CyclingSheffield has highlighted the danger posed by the city's tram tracks to cyclists, after a new map with crowdsourced data revealed 806 separate incidents where cyclists were injured along the tracks, and has criticised the council of failing to implement safety improvements despite acknowledging potential risks.
Just in the last few weeks, three cyclists have been injured — one breaking their arm, and another two suffering dental injuries, having their teeth knocked out.
Campaign group CycleSheffield asked their followers to log details of any tram-related crashes on the map, specifying whether the incident caused broken bones, a serious injury, or no serious injury.
CycleSheffield said that the tram tracks were "the biggest cause of accidents and injuries to people on bikes in Sheffield."
Dexter Johnstone from the group said: "The vast majority of crashes occur where people cycling are forced to cross the tracks at angles less than 90 degrees. This mainly happens at tram platforms and where the tracks bend on or off the road, and can be seen on the map where there are definite clusters of crashes.
"The council should have implemented highways improvements in these areas years ago, utilising things like tram stop bypasses and other minor highways alterations to allow people to cross the rails at a larger angle."
He added: "In the long run, the council should be designing and building a cycle network which is separate from the tram network."
Sheffield City Council had approved a Tram Cycle Safety Action Plan co-created with CycleSheffield in 2017. It proposed a number of interventions, including a comprehensive program of design solutions at the 20 worst incident sites.
However, since then only one part of the plan has been carried out – installing warning signs for cyclists around the 20 worst sites.
The council's own report from six years ago reads: "The warning signs will not in themselves resolve the problems created by the [tram] infrastructure.
"If progress is to be made in drastically reducing accident numbers other measures will be necessary. These will need to be designed and implemented over the coming years, starting with the 20 worst sites."
But none of these design changes to improve crossing points or to alter the tracks themselves (which, according to the plan, were supposed to be complete by 2019) have yet been implemented.
According to Now Then, the council funding for the project came to an end, meaning more comprehensive work to improve bike safety around tram tracks is now on hold indefinitely.
Councillor Ben Miskell, chair of the Transport Committee, said: "The safety of all road users, including the most vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists, is extremely important to us and that is why we are introducing some vital changes to our roads and how we use them through our Connecting Sheffield scheme."
"While progress on warning signs has halted I wish to assure cyclists that through Connecting Sheffield we are designing out collision hotspots and building in safer cycling routes."
Liz Glover, a cyclist from Sheffield said that she came off tram tracks twice — both times in rain and amidst traffic, adding that she "was lucky not to be hit by cars behind me".
"I've been cycle commuting for over ten years and these are the only accidents that I’ve had," she said.
Another cyclist Chris Rust said: "You can ride over tram tracks safely but it takes an amazing amount of care and concentration which is just unreasonable to expect. Especially when you are also having to worry about traffic, including drivers who may be impatient and have no idea why you are riding so carefully.”
Injuries suffered by cyclists due to poorly designed tram infrastructure is not unique to Sheffield. Last year, we reported that the City of Edinburgh Council paid out £1.2 million in compensation to cyclists injured on the tram line, with 422 incidents occuring since the trams were installed more than a decade ago, most of them on Princes Street and Haymarket.
A freedom of information request revealed 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 2017, 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.
A local councillor had said: "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."
Cyclists in Nottingham had also gotten injured after falling on the tram lines. One cyclist who was crossing the road in 2016 required stitches after her glasses broke and got embedded in her head, prompting tram bosses to make changes to aid cyclists.
In Sheffield itself, the group CycleSheffield had set up the website Tram Crash for reporting on such incidents, with 228 of them reported in just two years by 2016.
Dexter Johnson from CycleSheffield had said: "Cycling along a tram track is a harrowing experience which puts people off cycling in Sheffield. The surface is increasingly poor with numerous potholes and little room for manoeuvre. Approaching tram platforms is a risky business, especially with vehicles passing too close and too fast for comfort.
"The tram network is 20 years old and there is no good reason why improvements to reduce cycle accidents have not been built by now."
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after completing his masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes writes about science, tech and the environment. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him riding his bike on the scenic routes, fighting his urge to stop pedalling and click photographs (apparently not because he's bonking).