Cyclists and Level Crossings

Insch level crossing

A level crossing is where a public highway (for example a road or footpath) crosses an active rail track at ground level. Cyclists should take special care when crossing a railway line using a level crossing because, if used wrongly, the level crossing could present a risk of injury to the cyclist.

Insch level crossing

There are more than twenty level crossings in Grampian, and these can be roughly broken down into three different types. Below we will look at each of these types, and present some general guidance on how to use level crossings. Further, we will offer some specific guidance for each of the three types you may encounter.

General Guidance on Level Crossings

When approaching a crossing, always obey any alarm, warning signals or lights, and if cycling with children keep them close.

If you do attempt to cycle over a crossing, manoeuvre to cross at as close to a right angle to the rail tracks as possible. On some crossings, e.g. at Insch pictured above, the rails cross the road at an oblique angle making it very possible that bike wheels can get stuck in the rails causing the cyclist to fall.

If there is a sign at the crossing directing you to use the telephone provided, you must use it to contact railway staff to get permission to cross. Make sure you tell them if you are cycling as a group.

If cycling in a group, don’t just follow the wheel in front. Ensure the person in front of you has cleared the crossing area and is over any stiles or through gates at the crossing before you start to cross. Everyone is responsible for their own safety and should always stop, look and listen before crossing.

If you have to manually open gates to cross the railway, ensure they are closed behind you.

Do not stop part way across. Once you have started crossing, continue without stopping.

Network Rail, who own and manage the rail network in Scotland, have produced a download on how to use level crossings safely as a cyclist. It can be found here.
 

Barrier Crossings

Gartly level crossing

This is the most common type of level crossing encountered by road cyclists. Barrier crossings can either have full barriers that cover the whole road when lowered e.g. the crossing in Kintore, or like the crossing in Gartly shown here they can have half barriers that cover part of the road. Both are equipped with audible alarms and flashing lights, though these operate differently depending on the barrier length.

On full barrier crossings the alarms stop once tha barriers are lowered. Whereas on half barrier crossings the alarm continues until the barrier is raised again.

Gartly level crossing

Additional Considerations for Barrier Crossings

Don't cycle under the barrier when it is closing.

On half barrier crossings don't cycle around the barrier. If the barrier is down it means a train is coming – and if the barrier remains down after a train has passed through, it means another is on its way.

 

 

Public Crossings

cyclist at public level crossing

These are generally footpath crossings, found mainly though not always, in rural areas. For example there is a footpath crossing with minature stop lights within built up Inverurie, which contrasts with the public footpath crossing at Wardhouse (near Kennethmont) which has no lights, alarms or whistleboard.

cyclist at public level crossing

How you negotiate these crossings will be influenced, in part, by the safety facilities provided at the crossing. Many will have no warning lights or alarm to warn of an approaching train, except at some places a train horn. There will only be signs (and a gate) that say: Stop, Look, Listen, Beware of trains.

Additional Considerations for Public Crossings

Always follow the instructions provided, and obey any alarm, warning signals or lights.

If there are no warnings or lights, you should stop, look and listen and then look again before crossing. Curving lines and overgrown vegetation could obscure your view, so listen for an oncoming train and do not rely on your eyesight alone.
 

Private Crossings

private level crossing by Richard Dorrell

Private level crossings generally do not involve public roads; instead, they often include tracks for use by farm or estate vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians. There are more than a dozen of this type in Grampian, and you are most likely to encounter them when out on your gravel bike, or MTB.

private level crossing by Richard Dorrell

You will know if it is a private crossing if it has a large blue sign saying "Private Level Crossing – Authorised Users Only".

There is some disagreement about your legal rights to use private crossings. Network Rail believes that you are committing criminal trespass if you use a private Scottish level crossing without authorisation. However, The Ramblers recommend people continue to responsibly cross railway lines in Scotland in the same way as they have been doing since the railways were first constructed. It is your choice whether to use them, or not.

Why use Private Crossings

You may find that the nearest public crossing is miles away.

These types of crossings often open up extensive areas of land to explore on your bike, therefore they are important for tourism and local economies.

In some cases crossings are established routes which have been used since before the railways were built.

Additional Considerations for Private Crossings

Always follow the instructions provided, and obey any alarm, warning signals or lights.

If there are no warnings or lights, you should stop, look and listen and then look again before crossing. Be extra vigilant at these types of crossings. Curving lines and overgrown vegetation could obscure your view, so listen for an oncoming train and do not rely on your eyesight alone.
 

 

 

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