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Edinburgh cyclists sue council for tramline injuries

First test case to be heard in November - compensation could run to hundreds of thousands if cyclists successful

A lawyer is leading an attempt to sue City of Edinburgh Council for injuries sustained by dozens of cyclists when they fell on new tram lines.

A first test case will be heard in November, led by Stewart White, of Thompsons Solicitors Scotland  who is currently representing 60 cyclists - and has encouraged any more injured cyclists to inform the council.

Some of the more serious injuries include broken jaws, cheek bones and collarbones - and a foot that was broken when a bus drove over it.

Cyclists could expect individual payouts of up to £10,000 if their claims are successful. The case will rest on whether the design of the tram lines and the warning signs were inadequate and amount to negligence.

Mr White told BBC Scotland: "There is massive under-reporting from cyclists who are falling off their bikes as a result of hitting tram tracks.

"Even if a cyclist is uninjured I would urge them to report the fall to the council so we can keep pressure on the council.

"Cyclists are not being considered as the most vulnerable road user, it's really frightening stuff."

David Steele, 55, fell off his bike on 4 January at Haymarket.

He said: "You need to be crossing tram tracks at a 90 degrees. Less than a 45 degree angle should be avoided but at Haymarket you are forced on to them at a 15 degree angle, its criminal.

"I never fall off my bike but I couldn't see my back wheel and it caught in the tram tracks and I was off my bike before I knew what was happening.

"All my new cycling clothes I had got for Christmas were ripped, I ripped my shoulder, hurt my hip and elbow. For six weeks I had a very painful haematoma in my groin, which meant I couldn't sleep, ride my bike or wear underpants.

"I am very angry about this. I think it is negligent and criminal that the council haven't tested the system for cyclists."

Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh City Council's transport convener, said: "Obviously we cannot comment on a pending legal case as that is sub judice.

"Road safety is of utmost importance to the council and its partners, and we make every effort to communicate this to pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

"With the launch of Edinburgh Trams, our 'careful now' campaign successfully targeted other road users to raise awareness of the new service and advise on how best to take precautions when travelling nearby.

"In terms of cycling, the council advises: 'Anyone cycling near to and around the tram tracks should take care while they get used to them, especially in wet weather conditions as the tracks will be slippery.

"It's best to cross the tracks as close to a right angle as possible and to take extra care to avoid getting wheels caught in between the rail grooves."

As early as 2012 we were reporting how Edinburgh’s Princes Street was “a fatality waiting to happen” according to a firm of solicitors that identified 74 separate incidents in which cyclists have been injured after coming off their bikes due to tram tracks – 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 saw 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.

Patrick McGuire, a partner at the law firm, said: “The situation in and around Princes Street is a fatality waiting to happen.”

And in 2013, Edinburgh cyclists reiterated that the new stretch of tramlines in the city centre are 'lethal' for those on bikes - as video emerged showing a man having a near miss with traffic when his wheel becomes lodged in the tracks.

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