Video: Edinburgh Council issues tram cycle safety film, but cyclists' fears remain

Cyclist who came off bike says more needs to be done to ensure safety of riders as daytime testing begins in city centre

by Simon_MacMichael   February 26, 2014  

Caution Tram Tracks (source - Edinburgh Council YouTube video)

City of Edinburgh Council have issued a short video advising cyclists how to stay safe around trams as daytime testing in the city centre of the new transportation system, due to go live in May, began last week.  But a cyclist who was injured in a fall while riding across tram tracks earlier this month says more must be done to improve safety.

Previously, testing from Haymarket to York Place, including the section along Princes Street, had only taken place at night, with daytime testing confined to the stretch from Edinburgh Park to the city’s airport.

The safety points outlined in the video – there are similar ones for pedestrians and motorists – is expanded upon on the council’s website, which  advises cyclists to:

• Cross the tracks close to a right angle – this won’t always be possible, but by crossing as close to a right angle as you can you’ll avoid slipping on the tracks.
• Mind the gap - keep your wheels out of the tram tracks, especially when overtaking other vehicles or turning at junctions.
• Take care when cycling in the rain – the tracks will be slippery.
• Don't gamble at junctions – wait for the green light and until the road is clear, a tram could be coming.
• Look around you – trams are quiet, you may not hear them until they are very close.
• Think ahead and signal early – plan how you will cross the tracks and let other road users know your intentions.
• Know your limits - depending on the situation and your cycling experience, you may prefer to get off your bike at a safe point on the road to continue your journey.

Cycling campaigners have regularly raised safety concerns about the tram tracks after riders have come off their bikes ever since the first sections were laid in 2009.

In 2012, law firm Thompsons Solicitors described tram tracks on Princes Street in the city centre as “a fatality waiting to happen” and accused the council of trying to “bury its head in the sand” over the issue.

Fears intensified last autumn following a spate of incidents on a newly opened section of track close to Haymarket Station, leading the council to pledge to improve the safety of cyclists at that location.

However, earlier this month, 51-year-old Martin Finlayson of Stockbridge told the Edinburgh Evening News of the injuries he suffered when he came off his bike there.

The newspaper said he had recently returned from four months in France and so did not know of the reputation for danger that the location had acquired.

Mr Finlayson said: “I was cycling across one line and my bike came away from under me and it and I ended up in the middle of the road.

“If a tram or any other traffic had been coming along the carriageway towards Murrayfield I would have been severely injured and possibly worse.

“I suffered a cut on my leg, bruised ribs and a grazed hand. My bike handlebars have been bent along with the brake levers. My cycle trousers, jacket and gloves were all ripped.”

“My main concern is that this is apparently a known trouble spot but any work the council has done to improve safety for cyclists obviously isn’t working,” he added.

“Something needs to be done immediately before a more serious accident occurs.”

Speaking of the incident, the council’s transport convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, city transport convener, said: “We’re sorry to hear about this accident and we wish Mr Finlayson a swift recovery.

“Incidents like this reinforce our message for cyclists to take extra care when cycling around the tram tracks, especially in wet weather when the tracks can be particularly slippy.

“We would also urge cyclists to heed the local signage,” she added.

17 user comments

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To summarise. We have introduced a major hazard to the streets of Edinburgh but if you watch this tourist information film (Isn't Edinburgh lovely when the sun shines!) you will understand that any problems you have or injuries you sustain will be regarded as your fault.

Why trams? Wouldn't modern 'trolley-buses' have been a better solution? Croydon's tramlines almost put a cyclist under the mobile crane I was driving. Luckily it was all low speed and I was able to avoid a fatal accident (At one point his head was between my second and third axles).

posted by levermonkey [174 posts]
26th February 2014 - 7:20

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Mostly sensible stuff. I came a cropper first time out in Manchester from trying to cross the rail at a very shallow angle. Fortunately I just got wet and looked a bit silly. I've had a lot of practice falling off safely over the years, am getting better at it.

But... the bicycle people weren't wearing Hi Viz! And sometimes the bicycle wasn't in the parking lane!

posted by Argos74 [209 posts]
26th February 2014 - 7:25

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Applause Well done edinburgh

Tramworks cycle way.jpg

posted by bauchlebastart [82 posts]
26th February 2014 - 8:37

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Perhaps a return to 'demi ballon' tyres and old fashioned bikes would be wise where tram lines are. Somewhere in my old grey cells is a recollection of seeing black and white film from the continent of bicycles negotiating these lines without a problem.


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posted by antonio [899 posts]
26th February 2014 - 10:25

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I sometimes wonder how places like Ghent manage - loads of bikes, tram lines, but none of this panic.

posted by Niall [33 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:14

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Tram lines and cycle paths often overlap in Amsterdam, it's hardly a problem as how to ride over them is a cultured habit. I also remember reading all trams are fitted wit a safety mechanism for catching fallen cyclist/pedestrians, i haven't seen it working.

posted by KnightBiker [39 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:27

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bauchlebastart wrote:
Applause Well done edinburgh

Aye, that bit is a total nightmare. Even now that it isn't coned off, you basically have a choice of cycling between the two tracks (and thus having to cross one again on Shandwick Place) or cycling in the foot-wide gap between the right edge of lane two and the left tram rail. To top it off nicely, the border of the bonded concrete which forms lane three is so poorly finished on this stretch that it has a perfect two-inch wide, half inch deep rut running along its length. Just perfect for road bikes. At Wits End

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posted by seven [72 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:59

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Why advertise how to cross tram tracks safely when the woman clearly hasn't put her helmet on safely as a start!

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posted by jasonbrim [23 posts]
26th February 2014 - 13:30

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It's not the tram tracks alone causing trouble, it's the combination with hoachy motor traffic boxing us in and raising the stakes.

Maybe things will improve once they rejig the traffic routes, with the new George Street and P Street routings.

posted by vbvb [166 posts]
26th February 2014 - 16:34

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Argos74 wrote:
Mostly sensible stuff.

After seeing bachlebastart's piccy, I realised I'm talking complete rubbish, for that bit of [cough] cycle lane at least. That bit I'd avoid at all costs and take my chances in general traffic. It's the cycling equivalent of bathing in toxic waste in your pants whilst listening to Michael Buble.

posted by Argos74 [209 posts]
26th February 2014 - 20:00

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Think when looking at other cities with tram tracks you need to look at where they run in the road - my memory of Amsterdam is that they typically run in the middle - as they mostly do here in Melbourne, down under - so most of the time the only issue is crossing tram tracks especially tricky in the rain.
My experience when I lived in Sheffield was that riding within or adjacent to the tram tracks (Hillsborough/Middlewood) was ok except (and that's a big big big except) when another road user did a dumb didn't see the cyclist move (or didn't care about the cyclist move) there is nowhere for you to go you are locked into a very narrow area - you have to brake and pray as you can't cross the tracks to move out of danger
looking at that pic I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to out think a taxi driver's next move too many possible odd and outlandish combinations

posted by antigee [106 posts]
26th February 2014 - 23:01

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This is like making a cycle lane with spikes in it (and then assuming everyone will ensure they watch your "avoid the spikes" video). bauchlebastart's photo is just madness. The trams aren't even being tested yet and the accidents have already started.

A friend of mine spent a couple of weeks in hospital after his wheel went into a tram track in Manchester and he took a nasty fall.

What a shame, when Edinburgh has some nice cycleways further north of the centre.

posted by pmanc [96 posts]
27th February 2014 - 11:56

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WTF???? Which plonker thought it would be perfectly safe to put the Tram in the Cycle Lane????? Angry Angry

In Holland, the trams have their OWN lane in the centre of the road and cycles and vehicular traffic cross the tram lines at right angles...

posted by Paul_C [115 posts]
27th February 2014 - 12:30

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antigee wrote:
Think when looking at other cities with tram tracks you need to look at where they run in the road - my memory of Amsterdam is that they typically run in the middle - as they mostly do here in Melbourne, down under - so most of the time the only issue is crossing tram tracks especially tricky in the rain.

those one's appear to be in the middle as well, but the numpties put the cycle lane into the middle along with the buses and taxis... completely stupid...

posted by Paul_C [115 posts]
27th February 2014 - 12:41

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@bauchlebastart - please nominate that to Pete Owen's cycle facility of the month...

posted by Malaconotus [34 posts]
27th February 2014 - 14:08

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I think there are several good points here regarding safety. I used to live in Antwerp where they have plenty of trams as well as narrow, cobbled roads. During my time there I only got caught out once by the tracks, and that was entirely my own fault as I was in a hurry and not looking properly. Otherwise, I knew the tracks were there and took care when riding (my touring bike) near them. I didn't need instructions about it, I just got used to them over time. Which is what I suspect will happen in Edinburgh.

I've also been cycled around Amsterdam by a friend and experienced no problems as she knew what she was doing, and the traffic there is horrendous at times.

One thing I'd suggest to the council is not to have things obstructing the view when coming up to a junction, such as shown in the video where the woman stops among some trees. It is not very sensible to assume that all cyclists will come to a complete stop at these points. Obviously we should take care, but a few of us won't, and these people will end up taking the tram one way or another.

Riders will have to take care, but they will also get used to it after a while. That said, I hope the council build in safety for cyclists: they shouldn't rely on other road users always doing the right thing or driving with due care and attention.

posted by Mick Davidson [3 posts]
27th February 2014 - 20:39

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Was this crash properly investigated - any photos/documentation? I'm looking closely at the significance of keeping the rail profile and road surface to the standards set down by ORR design guidance - namely railhead no more than 3mm above road surface abutting it and NO additional ridges beyond the single flangeway on the rail. A 6mm ridge on a dropped kerb (in high friction concrete - not a smooth steel edge) is enough to knock your wheel sideways - in the dry. Standards for some systems are higher than others at present.

Edinburgh's trams would have been better located under Princes Street, so that a generous pedestrian boulevard could have been delivered, instrad of shoe-horning them in with buses and all the other traffic - effectively slowing the trams down.

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [432 posts]
4th March 2014 - 1:39

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