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Tramlines: take care & take action

Tramline crashes are now less frequent than in 2013, with changes to the Haymarket taxi rank and greater awareness by regular cyclists.   Nonetheless they continue.  What can be done?…

Stop Press  April 11, 2014 – Letter forwarded by Cllr Lesley Hinds, Transport Convener [pdf 56k].  Council will consider Spokes Haymarket/Morrison Street proposal [below] as part of their investigation into an east-west route.

Take Care

Be aware that tramline crashes – getting your wheel stuck or skidding along the tramline – are not just happening to novices or the careless, but also to regular and experienced cyclists.   You can cross the lines safely for months, but then something goes wrong – it’s dark and wet, a vehicle forces you sideways, you swerve for a pothole, you hit a point where the tramline is marginally too high, or countless other reasons.   So, always be ultra-aware!

Here are comments (and a video) from some recent (2014-5) victims – mainly at Haymarket, but a few others included:

  • [fractured cheek bone]  I am a very experienced cyclist and regularly commute 20 miles across Edinburgh
  • [stitches needed to chin] Despite my awareness of accidents here and my best efforts to cross safely, I had a nasty accident
  • [scrapes and bruising, traffic nearby] I’ve passed through this section of the tram route about 70 times and had no problems with the tram tracks until now
  • Another recent case is the first we know of where the crash victim was then hit by a passing car, which ran over her foot.
  • [wrist & shoulder injuries] I’ve been commuting by bike off and on for 35 years.  Euan, the victim, was using a helmet-cam.  His video… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAVD4EXb8_M
  • [cuts to arm and hand, damaged bike and clothes]  I am a very experienced cyclist and I do this route every day on my way to and from work.
  • [broken bone in foot]  I have cycled in Edinburgh for 12 years and navigate the tramlines daily.  This is my first tumble from my bike.

The vast majority of tramline crashes that we hear of are of the above sort.  A very small number of people do behave crazily as in this article – and video taken from the tram cab.

The worst locations for crashes appear to be…

  • Cycling from Morrison Street past Haymarket, to Haymarket Terrace.   In terms of reports received by Spokes, this desperately bad location results in as many tramline crashes as all other locations added together
  • Turning right from Lothian Road into Princes Street
  • Travelling east in Princes Street at South St Andrew Street
  • Beside the tramlines at Haymarket Yards.

We suggested how to tackle the various crossings at Haymarket in this article [though obviously the decision is yours].

Take Action

Unfortunately the initial tramline design did not take proper account of interaction with other road uses – particularly cycling – resulting in many of the current problems.  This background is discussed here.  However, the council now has to deal with things as they are.

With the tramlines handed over to the council by the contractors, the council can make changes without the high penalty clauses which had applied to changes to the contract.  The Council is looking at all locations where complaints have been received, and has allocated £50k for initial work in 2014/15, with further sums likely in future.  Some improvements are relatively easy, cheap and potentially quick; others would involve major changes to traffic and significant roadspace re-allocation; and nothing can remove all dangers.

If you have suggestions, especially for relatively cheap and quick-to-implement improvements… email cycling@edinburgh.gov.uk and/or contact your own councillors [see the address below].

Haymarket, travelling east to west, is the worst location.  As mentioned above, it accounts for as many tramline crashes reported to Spokes as all other locations together.

Small sums could improve this crossing point somewhat in the immediate future – for example, improved signing, lining and coloured surfacing for the ‘semicircle’ route recently marked just beyond the Haymarket ‘jug-handle.’  Such efforts would be welcome in the short term, but are very unlikely to stop the bulk of Haymarket crashes.

However, Spokes has proposed a radical longer-term solution which could eliminate virtually all these crashes, plus those at Haymarket Yards.  We propose a Morrison Street/ Haymarket Terrace segregated cycleroute, as in the map below [click map to enlarge] which would allow tramline crossing at 90 degrees.  Our idea would need roadspace re-allocation, consultation, traffic Orders, money and, above all, courage by the council.

v5 HayMap shrunkGreater Manchester Cycling Campaign [twitter @GMcycling] suggested the modification below, which is more direct and probably better in relation to pedestrian facilities, though traffic light phasing would need considered.

Embedded image permalink

Although our plan is ambitious [for Britain] it does tie in with one of the options the Council is already considering for its east-west city-centre route.  Indeed, our solution to the tramline crashes would also form an add-on to the east-west route, enabling cyclists from the south east, heading west, to join it sooner.

There’s more information on our proposal, and how it fits with the Council’s east-west route, on page 3 of Spokes Bulletin 118.

However our proposal has little hope unless councillors back it.  So, if you support us, please ask your councillors to raise it with the Transport Convenor.  Find your councillors at www.writetothem.com.  Include a link to this article or to the Bulletin if you think that is useful.

Postscript – Bike Carriage

Intensive lobbying by Spokes a few years ago eventually brought a promise to trial bike-carriage on Edinburgh trams – the first UK bike carriage on scheduled tram services although it is common practice in the US and Europe.   After a few hiccups along the way, this commitment is now enshrined in the Council’s Local Transport Strategy [policy PCycle6].  We expect bike carriage to begin after around 6 months of public service – we had argued for it to start from the outset, but being a first for the UK the tram operators are ultra-cautious.

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