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.
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.
“"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.
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.