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The June edition of Austroads News provides a run-down on our latest reports and resources. There's also information about the release of the updated Road Safety Risk Manager and three new reports from our World Road Association representatives.

Providing for Road User Error in the Safe System

This project investigated the feasibility and cost of moving towards a truly Safe System infrastructure. The key feature of such an infrastructure is that it be designed to preserve safety in the face of driver fallibility.

The project first analysed the actual errors that drivers make.

It found a surprisingly small number of error types accounted for most crashes, with overcorrection after straying onto the unsealed shoulder being the most common. Similarly, a relatively small number of treatment types applied in the appropriate location would have protected a large number of drivers who made errors. In particular sealed shoulders, roadside barriers and centre line wire rope safety barriers (WRSBs) would have been effective.

In the second part of the project, defined geographical areas were selected and the identified treatments systematically applied to model the feasibility and costs associated with providing varying levels of safety in a rural road network. The approach taken was to compare and contrast a number of models, containing various combinations of the identified treatments, to assess the performance and cost of different approximations to a fully Safe System infrastructure.

The results of these model comparisons suggest that it would be very complicated and very expensive to create a fully Safe System utilising existing infrastructure technologies alone, even in the relatively straightforward rural network examined here.

However, it appears that very worthwhile approximations to a Safe System can be achieved more simply and less expensively. For example, implementing only three key treatments (sealed shoulders, roadside barriers and centre line WRSBs) would have provided protection from the consequences of errors in 63% of all the crashes examined in this study while costing one-quarter as much as the fully Safe System model. Furthermore, adding a number of inexpensive treatments to discourage errors (improved delineation and road marking at junctions, curve advisory signs, fatigue warning signs, lower speed limits, stop-controlled junctions, truck-specific warning signs, vehicle-activated signs (other vehicle presence) and warning signs) to these three key treatments only increases cost marginally, but improves the cost-effectiveness of the treatment model significantly.

The report provides an evidence-based account of what would be required to achieve a truly Safe System from an infrastructure perspective using existing technology. It also provides a range of treatment models that can be compared in terms of their complexity, cost and cost-effectiveness; constituting, essentially, a road map for how to move towards a Safe System in the most efficient way.

Using Financial Data in Asset Management Decision-making

In May Austroads published a report that outlines the process for asset management plans (AMPs) and long-term financial plans (LTFPs) in Australia, as well as the compilation and use of financial sustainability indicators.

The report examines legislation and guidelines for asset management and financial management across jurisdictions and goes on to examine recent studies on financial sustainability in Australia.

A survey of current practice was also undertaken across a sample of local governments in Australia, as well as a number of road and transport agencies. The survey found that while asset management planning and long-term financial planning are coordinated across functions at local government level, there is some room for improvement, especially in terms of integration of these functions. Road and transport agencies were also found to not be under the same legal obligations as local government regarding AMPs, LTFPs and financial sustainability indicators but in some cases were working towards this level of co-operation.

The use of financial sustainability indicators for asset management planning is generally extensive but the use of specific indicators, namely the asset sustainability ratio, asset consumption ratio and renewal funding ratio, needs to be better understood.

The study found that the implications for asset management of the financial sustainability indicators are especially important given they are also dependent upon asset valuation, residual value, useful life and depreciation approaches adopted by the organisations involved.

Assessing On-road Bicycle Lanes at Roundabouts

This report documents research undertaken for Austroads on bicycle lanes at roundabouts.

A key conclusion from the research is that new or modified roundabouts would ideally either have equitable speeds, or provide for cyclists so that they don’t have to enter the circulating carriageway. The tangential roundabout design philosophy of English-speaking countries maximises capacity, whilst the radial design philosophy of continental European countries maximises safety of all users. Other useful geometric elements are vertical deflection, horizontal deflection, and tighter approach radii.

Strong evidence was found that lane markings that encourage cyclists to “claim the lane” (for example sharrows) can be effective and are recommended where speeds are equitable. Cycle lanes on the approach should terminate some distance behind the holding line where speeds are low. Where equitable speeds are achieved, approach lanes should not exceed 3.0 m in width so that drivers do not attempt to enter the roundabout alongside cyclists.

Where equitable speeds are unachievable, consideration should be given to physical separation on the approach and departure. The report authors cannot provide conclusive guidance on circulatory cycle lanes due to a lack of data and more research is required.

All the evidence is pointing towards speed being the major road safety issue at roundabouts. If the underlying fundamental problem is addressed, then the question that this research is supposed to answer (will bicycle lanes at roundabouts improve safety?) will become secondary. Our research shows conclusively that cyclists maximise their safety when they occupy a lane, and this is most easily achieved when speeds are equitable.

Road Safety Risk Manager (RSRM) Upgraded

ARRB have recently released an upgraded version of the RSRM. 

The RSRM was developed by ARRB to reflect the findings of an extensive Austroads research project (NRS 9707 – Prioritising Works Arising out of Road Safety Audits). It has been used by road agencies, consultants, road safety auditors and others for many years and is seen as a proven way of helping to manage road safety risk, in support of Safe System principles. The RSRM was specifically developed to provide road safety professionals with a tool to proactively assess road safety hazards and treatments at a site level, for the purpose of prioritising sites for treatment. It adopts a risk management approach, with the ultimate aim of maximising the risk reduction on the road network for a given budget.  Undertaking assessments using the RSRM is a quick and easy process, with each assessment taking only 5-10 minutes to complete.

The RSRM is a high-quality, practical tool that exemplifies how Austroads and other Australasian research initiatives can be operationalised for use by member agencies and the wider industry.

The upgraded version of the RSRM brings all the underlying risk factors up-to-date with current research. The upgraded version will also be deployed on a more modern and user-friendly platform, having been moved from a standalone disk program to an online service that can be accessed through ARRB’s hosted (cloud) platform. Benefits of the online service include:

  • elimination of version support issues
  • provision of help desk support
  • automatic and seamless updates to the software and underlying risk factors.

Users of the recently released Australian National Risk Assessment Model (ANRAM) will find the upgraded RSRM to be a useful complementary tool. While ANRAM takes a network-level view to identifying and treating roads with high crash risk, the RSRM focusses on site-level assessments.

For more information see the ARRB website.

A webinar introducing RSRM will be held on June 5. There is no charge for the event but registrations are essential.  

World Road Association Reports

Performance, Sustainability and Climate Change, Improved Mobility in Urban Areas, and Road Pavements

The World Road Association is an international road organisation with 118 member governments and some 2,500 road experts. Both Australia and New Zealand are full country members.

The work of the Association is undertaken by 17 committees which bring together technical experts from around the world.

Austroads currently has full or corresponding representatives on 14 of the 17 committees. The representatives provide regular progress reports on the work being conducted by their technical committee.

The technical committee representatives are either members of or have a close working relationship with an Austroads task force or working group. Recent reports from representatives include:

Performance of Road and Transport Administrations
Alan Colegate, Main Roads Western Australia
Brendan Nugent, Transport for NSW

Sustainability and Climate Change
Helen Murphy, VicRoads

Improved Mobility in Urban Areas
Robert Freemantle, VicRoads

Road Pavements
Michael Moffatt, ARRB

Upcoming Workshops and Conferences

NEW Introduction to Road Safety Risk Manager Webinar
Thursday, 5 June 2014, 2-3pm AEST, Online

NEW Roads Australia Evolution of ITS - Now to 2030
16 July 2014, Brisbane, Australia

IPWEA Sustainability in Public Works
27-29 July 2014, Tweed Heads/Coolangatta, Australia

AITPM National Traffic and Transport Conference
12-15 August 2014, Adelaide Australia

26th ARRB Conference 
19-22 October 2014, Sydney Australia

Austroads Bridge Conference 
22-24 October 2014, Sydney, Australia

 XXVth World Road Congress Call for papers
2-6 November 2015, Seoul, Korea