose. So they should be avoided.
The only alternative to the Schelderprijs Route was apparently a freeway. But yes, in the case of Scheldeprijs, the organizers aren’t obliged to stick to that route anyway.

For a point-to-point race like Roubaix, it’s obviously trickier. There presumably isn’t a street route from Compiegne to Lille that doesn’t cross over the train line at some point.
 
Re: Re:

Leinster said:
DFA123 said:
ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
This. And if there are no nearby bridges, then choose a different route. There is no adequate solution to both the sporting and safety problems that frequently used level crossings pose. So they should be avoided.
The only alternative to the Schelderprijs Route was apparently a freeway. But yes, in the case of Scheldeprijs, the organizers aren’t obliged to stick to that route anyway.

For a point-to-point race like Roubaix, it’s obviously trickier. There presumably isn’t a street route from Compiegne to Lille that doesn’t cross over the train line at some point.
And in Paris-Roubaix there's the added element of not wanting to stray too far from the cobbles.
 
Re: Re:

Leinster said:
DFA123 said:
ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
This. And if there are no nearby bridges, then choose a different route. There is no adequate solution to both the sporting and safety problems that frequently used level crossings pose. So they should be avoided.
The only alternative to the Schelderprijs Route was apparently a freeway. But yes, in the case of Scheldeprijs, the organizers aren’t obliged to stick to that route anyway.

For a point-to-point race like Roubaix, it’s obviously trickier. There presumably isn’t a street route from Compiegne to Lille that doesn’t cross over the train line at some point.
Yeah, I think an iconic race like Roubaix may be a rare exception. But surely for such a big race, a train could be held in the station, or by a signal, for a few minutes to let the riders through. It is on a sunday after all, and is one of, if not the number one, biggest annual event in the region.
 
I think it's a good and obvious idea that all level crossings should have a race marshal, securing that it is always clear to riders if they have to stop, and that with enough time. I too think that it should always be considered a race incident when a group has to stop. And finally, yes, organizers should do their utmost to have it affect the race as little as possible, but it's not alpha and omega, I think it's fine that Scheldeprijs wanted a route where they couldn't avoid level crossings.
 
Re: Re:

DFA123 said:
Leinster said:
DFA123 said:
ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
This. And if there are no nearby bridges, then choose a different route. There is no adequate solution to both the sporting and safety problems that frequently used level crossings pose. So they should be avoided.
The only alternative to the Schelderprijs Route was apparently a freeway. But yes, in the case of Scheldeprijs, the organizers aren’t obliged to stick to that route anyway.

For a point-to-point race like Roubaix, it’s obviously trickier. There presumably isn’t a street route from Compiegne to Lille that doesn’t cross over the train line at some point.
Yeah, I think an iconic race like Roubaix may be a rare exception. But surely for such a big race, a train could be held in the station, or by a signal, for a few minutes to let the riders through. It is on a sunday after all, and is one of, if not the number one, biggest annual event in the region.
I have wondered that in the past, but been persuaded that it is not feasible. Knock-on effects of delays are multiple and can be costly (train company liable for compensation, track not clear for high speed trains, interference with work schedules, delays through day as trains can't just go faster to catch up) and especially in Paris-Roubaix, multiple splits in the field could make the delay excessive.
 
Re: Re:

Armchair cyclist said:
DFA123 said:
Leinster said:
DFA123 said:
ice&fire said:
To the race organiser: Find a nearby bridge and avoid the level crossing. Problem solved.
This. And if there are no nearby bridges, then choose a different route. There is no adequate solution to both the sporting and safety problems that frequently used level crossings pose. So they should be avoided.
The only alternative to the Schelderprijs Route was apparently a freeway. But yes, in the case of Scheldeprijs, the organizers aren’t obliged to stick to that route anyway.

For a point-to-point race like Roubaix, it’s obviously trickier. There presumably isn’t a street route from Compiegne to Lille that doesn’t cross over the train line at some point.
Yeah, I think an iconic race like Roubaix may be a rare exception. But surely for such a big race, a train could be held in the station, or by a signal, for a few minutes to let the riders through. It is on a sunday after all, and is one of, if not the number one, biggest annual event in the region.
I have wondered that in the past, but been persuaded that it is not feasible. Knock-on effects of delays are multiple and can be costly (train company liable for compensation, track not clear for high speed trains, interference with work schedules, delays through day as trains can't just go faster to catch up) and especially in Paris-Roubaix, multiple splits in the field could make the delay excessive.
Perhaps then they could even cancel a train that could affect the race. The same as they would do if there was scheduled works on the line. It shouldn't cause too much disruption cancelling one or maybe two trains on a sunday. I'm not sure compensation would be too much of an issue, because it's all state owned in France isn't it?

If more than one or possible two trains would need to be cancelled to avoid the risk of level crossings closing during the race, then I think such a busy crossing shouldn't be used in the race. It just seems too much of a safety risk to have a barrier shut across the road when riders (most of whom can't see much more than a couple of guys in front of them) are travelling at 50km/h. Or even worse, having riders suddenly slamming on their brakes because of some flashing lights.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY