Most South-East Queensland cyclists would recognise those distinct yellow structures on bikeways and shared paths. They go by different names, including bicycle deflections rails and terminal restrictor bars. More commonly though, they are known as ‘banana bars’.
At worst, bananas bars create a significant risk of collision between path users. The danger is heightened where sight is hindered - for instance, by trees, bushes, fences or the slope of the path.
Governing authorities have long relied on banana bars to achieve two purposes: to restrict vehicle access, and to reduce cyclist speed. Over decades, this had led to banana bars been widely, and inappropriately, overused.
With the effectiveness of banana bars called into question, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) prepared a Technical Note on safe access management. The note, released in late 2014, acknowledged that the bars contributed to confusion around who gave way, leading to a higher risk of crash for cyclists and a negative experience for other users – such as pedestrians and those using mobility devices.
In one example provided by the note, banana bars were used at both the top and bottom of a set of stairs in a residential area. TMR argued that in this scenario, it was very unlikely that a vehicle would illegally access the path – making the bars completely redundant.
The Note cites scratch marks on banana bars as evidence of insufficient passing width. In some cases, cyclists are even required to ‘lean into’ bars on curved paths in order to negotiate them. The report argued that the barriers provide an additional danger to cyclists as an obstacle at locations where cyclists need to be concentrating on upcoming hazards, such as blind corners or ramps.
After community consultation, including with cycling advocacy groups, Brisbane City Council agreed to cease installation of banana bars and replace the existing bars with suitable alternatives, like bollards. This practice began in 2016.
Deputy Mayor and Public and Active Transport Chairman, Cr Adrian Schrinner, acknowledged the high number of banana bars across Brisbane (more than 900) and priority for removal was being considered based on bikeways with the highest number of users.
Governing authorities owe bikeway and path users a duty of care. That duty extends to the design, construction and maintenance of access infrastructure, like banana bars. In 2013, Brisbane City Council was found liable for causing a cyclist’s injuries where it had failed to adequately warn him about hazards created by road repairs.
If you are involved in an incident on the bikeways and shared paths, it is critical that you obtain legal advice as soon as possible.
Maurice Blackburn is the preferred legal supplier for Triathlon Queensland members. For more information on how Maurice Blackburn can get you back on track, call 1800 810 812 or visit mauriceblackburn.com.au.