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Cyclists win first two cases following Edinburgh tram track falls

Dozens more claims likely to follow following decision of Court of Session


Two cyclists have won cases against Edinburgh Trams in rulings that are likely to trigger dozens more similar claims.

Elizabeth Fairley and Iain Lowdean were injured when they came off their bikes as they crossed tram tracks in separate incidents in the Scottish capital.

The Scotsman reports Lady Wolffe, who presided over the cases at Scotland’s highest civil court, The Court of Session, as saying: "There was no breach of duty on the part of either pursuer; they bore no responsibility in law for the accidents that befell them."

Ms Fairley had sued Edinburgh Trams and Edinburgh City Council after she came off her bike at Haymarket.

Mr Lowdean sued the council and Transport Initiatives after he was injured when he fell off his bicycle on Princes Street.

According to The Scotsman, while damages were agreed in both cases, liability was contested.

In her judgment, Lady Wolffe said: "There have been numerous other accidents involving cyclists and the tram infrastructure. These two actions are the first of these claims to come to proof."

Describing the incident in which she was injured Ms Fairley, aged 58 and a nurse, said: "I crossed there to get across both tram tracks, but I had to straighten up because there were cars."

She sustained injuries to her knee and face in the incident in October 2013, and 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.

"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."

In 2015, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, 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.

Two years later, in June 2017, medical student Zhi Min Soh died after she was thrown into the path of a minibus when 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 retired trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and former chair of Cycling UK in Scotland.

Researchers studied emergency admissions to hospitals in Edinburgh and West Lothian of patients with tram-related injuries between May 2009 and April 2016, identifying and identified 191 cyclists who had been injured, 119 male and 72 female.

One in three patients – 63 in total – suffered fractures or dislocations, 55 of those to upper limbs, eight to lower limbs, and two to the face.

A wheel being caught in the tram track was attributed as the cause in 142 cases, and 32 incidents were said to have been caused by a wheel slipping on a tram track, usually when it was wet.

Over half of the victims, 120, said their crashes had affected their confidence and 24 people did not return to cycling afterwards.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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