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Slippery tram tracks and long queues of taxis at Edinburgh's Haymarket a dangerous combination, say campaigners...

Despite occasionally having a rather tense relationship, in Edinburgh cyclists and taxi drivers have joined forces to fight the new tramlines at Haymarket station.

Due to restrictions on taxis waiting in ranks outside the station, queues of up to 15 cabs are tailing back into cycle lanes, now that the intersection has re-opened following work to put in the tram lines.

Riders say they are being forced to weave around traffic, and come into conflict with the tramlines, which can be slippery or trap tyres.

Anthony Robson, creator of campaign group Citycycling, told the Scotsman: “The knock-on, for cyclists, is that taxis queuing in the lane are now poking out into the main carriageway, just where the tram tracks are edging to the left, which means those cycling have to cross the tracks at an astonishingly shallow angle.”

Cabbies agreed, with Central Taxis director Tony Kenmuir saying: “We’re united against a common enemy.

“Bicycles and taxis are always getting in each other’s way on the green lanes and we’re not each other’s greatest fans, but we recognise we’re being forced into a situation where we’re getting into each other’s way worse than ever before.

Last weekend we featured a video of a cyclist forced to cross tram tracks at a dangerous angle, and falling off his bike.

Chris Hill, who shot the footage, told road.cc: “The falls are right by the taxi rank.

“If there are more than 6 on the rank the 'extras' mean that bikes have to cross the tracks rather than follow the narrow bit between the track and the kerb.

“But plenty of cyclists are already between the tracks.

“The council has 'designed' a route that goes into the taxi lay-by so that bikes can come out and cross the tracks at a 'better angle'.

“Unfortunately this can be obscured and blocked by taxis!”

One user on the website CityCyclingEdinburgh said that the tramline incidents were directly related to the chaos resulting from the new road layout.

Arellcat wrote: “The problem is not the rails. The problem is partly design but mainly drivers, forcing cyclists into making rushed* and unplanned manoeuvres. Cyclists will happily cross rails given suitable space and time to do so. But in almost every instance they are allowed neither, because it has been engineered-out from the start.”

Another wrote: “Yesterday was my first day on the new road layout, coming into the city centre past Haymarket was so much nicer that bumping round the crescents.

“Coming back out was good as well until my back tyre found some slippy track and kicked out from underneath me. Luckily I had been following the chat on here so had slowed down and also noted the slippy tracks sign so was able to remain vertical.

“My biggest concern however was when I tried to go straight on from the cycle lane as the tram tracks go past Haymarket and to the left. It felt to me as though I has to move out into the tracks and momentarily cycle along them to go straight.”

There are new taxi ranks planned for Rosebery Crescent and Grosvenor Street, but these are yet to open.

Cyclist and Green Party councillor Gavin Corbett said: “I’m heartened to hear that taxis and cyclists are seeking common cause on the problems at Haymarket.

“It would be much better for taxis to take ownership of that problem themselves than for it to be done through enforcement, but we also still need to look again at avoiding the conflict in the first place.

“That can only mean seeking to keep cyclists further away from tram tracks.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

11 comments

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A V Lowe [575 posts] 2 years ago
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The impression generally perceived is thet the political imperative of building a tram system, has completely failed to engage and integrate with the rest of the city's built environment, with levels such that the footways in Princes Street have a kink in the slope to align correctly with the roadway and tram line alignments have gone in with road lanes crossing them or running parallel with horrendously compromised approach angles for cycle wheels especially but not exclusively so.

The finishing detail of the rail embedding in the carriageway also fails to meet the standards set by ORR guidance, the best practice informed by the substantial civil claim settlement of Roe vs Sheffield Supertram & Others, and the visibly better standards of finishing this detail in Manchester, Nottingham, Croydon, and Sheffield, and the limited amount of on-street track in Birmingham.

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Angelfishsolo [132 posts] 2 years ago
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This is way I do not use cycle lanes but rather cycle on the roads.

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Kim [228 posts] 2 years ago
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There is more to it than just Haymarket, this is a problem which has been a long time coming and one which is entirely of the City of Edinburgh Council's making. It is just a question of time before there is a death, when that happens there should be a charge of corporate manslaughter brought against the Council.

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fatty [77 posts] 2 years ago
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I've never understood the need for trams... Nostalgic nonsense at best. Can't buses do the same job to ferry people about cities? At least a bus can re-route more easily if the planning fails to foresee a problem...

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vbvb [593 posts] 2 years ago
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Completely agree. The relevant charge will be Corporate Homicide in Scotland, I believe.

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vbvb [593 posts] 2 years ago
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(Reply to Kim, btw).

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Dunks517 [44 posts] 2 years ago
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The thing is with the trams is that the journey from the Airport to Haymarket will no be any quicker. When I used to travel weekly through Edinburgh Airport the transit to Haymarket was the weakest link. The Council seem incompetent at the best of times. Just look at the cameras that were fining people for driving in bus lanes when the were turning into their drives.

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Kim [228 posts] 2 years ago
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Modern trams are an efficient way of moving people around, they have a higher capacity than buses and are less polluting. If properly implemented there is not conflict with cycling. There is the rub, here in the UK it is very rare to get any transport system which properly implemented to avoid conflict with cycling. Why?

There are towns and city across the continent where trams and people on bicycles get along just fine (in some places bicycles are even carried on the trams free of charge). The thing I really don't get is why we can do these thing here...

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Kim [228 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks for the correction, I will try and remember that.

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Shades [294 posts] 2 years ago
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My Dad talks about cycling over tramlines and a few years ago my commute took me through a dockyard with railway lines. Crossing the lines at a reasonable angle is easily learnt, but the one that caught me out one day was shiny rails in the wet are like a skating rink and down I went!

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A V Lowe [575 posts] 2 years ago
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In the US some 80 streetcar (tram) systems have returned to cities, many to deliver a high capacity link between residential areas and downtown activity. They have generally been delivered to a budget of around 10% of the cost per mile of the Edinburgh tram system, which (at current estimates) is costing £4m more per mile that the projected costs of the putative HS2 railway.

How is this achieved? Well for a start many systems actually start operation with second-hand trams, or as many German systems have done in the past, they buy basically a standard tram, and the trams can thus be bought in bulk and moved between networks.

But the real money-saver is that the amount of on-street running is reduced to an absolute minimum, as this is the most expensive track to build, and has the biggest problems with buses (damaging the track), cycles (falls etc) and other traffic. Reserved track, often laid out as a giant green strip through the city is commonly seen. In busy central areas, where pedestrian movement can swamp the ability of all other modes to move efficiently through the area, the electric tram, with its close guidance system, can be sent underground - putting the trams under Princes Street would perhaps have been the right move?