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Cyclists injured on Edinburgh tram line paid £1.2m in compensation

422 cyclists have fallen on the city’s tram lines since 2012, with a local cycling group claiming that safety improvements have come “slowly and too late”

More than £1.2m has been paid out to cyclists who were injured after falling from their bikes on Edinburgh’s tram lines during the last ten years.

A freedom of information (FOI) request has found that 196 successful claims have been made against Edinburgh City Council since 2012 by cyclists who suffered injuries or whose bikes were damaged after slipping on the city’s tram tracks or getting their wheels stuck.

In total, £1,262,141 has been paid out in compensation by the council, which has stressed that work is continuing along the tram network to increase safety for cyclists.

Since the tracks were installed a decade ago, there have been 422 incidents involving cyclists on the tram lines, with the majority occurring on Princes Street and around Haymarket.

> Family of cyclist killed in Edinburgh tram track crash win compensation 

In 2017, Zhi Min Soh, a 23-year-old medical student, was killed when the wheel of her bike became trapped in a tram track and she was struck by a tour bus driver close to the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road. Her family later received compensation through a settlement with the company’s insurers.

A year later, a paper was published called ‘Tram system related cycling injuries’, co-authored by Professor Chris Oliver, a now-retired trauma and orthopaedic surgeon at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary 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, while 32 cases were caused by wheels sliding out, 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.

> Cyclist sues Edinburgh Trams and city council after tram track fall – and more cases could follow if she wins 

“"I’m not surprised that trams system related cycling injuries continue,” Professor Oliver told road.cc following the release of the new data this week.

“Spokes, the Lothian Cycling Campaign, originally advised prior to the construction of the Edinburgh Tram line that the infrastructure should be protected and that cyclists should not be freely mixed with trams.

“An expert even came over from the Netherlands to advise but the advice was not heeded. There have been some recent improvements, but these have come slowly and too late.

“I’m sure there will be continual waves of litigation from injured cyclists, some of whom will be permanently injured and have reduced capacity to work”.

Recent safety improvements have included new red-surfaced cycle lanes, advising cyclists on the safest way to cross the tracks, but Green Party councillor Claire Miller says more investment needs to be made to secure safe spaces for cycling in the city.

> Tram-related cyclist falls in Edinburgh went up last year 

The Edinburgh City Centre councillor said the recently-released figures are “just the tip of the iceberg as many people don’t contact the council when they are injured”.

She told EdinburghLive: “It’s outrageous that the council knows the tram line is dangerous for people on bikes, but it is paying out injury claims instead of making it safe.

“Unless the council truly prioritises road safety, and invests in making safe spaces for cycling, hundreds more people will be hurt.

“The Trams to Newhaven project is building miles of track on our roads so I’m going to raise this FOI and find out what is being done to ensure a far better safety record in future.”

Edinburgh's transport convener Scott Arthur told the BBC: “It is important to note that some of these claims pre-date the opening of the line and the many safety improvements made since then.

“Nonetheless, the number of claims submitted is concerning to me. I am committed to ensuring the safety of all road users, and I know that over the last five years the council has been working on a phased package of improvements to cycle safety along the tram route.

“The council is now in the process of completing phase three of the project, which includes significant changes to the road layouts at six junctions to give greater priority to people on bikes.”

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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16 comments

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joe9090 | 1 year ago
1 like

I cycle around Amsterdam alot on 20" skinny Kojak tires and one of the very first things you learn is dont fuck with tramtracks. Always at a 45+degree angle and 90 if possibly only. Expecially when it has been raining.  I think most of these cyclists were not scared enough or not paying attention.

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chrisonabike replied to joe9090 | 1 year ago
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Would that be a Schwalbe Kojak 20 x 1.35 Inch 35-406?  That would not be regarded as skinny in the UK.  Due to our particular population of "cyclists"* people are much more likely to be riding on roads with much thinner tyres (I was happy for years with 700 x 28 for everyday use).

Not paying attention may be true.  However I can assue you that the design set people up to fail (especially initially - it's still not all "fixed" almost 10 years on).  Places lead you across tram tracks at a shallow angle - the alternative being "get off and walk".  Even now there are plenty of places where you're in a lane *with* tram tracks, likely surrounded by fast moving taxis and buses (e.g. Princes Street - streetview here).  You may need to manoeuver to avoid e.g. buses pulling out across lanes.  You may want to turn into a side street. As the streetview shows, there's not much room for error!

Personally I've learned the points where I cross / run with the tracks and worked out what manoevers are safe!  Dutch infra - in my small experience of it - doesn't make your safety depend on detailed local knowledge.

* Often sporty anyway, but "the quick and the brave".  The requirement to cycle amongst lots of fast-moving traffic - because there's no network of convenient safe infra - means people choose "fast bikes".  Or they may be primarily sport cyclists anyway who then decide to use the bike to get about.

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eburtthebike | 1 year ago
2 likes

If this sets a precedent that a council which knowingly endangers people, having been informed of that danger but ignoring the advice, is legally liable for damage, then there must be a lot of council transport officers losing sleep; in Taunton for instance.

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pockstone | 1 year ago
4 likes

All easily avoided by using trolley buses instead.

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chrisonabike replied to pockstone | 1 year ago
8 likes

Indeed but as per previous debates there are cons as well as pros to them.

In the case of Edinburgh though - whatever the rights and wrongs of "the whole thing" - this would have best been avoided by getting external opinions and paying attention to them.  Or just considering expert advice which concerned organisations commissioned and paid for themselves.

Plenty of places have both trams and (lots of) cycling.

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OldRidgeback replied to pockstone | 1 year ago
1 like

Edinburgh's tram system could've been built for half the cost and in half the time but with twice the network if it'd been done with a bit more forethought. The issues with regard to cycle safety could've been addressed easily too. But that's what happens when you get inexperienced council personnel taking on a  complex construction project, rather than asking a professional body like Transport Scotland to handle it.

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iandusud | 1 year ago
6 likes

As Ediburgh council has settled numerous cases of cyclist injured, they are aware of the danger and are therefore clearly negligent. This should surely be prosecuted. 

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qwerty360 | 1 year ago
7 likes

Though I don't know if it is the latest version, one of the biggest problems I have had is the "we have marked out what route cyclists should take" solution I saw last time I visited Edinburgh.

 

Great, you have marked out a path to cross with sufficient angle. But this means crossing the path of other vehicles; So your marked route is totally useless if you can't guarantee those vehicles will yield every time...

So it only works if cyclists have a completely isolated traffic light phase to cross the tracks - It would be an acceptable solution with a completely dedicated phase, but without that it is useless - it replaces risks around getting tyres trapped with risks from motorists crashing into you...

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chrisonabike replied to qwerty360 | 1 year ago
2 likes

You've got it.  At Haymarket westbound there are actually two paths marked out so you can pull out of the main traffic and into a taxi drop off access lane and get protection from a light phase.  So it's "safer" but may not be convenient.

Local group Spokes have a great deal of detail on this.  You can also get a feel for just how slow changes have been.  Not even all the mitigation the Council themselves suggested - after finally being given a push by a death - has been applied yet.

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alansmurphy replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
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What on earth is that? Are you really meant to cycle within an inch of the tram line?

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pockstone replied to alansmurphy | 1 year ago
0 likes
alansmurphy wrote:

What on earth is that? Are you really meant to cycle within an inch of the tram line?

And when you're within an inch of the tram line, how close are you to a passing tram?

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chrisonabike replied to pockstone | 1 year ago
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You're quite right, you'd basically be up against the side of it there.  However while worse than it might be in practice you shouldn't be there at the same time as a tram. The mitigation: cyclists approaching from the east should be separated by a signal from sharing with a tram.  Coming from the direction circled in the image cyclists are diverted on to a different street and come out where the arrow is.  So you get a different signal and will be there either before or after a tram.

I regularly access Haymarket station by bike although I'm normally coming from the East side.  It's a very busy spot, with lots of taxis, buses, coaches, people walking AND the trams - plus the messy roadway you'd expect.  A new East-West separated 2-way cycle track is now in construction passing through here.  Opposite the station entrance I believe it'll cut diagonally across the road (detailed PDF of this section).

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pockstone replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
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Thanks for the local knowledge, although I'm not sure I'd trust the phasing of the (no doubt foolproof!) lights to stop a tram coming up behind me...with its stop on a sixpence brakes. My only interactions with the tram lines in Edinburgh were at the western end of Prince's street/ Lothian Rd., thankfully both at 3.00 AM so revellers and taxis were more of a danger than trams. I recall that we were advised to dismount and use the crossing at that junction.

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chrisonabike replied to pockstone | 1 year ago
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Welcome.  The junction at the West end is bad and was the scene of one of the two tram-line deaths.  Ghost bike still there as a warning.  Some movements are are OK, some fiddly, some have risks.

Transport cycling Edinburgh is "good for the UK" increasing to "excellent" if the off-road mini-network serves your particular journeys.  It's possible to avoid most nasty spots without massive inconvenience.  (Not been to see London, Cardiff, Manchester for time though).  However it start looking rather crap if you're woke (or even here).

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A V Lowe replied to chrisonabike | 1 month ago
1 like

First from the photo you should notice that the cycle 'lane' is actually INSIDE ther yellow dots which mark the DKE for a moving tram (the space that HAS to be kept clear to avoid a collision)
Also note the pairs of cracks  (30cm apart) & patch up repairs around them. This is where the load transfer reinforcement between 4-5m long track slabs has cracked through ground movement (when the old carriageway pavements were stripped away they destroyed 200 years of compaction over a bed of saturated alluvial deposits on top of fractured shale, & is keeps moving. Note also the cracking and raised edges of the concrete where is abuts the flexible tarmac pavement (+6mm on a dropped kerb will bring down a cyclist)
Practically the entire length from Haymarket Terrace to Waverley bridge has this problem some locations especially bad
The embedding system is also poor, and falls well outside the standards I worked on with HMRI for ORR and the Nottingham NET system in 1999, base on the 1870 Tramways Act, plus standards for highway pavements (+3mm upstand for metal, +6mm for high friction material). The 3mm standard featured in the notorious Roe vs Sheffield Supertram & Others case
The late Chris Oliver's report aligns with similar studies around the world and there are 5 basic mechanisms for losing control of a cycle crossing embedded rails around 70% are when the tyre is able to rotate and drop into the groove which is between 32 and 37mm wide - the perfect width to lock on to a 32-37mm ETRTO tyre, 20-25% are when a cyclist is turning/braking and the tyre contact patch has side forces with no resistance from the 2 steel edges (I've taken a video of how this happens). The other 3 are generally through VERY poor transverse profile of the rail in the pavement. For 50+% of crashes the rider is distracted by the actions of another road user, often crossing the rails too slowly or without a firm control of the handlebars. Hence Edinburgh has got special permission for road signs to reduce this risk
Zhi Min Soh fell and was run over (front wheels) by the driver of a Rabbies Tours mini-coach, following behind and staggeringly unable to stop in time from 20mph? This happened less than 4 years after Roger de Klerk was killed in Croydon also by a bus driver running over him in the 20mph zone at Cherry Orchard Road, and the fatality on the level Crossing at Botany Bay near Retford seems very similar.
Over the years I have assembled a lot of detail should anyone want to help me get this on the table for resolution

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chrisonabike replied to A V Lowe | 1 month ago
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Thanks for your detailed knowledge. The local campaign group - Spokes - might be interested especially as IIRC a proposal for the new section is out. (I'm sure there are other concerned groups as well).

Unfortunately Edinburgh Council and its arms-length trams company have been quite resistant to even professional external advice in the past. From your working life you may know why. An enquiry into some of the problems was out late last year also (article here):

https://www.railtech.com/all/2023/09/28/edinburgh-tram-inquiry-is-scathi...

Spokes have a general "all things tram" here:

http://www.spokes.org.uk/documents/public-transport/tram/

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