New figures show that there was an increase last year in the number of cyclists involved in falls caused by the tracks of Edinburgh’s tram system.
The data, obtained by Edinburgh News under a Freedom of Information request, reveal that 30 cyclists came off their bikes in incidents involving tram tracks during 2019.
That compares with an average of 27 times a year from 2009-16 reported by a study led by cycling campaigner and retired orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Chris Oliver.
He said that Edinburgh City Council had ignored warnings about the design of the tracks before the system came into operation in 2009.
“Before the trams were built we went to the council and said we can tell you how to design this well and they didn’t want to know or consider it,” he told the newspaper.
“They never built a proper segregated tramline. It should be better segregated and it is still pretty dangerous.
“The council just didn’t investigate or listen to advice about good infrastructure.”
Published in 2018, the study led by Professor Oliver saw researchers study emergency admissions to hospitals in Edinburgh and West Lothian of patients with tram-related injuries between May 2009 and April 2016.
They identified 191 cyclists who had been injured, 119 male and 72 female, and discovered that one in three patients – 63 in all – suffered fractures or dislocations, 55 of those to upper limbs, eight to lower limbs, and two to the face.
“They were often forced to change direction either because of a vehicle close to the tramline or changing direction to make a safe move across the tramlines,” he explained.
“The current infrastructure forces cyclists to take action to avoid a crash and it is often a taxi.
“The council are trying very hard for the city centre but it is the area around the trams elsewhere in the city that is bad.
“The people who are involved in these accidents have their confidence knocked and about a third of people never go back to cycling again. It just puts them off and puts them off the activity forever.”
Edinburgh City Council’s transport and environment convener, Councillor Lesley Macinnes, insisted that the council was gradually introducing safety improvements on the route.
“Cycle safety is of utmost importance to us and over the last few years we have been working to deliver a phased programme of cycle safety improvements along the tram route,” she said.
“As part of this we’ve already significantly enhanced road markings, signage and signalling beside the line and are progressing with the third phase of the scheme, which will include changes to junctions, increasing safety and prioritising people on bikes.
“Like other European and UK cities with trams, it takes time for the tram to become part of the environment,” she added.
“We’ve worked extremely hard to ensure cycling provision is integral to the Trams to Newhaven project, which will incorporate segregated cycle lanes on Leith Walk and an onward cycle route to Ocean Terminal, and have involved local cycling groups throughout.
“Once complete, this route will feed into broader plans to transform walking and cycling provision across the city, including the City Centre West to East Cycle Link.”
In June 2017, medical student Zhi Min Soh was killed when her bike’s wheel became stuck in a tram track and she was thrown into the path of a minibus.
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.