A court case brought against Edinburgh Trams and the city council by a cyclist whose rear wheel became trapped in a tram track in the Scottish capital, causing her to fall, could pave the way for dozens more lawsuits from cyclists who sustained injuries in similar circumstances there.
The Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, is currently hearing an action brought by 58-year-old paediatric nurse Elizabeth Fairley, who sustained injuries to her knee and face in the October 2013 incident which happened close to Haymarket Station, reports BBC News.
She told the court: "I knew from that previous experience you had to cross them, if at all possible, at 90 degrees. It is not always possible, but anything to avoid your wheel getting dragged back into the tram tracks.
She described how she had approached Haymarket Station from Morrison Street on the day of the incident, saying: "I crossed there to get across both tram tracks, but I had to straighten up because there were cars.
"I was looking at the front wheel and trying to get that over and trying to avoid the cars passing. Something pulled me into the tram track and threw me over in the path of the cars that were overtaking me."
"I have to think it was the back wheel slipping back into the tram tracks,” she continued.
"It all happened in a split second. The bike got thrown over. I got thrown over to the right hand side and fell on the road."
Ms Fairley initially sued for £50,000 in damages but has an undisclosed sum has now been agreed should her case, which is being heard by Lady Wolffe, prove successful.
BBC News, which says that the council insists it took all reasonable care, said that a similar case has been brought by cyclist Ian Lowdean relating to a similar incident on Princes Street in 2012, and that 39 other actions are currently on hold while the two test cases are heard.
In 2015, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, which at the time was acting for cyclists on almost 100 claims against the city council for falls allegedly caused by tram tracks, warned that a fatality was “absolutely inevitable” unless action was taken.
Almost two years to the day later, in early June 2017, medical student Zhi Min Soh was killed when she was thrown into the path of a minibus after her wheel became stuck in a tram track at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road.
Last year a paper was published called Tram system related cycling injuries, co-authored by Professor Chris Oliver, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, now retired, and past chair of Cycling UK in Scotland.
The paper analysed emergency admissions to hospitals in Edinburgh and West Lothian of patients with tram-related injuries between May 2009 and April 2016 and identified 191 cyclists who had been injured, 119 male and 72 female.
Some 63 patients – one in three of the total – sustained fractures or dislocations, 55 of those to upper limbs, eight to lower limbs, and two to the face.
In 142 cases, the cause of the incident was the wheel being caught in tram tracks, and in 32 it slid on them, mainly when conditions were wet.
More than half of the patients, 120, said that their confidence had been affected and 24 did not resume cycling afterwards.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.