Edinburgh's Princes Street reopens to confusion for cyclists

Painted 'cycle lanes' are not really cycle lanes, says council

by Sarah Barth   June 30, 2012  

Princes Street cycle lane picture credit - Magnificent Octopus Flickr_Creative Commons

One of Edinburgh's busiest shopping streets has been described as a 'crazy death trap' by cyclists who have been funnelled into multi-use lanes shared with trams, buses and taxis.

Princes Street, which reopened to buses early this morning after several years of renovations, including a new tram system, has been painted green on both sides with white bike signs betwen the tram lines.

Cyclists have been told that they should not cross the lines if a tram comes up behind them, but carry on, potentially delaying the service, the Scotsman reported.

There has also been confusion as to whether the green lanes, painted with bike signs, are actually bike lanes at all.

Official guidance to cyclists in publicity material advised: "Ensure you cross at an angle which is as close to 90 degrees as possible. Unlike buses, the tram path is fixed by the track - keep out of its way."

A council spokesman told the Scotsman that the new markings were not intended to create a cycle lane, merely make it clear that cycling was allowed.

A training video on the Edinburgh Trams website also states: "Unless you're turning right, it's better not to ride between the tracks. The tram can't swerve, so if something goes wrong the driver has to make an emergency stop and that can take the length of the tram.

Kim Harding, a qualified cycle trainer, told STV: "You assume it is a bike lane because they've painted bikes on the road, yet the advice previously has been to not ride between the tracks. This contradicts that.

"I think people will ignore the markings and ride on the left lane, but that just causes problems when buses stop and cyclists have to overtake, which means going over the tracks.

"I came off the bike once while crossing the tracks at a good angle before because it was wet.

More than two years ago, we reported how Edinburgh Tram was sponsoring training for cyclists around tram lines after at least six cyclists had accidents in the area. The work was halted and started again twice since then.

Financial services worker, Andy Arthurs, 29, from the Meadows, told the Scotsman: “It really is crazy, they’ve basically designed a death trap for cyclists. The tracks are wide enough to get your tyre stuck in so how you’re meant to navigate it I’ll never know.

“Danny MacAskill would have problems. It takes just ten seconds for anyone to see how stupid and lethal this is, so I really can’t understand how it’s made it through design and approval without anyone ever questioning it.”

A blogger called the Magnificent Octopus wrote online: "The tram lines have proven to be a nightmare for cyclists - set in smooth concrete or rough setts, with buses and taxis forcing your line and on dark and wet nights, many a cyclist has fallen victim to them and broken their... bones and their bikes.

"It was apparent that the people behind Edinburgh's tram had made absolutely zero allowance in their thinking around how cyclists might "interact" with tram lines when forced across them at shallow angles by poor road design and by other road users.

"It will be a matter of days before another cyclist is brought down here."

In the inter-war years when many UK cities had tram networks trams claimed the lives of many cyclists some celebrated ones amongst them including the celebrated French frame builder and racing cyclist Maurice Selbach who died after colliding with a lorry in South London in 1935 after his wheel clipped a poorly laid tram rail.

17 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Only in the UK could planners make something worse for cyclists - i'd use the "road" lanes

posted by northstar [1113 posts]
30th June 2012 - 15:03


What a godawful mess - corporate vandalism with no fear of prosecution.

posted by amazon22 [202 posts]
30th June 2012 - 15:46


This simply defys reason.

posted by mattbibbings [103 posts]
30th June 2012 - 16:00


The Magnificent Octopus hit the nail on the head with his/her blog title "A bloody trambles"

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
30th June 2012 - 18:49


Only the council in charge of a city as basically un-workable as Edinburgh could have come up with the trams in the first place - let alone this total guddle

Mark my words - it'll end in tears

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [586 posts]
30th June 2012 - 21:49


Thing is, the trams could've been running already on old rail lines that ring and cross the city and which are currently converted into cycle lanes that are seriously underused due to the risk of mugging. Only an idiot would have signed the deal to build the tram network on Edinburgh's already crowded streets when there's a better, quicker and cheaper alternative.


posted by OldRidgeback [2581 posts]
30th June 2012 - 22:11


Mind you, the 2017 Tour de France Prologue could be fun if Edinburgh's bid gets the go ahead. They could set them off in pairs, Scalectrix-style...

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9510 posts]
30th June 2012 - 22:33


Madness. I really wonder what dumb bastard thought that one up.

posted by Cauld Lubter [131 posts]
1st July 2012 - 0:48


Having cycled in Melbourne for years, where there are tram tracks everywhere, can I just say beware. Anything less than a MTB tyre will get stuck, and when it's wet they become as slippery as Ice. It takes a concerted thought to cross them as close to 90 degrees as possible when it's wet or otherwise you end up on your arse (with a tram stopping at speed behind you to add to the fun)

posted by sunburnt [6 posts]
1st July 2012 - 3:36


You have to say only a fool would think of this but then only a fool would think that its a cycle lane, even with the markings. Agree with the rest of the report in that the tram lines are lethal and you wont see them in a dark winters eve. It only contributes to an already crap cyclists commute area that is Edinburgh

posted by Spooks [62 posts]
1st July 2012 - 10:50


There's a ride going on today aiming to photo examples of the tram works 'cycling provisions'.

Hashtag #trambles

posted by Darkerside [65 posts]
1st July 2012 - 11:48


Tram tracks and bikes can work -look at the City Centre in Seville for example. Mixing them with buses and taxis as well though is going to make it too crowded for safe cycling.

wildnorthlands's picture

posted by wildnorthlands [29 posts]
1st July 2012 - 14:56







Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
1st July 2012 - 15:14


Raleigh wrote:





Er, yes they do. Go to Twitter, enter the hashtag #trambles that Darkerside mentioned, and read the tweets.

Oh and #stopshouting Wink

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9510 posts]
1st July 2012 - 15:21


They don't do anything on roadcc though.


Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1734 posts]
1st July 2012 - 15:26


Crossing Edinburgh's tram lines with skinny tyres is fine....as long as it is dry. In the wet they are a death trap however, my back wheel hooked up twice on the wet rails trying to cross them, managed to stay upright but the second time I ended up with a buckled wheel and puncture doing a Freddie Flintstone with an LRT bus bearing down behind me.

Words cannot describe what a glorious fcuk up the whole tram project has been, but then why am I surprised when Edinburgh council is involved.

posted by bauchlebastart [100 posts]
1st July 2012 - 19:31


F*** that for a game of soldiers, I'd be on the road taking the primary position.

Just wait until cyclists get stopped for doing just that. "You should be on the cycle lane!"

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3723 posts]
2nd July 2012 - 8:37