July 2015

“We are happy to welcome bikes”

Edinburgh Trams is the first UK company, and Edinburgh City the first UK Council, to agree to permanent bike carriage on regular tram services* …

Following a highly successful 2-month trial, off-peak bike carriage is now a permanent feature of Edinburgh trams.

Michael Powell, Safety, Quality & Environment Manager at Edinburgh Trams, said: “After considering passenger feedback and the number of cyclists using the trams every day we agreed that there was little to no impact on daily operations and so we are happy to welcome bikes on board.

Spokes congratulates Edinburgh Trams and the Council for having the courage to undertake the trial, despite no other UK authority having dared stick their neck out.  Of course, the widespread bike carriage found in Europe, the US and elsewhere gave every hope of success, but in the UK a longstanding negative and conservative pattern had been set by other councils, which only Edinburgh dared to challenge.  Hopefully other authorities will now learn from Edinburgh’s experience.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, Chair of Transport for Edinburgh, and Convener of the Council’s Transport Committee, said, “Edinburgh Trams is the first UK tram operator to allow bikes on board and I am delighted that we leading the way to ensure that Edinburgh’s system is truly integrated with all types of transport methods.”

*A few tram systems have allowed bikes for special events, such as a Sheffield Sunday tram taking bikes to the edge of the city, but Edinburgh is the first to allow permanent bike-carriage on regular services.  Also, the Docklands Light Railway does take bikes, but is light-rail, not tram.

Rules and restrictions

The full rules for bike carriage (including the definition of peak period) are at the end of this article.

The only rule about which we are concerned is the blanket ban on bike carriage (i.e. peak and offpeak) “during the Edinburgh Festival, 7–31 August or other pre-publicised special events where there may be a greater demand.”  Even during these periods there will be many services on which space is available, and so ‘conductor discretion’ should be used rather than a complete ban.  Signs at tram stops during those events could warn that trams would be busier than usual, which might restrict space for bikes, prams, etc.

The 2-month trial included a 1-week total bike-carriage ban for the Highland Show, which left some cyclists very sore having bought a ticket but being refused entry to a half-empty tram.  At the very least, prominent signs should be displayed on ticket machines if and when offpeak travel is banned.   However, interestingly, a Spokes member unaware of the week’s ban did take his bike on a (half-empty) tram with no comment from the conductor!

The background

The trial, and therefore its successful outcome, would never have happened without extensive lobbying by Spokes over a 4-5 year period in the first decade of the 2000s, backed up by continuing emails to councillors from individual members of the public (and some letters in those days!) including much evidence collected from Europe and the US.  More than once the principle was agreed, but then some change such as an election or a change in tram management put the whole thing into doubt yet again.

Only when the Council’s 2014-2019 Local Transport Strategy – which specified bike carriage – was approved did the principle become almost sealed in stone.   We particularly thank Cllr Lesley Hinds who actively pushed forward on the LTS bike carriage commitment when the timescale started to slacken.

Of course bike carriage is only one tram issue affecting cyclists.   Whilst we had a big success here we had a much bigger failure when trying to influence the initial layout of the tram tracks – otherwise a significant proportion of the many tramline crashes could [in our view] have been avoided.

More information

Edinburgh trams news release [Note – the Spokes quote about allowing bikes on quiet offpeak trams was intended to refer to events such as the Festival and the Highland Show – obviously bikes are allowed on offpeak trams at other times]
Spokes tram web page
Spokes news stories relating to trams
Our original tweet on the bike-carriage trial

Value of bike/tram for difficult situations

During the trial we received this nice endorsement of the bike carriage policy from a Spokes member who is a GP in the Sighthill area of Edinburgh …

Yesterday, I had a puncture out in Sighthill,  and a meeting in the centre of town within the hour.  It was too far to walk in the time I had available, but thanks to TFE’s sensible policy of allowing bikes on trams, and your article and photo on the cover of the Summer issue of Spokes,  I was able to walk 10 minutes to Bankhead tram stop,  and made my meeting with time to spare.    Thanks to Spokes and TFE!    I think bikes on trams should be a permanent policy.

A woman who occasionally uses the tram with bike told us …

It is a benefit to me to be able to bring my bike back on the tram late at night when I might otherwise not have cycled and may have driven.

Official Bike-Carriage Conditions

  • Cyclists can take their bicycles on Edinburgh Trams seven days a week (except week day peak travel hours 0730 – 0930 & 1600-1830).
  • Bicycles will not be permitted during the Edinburgh Festival, 7–31 August or during other pre-publicised special events where there may be a greater demand for travel.
  • Passengers with disabilities, or those with prams or buggies, will take priority over bicycles. Tram staff will have the discretion to decline bicycles if services are busy.
  • Only two bicycles can be carried per tram. Cyclists should stand at the centre section, marked on the platform by a disabled logo tile, and take guidance from staff.
  • Cyclists remain with their bicycles at all times.

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