Scotland’s transport minister Humza Yousaf is to meet cycling campaigners following the death yesterday of an Edinburgh cyclist when she was hit by a minibus after falling off her bike when its wheel got caught in a tram track.
The 24-year-old’s death yesterday came on the third anniversary of the controversial Edinburgh Trams project going live after six years of construction.
Following yesterday’s fatality, Edinburgh City Council once again stands accused of having ignored warnings about the danger the tracks pose to bike riders
At First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood today, Green MSP Alison Johnstone, asked Nicola Sturgeon “what action the Scottish Government is taking to aid the inquiry into this devastating accident and whether the First Minister and her Transport Minister will meet with many groups and individuals who have been calling for safe conditions for cyclists and pedestrians in Edinburgh and across Scotland for many years to ensure no other family has to bear such an appalling loss?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “Firstly, can I convey my heartfelt sympathies to the family and friends of the cyclist who so tragically lost their life in Edinburgh yesterday.”
Adding that the government would help with the investigation into the fatality, she said: “The relevant minister [Mr Yousaf] would be willing to meet with cycling groups, not just in Edinburgh but across the country, to look at what further action we can take to make sure cycling, which is an activity we want to encourage, is as safe as it possibly can be for everyone who partakes in it.”
The Sunday Post reports that Ms Johnstone later said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the young woman who died. While an investigation is under way into the circumstances, it is terrible that it often takes such shocking events to prompt a rethink of how we plan our infrastructure.
“Cycling should be a safe way of getting about our towns and cities for everyday activities. I’m pleased that the First Minister agreed to my request that the transport minister meets with campaign groups to discuss what can be done to prevent any further injuries or loss of life.”
Today, solicitor Brenda Mitchell of Cycle Law Scotland said Edinburgh City Council had "ignored warnings over many years."
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, she said: "The issue with tram tracks and their safety has been highlighted since the installation of the trams."
She cited figures released earlier this year by Professor Chris Oliver, a leading trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at the Scottish capital’s Royal Infirmary, who said that almost 200 cyclists had been treated for injuries resulting from falls due to the tram tracks.
> NHS has spent £1 million treating Edinburgh tram track casualties
Professor Oliver, who is also chair of Cycling UK in Scotland, said at the time that cyclists “have often been forced into the tram tracks by another vehicle that has pushed them into the direction of the tracks, so they haven't been able to cross them at 90 degrees.
"They have sustained a variety of injuries and some of those have ended up on the operating table. We have now done 29 operations."
In 2015, law firm Thompsons Solicitors, which is representing more than 100 cyclists injured in Edinburgh in similar circumstances, warned that a death was “absolutely inevitable” unless safety improvements were made.
> Edinburgh must act before an "inevitable" fatality on its tram tracks, say solicitors
In response to yesterday’s fatality, Patrick McGuire, a partner at the firm, said: "Almost two years ago to the day I spoke out about the need for urgent action to be taken by the council to make the tram lines safer for cyclists because if it wasn't we would be facing a fatality.
"No action was taken to make these safety improvements."
But a City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman insisted it had “gone to every effort to raise awareness of the impact of the tram on all road users.”
She continued: "Since before the launch over three years ago we have carried out extensive awareness-raising activity both online and on-street, in partnership with other organisations, much of which has focused specifically on cyclists.
"As part of this, markings were added to the road at Haymarket to direct cyclists along the safest possible routes.”
It is worth noting that yesterday’s fatal incident did not take place at Haymarket, but at the West End of Princes Street at the junction with Lothian Road, another location campaigners have pointed out as being particularly hazardous for cyclists.
The spokeswoman added: "Like many other European cities Edinburgh now incorporates both cyclists and trams and, as in these cities, cyclists are advised to take care when travelling near the tram tracks."
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