Median Barrier

Median barriers physically separate opposing traffic streams and help stop vehicles travelling into opposing traffic lanes. They are often built on the centre of wide urban multi-lane roads where they can be used to stop pedestrians crossing the road at unsafe places.

Median barriers can also be used to limit turning options for vehicles, and shift these movements to safer locations.

Median barriers used as ‘safety barriers' (designed to safely stop or redirect vehicles that hit them) are usually stronger than median barriers used mainly to direct traffic flows or discourage pedestrians from crossing. Median barriers can be made of a range of materials including concrete, steel, and wire rope. See Roadside Safety - Barriers for further information.

Decisions about what type of median barrier should be used should be based on several factors including traffic volume, traffic speed, vehicle mix, median width, the number of lanes, road alignment, crash history, and installation and maintenance costs.

  • Reduced head-on crashes.
  • Can help to prevent dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.
  • Can shift turning movements to safer locations.
  • Median barriers can restrict traffic flow if a vehicle breaks down, and can block access for emergency vehicles.
  • Pedestrians are often reluctant to make wide detours, and so may attempt to cross at locations with barriers installed, resulting in dangerous pedestrian activity.
  • In some regions the materials used in median barriers may be at risk of being stolen.
  • The ends of median barriers must be well designed or they can be a safety hazard.
  • Clearly visible signs and effective enforcement are needed to ensure that drivers do not drive on the wrong side of the median barrier.

Benefits

  • Reduced head-on crashes.
  • Can help to prevent dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.
  • Can shift turning movements to safer locations.

Implementation issues

  • Median barriers can restrict traffic flow if a vehicle breaks down, and can block access for emergency vehicles.
  • Pedestrians are often reluctant to make wide detours, and so may attempt to cross at locations with barriers installed, resulting in dangerous pedestrian activity.
  • In some regions the materials used in median barriers may be at risk of being stolen.
  • The ends of median barriers must be well designed or they can be a safety hazard.
  • Clearly visible signs and effective enforcement are needed to ensure that drivers do not drive on the wrong side of the median barrier.

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