Cyclists worst at crossing railroads

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Railroad crossing in Estonia (picture is illustrative). Source: Karin Koppel

Four people have died and two people have been injured in train accidents this year and there are situations daily where pedestrians and cyclists are in danger of being hit on a railroad crossing. The most problematic thing is cyclists often refusing to get off and walk over crossings.

Train driver Artur Lorents told ERR that there are one or two situations each day, where people narrowly escape an accident. "The most dangerous location is the Tallinn-Pääsküla route, where trains drive without too many stops, people do not take that into consideration and presume that if the train is at a distance, it will certainly stop at the platform," Lorents said.

Train drivers have faces a similar issue in other places as well, such as Kehra or Jõhvi. There have been so many close escapes that trains slow down in the region.

Lorents said his most frightening case was in Saue where a mother rushed for the train with their child. "Instead of letting the train pass and then run on the platform, they ran over in front of the train while holding the child by the hand. I was going at 100 km/h," the train driver said.

As weathers get warmer, more and more cyclists are out on the roads. Quite a few of them ignore the directive to get off the bicycle for the railroad crossing.

Tarmo Vahemets, head of NGO Lifesaver Estonia, a non-profit dealing with railroad safety, told ERR that car drivers behave best at railroad crossings, followed by pedestrians and then cyclists. "One of the age groups that we see often is 15-35, 15-40. The elderly get off nicely and smaller children are much more aware as well," he said.

Cyclists consider the pipe fences in front of crossings as a source of danger, as navigating between them causes a drop in attention. Vahemets said they have been placed there to indicate a dangerous zone that must be crossed with the bicycle at the person's side, in which case it should not become a distraction.

"There is a beautiful word in Estonian: ülekäik ("over-walk"). If you decipher that a little, then it is a place where you walk over and not ride over. If you want to ride over the railroad, there are bridges. According to research by the Transport Administration, people know that they should get off their bicycle at crossings and cross as a pedestrian, but less than half actually do it," Vahemets said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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