VIDEO: Cyclists hurt on 'lethal' Edinburgh tram tracks

Rider has near miss with heavy traffic when his wheel becomes caught in tramline

by Sarah Barth   October 20, 2013  

Edinburgh Trams.jpg

Edinburgh cyclists have said a new stretch of tramlines in the city centre are 'lethal' for those on bikes - as video emerges showing a man having a near miss with traffic when his wheel becomes lodged in the tracks.

The video, acquired by the Scotsman, shows the new stretch of road at the Haymarket, which campaigners are now calling on the council to review before a more serious incident occurs.

Chris Hill, who runs the CityCyclingEdinburgh.info forum, said: “I wasn’t going ‘looking for crashes’, but I got one on video in the few minutes I was there. The video shows there is a need to make sure drivers keep well back.”

Campaigners say the road's layout could either be addressed, or the grooves in the tracks could be plugged with rubber, as they are in other cities in the Netherlands.

Zurich is also experimenting with rubber plugs at the points where cyclists need to cross the rails.

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “I believe we need to look again at how this section is laid out.”

Edinburgh City Council said it was planning to launch a series of videos showing cyclists how to ride safely around tramlines, in December, at the same time as trams are being tested along the entire 8-mile route.

One cyclist, Sara Dorman, 43, said: “I was at a safety briefing about trams and they were telling us it’s important to cross the lines at as close to a 90 degree angle as possible. But the actual engineering that went into the road design (at Haymarket) and the planning makes that impossible.

“You have to cross the tracks. It looks ridiculous to me. None of us want any more tearing up of the tram tracks at that intersection, but it’s extremely frustrating that these things weren’t thought through before.”

Ian Maxwell from the campaign group Spokes, said: “There’s going to be a lot of learning going on over the next few months as people get to grips with the new traffic layout and the tram tracks.

“We hope eventually that experience will build up. At the moment there are these particular places where you’ve got to be very careful because the design isn’t ideal.”

Last year we reported how a firm of solicitors who identified 74 separate tram track incidents there claimed Princes Street “is a fatality waiting to happen” – and accused the city council of wanting to “bury its head in the sand” about the issue.

Cycle campaigners have consistently warned about the danger posed to riders by the project, which has been dogged by controversy since it began in 2008, with costs spiralling out of control, contractual disputes, and delays which have seen the completion date pushed back from 2011 to 2014 with the network being less extensive than originally envisaged.

According to Thompsons Solicitors, the council also faces a wave of compensation claims from cyclists injured after coming off their bikes when their wheels became jammed in the tram tracks.

Transport Convener Lesley Hinds said: “We’re keen to take on the views of cyclists and other road users about how they feel the new arrangements on the road are working,” she said. “When the system was designed some years back the designs were consulted on.

“However, now work is nearing completion and later when trams are in operation, we understand that we may need to adapt signage, road markings and other 
elements of road layout.

“Once the project is complete we’ll be in a position to make changes if required and I’ve asked the Head of Transport to consider ways of 
gathering this feedback so we can 
act if required. It’s important 
that people get ready for the trams and that they know what to expect which is why we continue to push our safety message.”

60 user comments

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Navigating tramlines is basic riding skills?

posted by paulfg42 [379 posts]
20th October 2013 - 17:36

20 Likes

paulfg42 wrote:
Navigating tramlines is basic riding skills?

Looking where you point your bike is.

posted by ajmarshal1 [376 posts]
20th October 2013 - 17:54

19 Likes

How would a helmet have prevented this accident?

Grizzerly

posted by Grizzerly [146 posts]
20th October 2013 - 17:58

35 Likes

paulfg42 wrote:
Navigating tramlines is basic riding skills?

Avoiding sticking your front wheel into anything that could make you lose control and fall is. So is avoiding riding on slippery surfaces when you can simply hop (at least with your front wheel) over them. I'm really sorry for this chap but I don't think it was an unforeseeable danger.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [197 posts]
20th October 2013 - 18:17

19 Likes

Came down on tram lines myself a couple of years back when they were laying the Metrolink extension out to Droylsden. Due to the road works I had to cross the lines on numerous occasions, often at acute angles and eventually my concentration wavered.

Needless to say I avoided that road from then on. Luckily I was wearing Lycra and a helmet otherwise my basic riding skills would've been questioned...

Also, I would be interested to know how 25mm or even 28mm tyres would negate the problem, given that the grooves are apparently 36mm wide.

thegibdog's picture

posted by thegibdog [86 posts]
20th October 2013 - 19:45

26 Likes

As is almost always the case, it would just be much better to have a road design that didn't rely on people getting it right every time.

exactly - this seems to the principle applied to designing junctions for vehicles but cyclists and pedestrians need investigational skills to work out safe routes and sometimes just to work out what is going on - I've lived in Sheffield and the main problem (other than the rain) with the tram tracks is that everything is Ok until the unexpected happens - then it can be potentially lethal to deal with. Currently live in Melbourne and Trams are usually routed down the middle of road and junctions are right angle (does rain though) so easier to negotiate

antigee's picture

posted by antigee [174 posts]
20th October 2013 - 22:23

20 Likes

Quote:
Luckily I was wearing Lycra and a helmet otherwise my basic riding skills would've been questioned...

Also, I would be interested to know how 25mm or even 28mm tyres would negate the problem, given that the grooves are apparently 36mm wide.

+1 for me.
These things are dangerous, particularly in the wet, which it often is.
Usually the option of hitting these rails 'as near 90' as possible' is not even close to being an option. Think rush hour with a significant amount of traffic (more bikes, more vehicles, low light). The only 'safe' approach would be to jump the bike.
This is plainly not an option your 'average' commuter is going to take - and they shouldn't have to, or even be put in that position.
These stupidly dangerous (to cyclists) slots the council have undertaken to put in the road should be filled with rubber (if that is an option) immediately.
The wearing of helmets (yes I do) or any other specific clothing is neither here nor there.
Bicycles are a form of transport, and since taxpaying cyclists (find me a realistic amount that aren't) pay for the roads the same as everyone else I don't see why they should be ignored.
I am not against public transport in any way, quite the reverse, and I applaud any council that takes it seriously.
Just wish they would think it through and do it properly.

posted by dcddcd [7 posts]
21st October 2013 - 0:03

21 Likes

dunnoh wrote:
I had a close call with the new Manchester Metro Link near Bagley Tesco. The track crosses a 90 degree right turn and you have to pass over it and back again in some 50 yards. Its very difficult to cross the track at 90 degrees as that puts you straight in front of passing cars. I jump the track but managed to get my rear wheel on the second pass slightly into the track. It flipped the whole bike and I've no idea how I stayed on. I go a different route altogether now although with a buckled rear wheel!

It's almost as if someone genuinely thought that riding a bike through Baguley wasn't already difficult enough.

posted by farrell [1579 posts]
21st October 2013 - 9:50

16 Likes

Got a question for the locals if there's a cycle path down the middle of the tram lines who has the right of way? if a tram comes up behind you does it have to stay behind you until you follow the cycle path/route off the lines.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [604 posts]
21st October 2013 - 10:02

21 Likes

In my experience it is not so much the tyres getting stuck in the grooves, but the the tyres "railing" along the top of a wet track. The happened to me in Princess St when the my back wheel slid along the top of the track as I attempted to cross them. I managed to stay upright although bizarely got a blow out and buckled wheel as a consequence.

posted by bauchlebastart [87 posts]
21st October 2013 - 10:22

20 Likes

OK so while that guy clearly isn't the most experienced cyclist in the world the lack of helmet or lycra doesn't make him deserving of abuse - find me a commuter cyclist in Holland who's wearing lycra and a helmet...

The bottom line is that the junction or route or whatever it is at that point has been put in without any thought as to cyclists who need to cross it. In that one video clip there are quite a few cyclists so it's clearly a popular commuting route. I don't think his wheel actually gets caught in the rail, I think it just skids along on top of it. Either way it's a crap bit of design but then you can say that about most of Edinburgh's tram network*

* for "network" read "one 8 mile line"

posted by crazy-legs [566 posts]
21st October 2013 - 10:46

26 Likes

Sorry but "simply hop"[ping] your front wheel is not a manoeuvre that the average person on a bike is going to be capable of (especially in traffic) and, frankly, I'm not sure it's something that should be expected or necessary.

posted by adamtaylor [47 posts]
21st October 2013 - 11:33

19 Likes

I lived in Melbourne for years, lots of tram tracks. When I first moved there someone told me it was a matter of when not if, that you will come a cropper at some level. I did twice, once resulted in a number of stitches on the chin and the second two months on crutches as the bike went round, but my cleat didnt release.
You have to cross them at steep enough of an angle, especially with a road bike, as 23mm tyres fit the tracks very well, but even then you will get it wrong sometimes, and the wet is worse, I dont miss them at all.

posted by lolol [129 posts]
21st October 2013 - 11:58

15 Likes

The problems with Edinburgh Trams is that no thought has gone into how the trams are going to integrate with other forms of transport in Edinburgh. This while issue of cyclists and trams has been known about for four years. Yet no serious planning on how to deal with it has been done.

Sadly it is only a matter of time before someone is killed. Whether that will focus minds it is hard to tell, the powers that be might just try to shrug their collective shoulders and say that there is nothing they could do.

posted by Kim [146 posts]
21st October 2013 - 12:56

22 Likes

Yet another example of the muddled thinking and poor planning for this hopelessly bungled project to reintroduce trams to Edinburgh. This project has cost an absolute fortune due to the utter incompetence of those who brought it to fruition within the council offices in the city. It has been a shameful waste of money that could have been delivered for a good deal less, much more quickly and providing a far larger network had the council officers been rather more intelligent.

Bear in mind too that the city used to have arguably the best bus system in the UK.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
21st October 2013 - 13:22

18 Likes

If he likes playing trams so much why doesn't he just ride along with his wheels in the track the whole way!? Party

posted by geargrinderbeard [35 posts]
21st October 2013 - 13:54

18 Likes

BBB wrote:
Another reason not to use stupidly narrow tyres for commuting.

Another reason not to use stupidly narrow mind for commenting.

fukawitribe's picture

posted by fukawitribe [538 posts]
21st October 2013 - 14:05

22 Likes

adamtaylor wrote:
Sorry but "simply hop"[ping] your front wheel is not a manoeuvre that the average person on a bike is going to be capable of
So isn't riding with just one hand on the handlebars (or even simply riding the bike!) - as long as you don't learn it. But even if you don't know how to hop, common sense suggests that sticking your front wheel into a slot designed to control a moving vehicle might... well, make you lose control of your vehicle. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that you should take this obstacle at a less acute angle. It's all about common sense, not one's cycling skills.

Quote:
frankly, I'm not sure it's something that should be expected or necessary.
I agree - and in a perfect world it wouldn't be. But just like we are forced to ride in traffic and cope with potholes and some stupid drivers, we should, for our own safety, always think twice and do our best to avoid foreseeable problems.

Funnily enough, if it was a driver who lost his concentration for a second and crashed, we would all probably be furious right now about how stupid he was. But when the same happens to a cyclist, many of us are trying to defend him. Funny indeed.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [197 posts]
21st October 2013 - 14:23

21 Likes

mikroos wrote:
Funnily enough, if it was a driver who lost his concentration for a second and crashed, we would all probably be furious right now about how stupid he was. But when the same happens to a cyclist, many of us are trying to defend him. Funny indeed.

I'm pretty sure that if this was a hazard that car drivers had to jump around within their lane to avoid, putting themselves and others at greater danger, and one of them crashed then people would be querying the logic of the road layout. Whilst also querying their clothes and tyre choices of course.

thegibdog's picture

posted by thegibdog [86 posts]
21st October 2013 - 15:32

22 Likes

People claiming it was the cyclist's fault, well maybe he wasn't as skilled as one might hope, but what on earth is a tram line doing running along the middle of a road where cyclists are going to have to cross it? It's rubbish design. I bet nobody from the engineering firm or local authority gave any thought to people on bikes. As usual.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [194 posts]
21st October 2013 - 17:36

22 Likes

Only way to practise is to use your MTB and go through the wood and over slippery tree routes running in all directions or commute on a FAT BIKE ..... or one of these ...
http://kitesurfbikerambling.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/surly-quad-bike-don...

quad-surly.png
richdirector's picture

posted by richdirector [55 posts]
21st October 2013 - 19:47

22 Likes

@Edgeley - I don't really think there is any contradiction between our statements. We should of course do our best to make our needs clear and enforce building proper infrastructure. But on the other hand, I live in a city with a large tram network and somehow there aren't many accidents like this despite the lack of proper cycling infrastructure in most places. This means that as long as people really think what they are doing, they can survive in a crappy environment. And I really do think people should learn basic maneuvers as there will never be 100% safe infrastructure anywhere in the world, no matter how badly we want it.

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [197 posts]
22nd October 2013 - 10:30

14 Likes

Metal rails are slippery, doesn't matter if you cross them on a bicycle, motorbike or car, the wheels can slip, especially in the wet. I live in Melbourne where we've had tram lines for over a century and I've come off on them on the bike, had a heart-stopping moment on them on a motorbike, and slid on them in a car. Practice and skill helps, as does avoiding them and avoiding building routes where cyclists are expected to "simply" cross back and forth over the tram lines.

ajft's picture

posted by ajft [7 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 5:38

12 Likes

mikroos wrote:

Avoiding sticking your front wheel into anything that could make you lose control and fall is. So is avoiding riding on slippery surfaces when you can simply hop (at least with your front wheel) over them. I'm really sorry for this chap but I don't think it was an unforeseeable danger.

The foreseeable danger here is not with this rider, but with the planners who put a narrow metal lined trench along the roadway, essentially curving along the path of where cyclists ride.

You are saying that bunny hopping is a basic skill, which it is not. I don't expect to have to hop into work on my bicycle.

posted by DrJDog [182 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 10:26

12 Likes

If there were such a hazard scaled-up so that car wheels could get stuck in it, does anyone think it would be considered acceptable or that macho motorists would all rush to condemn the incompetence of any driver who fell foul of it?

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [746 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 10:39

12 Likes

mikroos wrote:

Funnily enough, if it was a driver who lost his concentration for a second and crashed, we would all probably be furious right now about how stupid he was. But when the same happens to a cyclist, many of us are trying to defend him. Funny indeed.

Oh come on!

If it the hazard were scaled-up to car-size and a driver lost concentration like that there would be angry demands for the road to be changed, and it almost certainly would be. Not that such a hazard would ever have been tolerated in the first place! Look at the endless complaints from drivers about ridiculous non-hazards like traffic island bollards that they manage to drive into!

Not to mention that if a driver 'crashed' they'd put other people at risk in a way that a cyclist flipping over doesn't, so its not really analogous anyway.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [746 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 10:57

9 Likes

Bad road design that will stop people from cycling. The net result will be that those who don't have the skills to hop the tracks or otherwise navigate than safely will simply give up on the idea of cycling. Also, try hopping your bike with panniers on or whist towing a trailer. Hopping the tracks is a solution but not for the average Joe.

FWIW I come from a BMX background and negotiating this sort of thing doesn't phase me at all (my tyres are unlikely to ever contact a wet tram line at any angle) but we need to consider this more wholistically and not just from our own viewpoints/skill levels. Cycling on city streets should be easy and safe for everybody.

posted by Matt eaton [486 posts]
23rd October 2013 - 11:44

6 Likes

For Pete's sake, did I say I like the road design there? I don't think so. But still, there will never be such thing as perfect infrastructure. That said, learning basic maneuvers like hopping the front wheel over obstacles (or at least learning to cross tram lines at a less acute angle like the other cyclist in the film did) is simply necessary if we want to ride safely. Good road design should naturally help us (and like I said, we should do our best and demand building proper infrastructure from the authorities), but will never be a substitute for proper riding skills.
@DrJDog - did I say "bunny hopping"? No, I said "hopping at least with the front wheel", which is not difficult even with a heavy bike (not to mention a light bike like the one we see here).

blog rowerowy - my blog about bicycles (written in Polish, but feel free to visit me! Smile )

mikroos's picture

posted by mikroos [197 posts]
25th October 2013 - 18:37

7 Likes

fukawitribe wrote:
BBB wrote:
Another reason not to use stupidly narrow tyres for commuting.

Another reason not to use stupidly narrow mind for commenting.

No, it takes a narrow mind to use a completely inappropriate bike for commuting in a city and then complaining that the quality of roads and infrastructure doesn't cater for bikes designed for a completely different purpose.

Skinny tyres are for racing/training/touring on known, open, relatively smooth roads, NOT for tackling urban "jungle" with potholes, cracks, manholes, tracks, slotted drain covers with gaps large enough to trap the wheel...

It's about picking the right tool for the job.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
26th October 2013 - 17:27

6 Likes

I'm just wondering how cyclists with cargo bikes or recumbents are coping with these tramlines.

"Hey..... Let's be visible out there."

Neil753's picture

posted by Neil753 [451 posts]
1st November 2013 - 21:59

6 Likes