October 2017

Tramline safety measures

The Council has outlined its phased programme to improve cyclist tramline safety, with phase 1 being implemented in the immediate future…

Phase 1 involves signs, publicity (e.g. bus-back adverts) and red surfacing – measures which can be implemented rapidly.  The next phases, due from April 2018 onwards, involve greater complexity, such as traffic orders, consultations with transport operators, changes to signalling equipment or road layouts and so on.

The safety programme, approved by the Council in August, follows the continuing toll of tramline crashes and injuries, and the tragic death this summer of Edinburgh University medical student Zhi Min Soh at the West End junction.

A Council news release explains phase 1 in detail.   Further information on later phases is in a report to the October 5th Transport Committee.

As we have pointed out since day 1 the initial design of the tramline layout did not take cycling (or walking) properly into account, but left them to be fitted in subsequently – rather than the holistic approach we argued for.  It is tragic, as one example, that for much of the onroad section there is a wide central reservation, wasting road width which could have been used for cycle provision.   As a result, although many improvements can be made, and we welcome them, the system will never be as bike-friendly as it could and should have been.


This comprises red surfacing at important crossing locations, accompanied by ‘Give Cyclists Space’ signage and a publicity campaign.

The Council rightly recognises that many crashes occur because traffic pressures force the cyclist into the tramlines at a poor angle.   Merely advising cyclists to use the correct angle would for many people just be telling them to suck eggs.

Crashes can occur when a cyclist needs to cross the lines but because of traffic pressures cannot position themselves well for crossing.  Another common scenario is someone cycling parallel to the tracks but then forced sideways into the lines by a vehicle moving out.

We therefore particularly welcome the phase 1 ‘Give Cyclists Space’ signs and publicity aimed at drivers, many of whom are unfamiliar with the problems that cyclists face on the roads.

As far as the red surfacing is concerned, there are arguments for and against, but on balance we think this is valuable.  The main negative, of course, is the possibility that some people will think the red surface guarantees priority, which it does not, and so the cyclist must still be very aware of traffic behind before turning.   The Council intends to monitor the scheme carefully for this or any unforseen problems.

We note that the red-surfaced curved cycle lane outside Haymarket Station has certainly helped achieve a significant reduction in crashes there, but that location is very different to most of the others currently being implemented – at Haymarket you are on the left of the traffic, remaining on the left, and not crossing the path of traffic – so it cannot be assumed that the outcomes elsewhere will be similar.


The October 5 Committee Report promises the following [our comments in italics]

Phase 2 – Expected completion date end of March 2018
• Improvements to Advanced Stop Lines for cyclists and associated traffic signals apparatus at six city centre locations.
• Changes to existing short length of cycle lane and associated alterations to traffic signals apparatus outside entrance to Haymarket Station [this we believe includes modifying the small island]
• Replacement of cycle symbol road markings on Princes Street at Lothian Road and at South Charlotte Street with worded “CYCLE” marking, subject to Scottish Ministers approval of non-prescribed marking. [The existing cycle symbol between tramlines is very confusing although it follows government rules, which do not envisage this scenario.  Replacing it with ‘CYCLE’ , with ‘C’ and ‘E’ outside the tramlines makes it clear that you are not required to cross the tramline].

Phase 3 – Expected completion date Autumn 2018 (dependent on successful promotion of redetermination orders)
• Short length of new segregated cycle lane on Princes Street and red screeded surfacing and road markings to guide cyclists crossing the tram tracks at South St Andrew Street.
• New shared use footway/cycleway and crossing points at Cultins Road.

Phase 4 – Expected completion date dependent on scope of change
• Substantive changes to road layout at Princes Street/Lothian Road/Shandwick Place/Queensferry Street/Hope Street junction to improve road safety for all users and introduce a new pedestrian crossing facility on Queensferry Street (outside Ryan’s Bar), delivered as part of a review of public realm in the wider city centre.  [see our comments in the next section below]


The West End junction is probably the worst blackspot now that the number of crashes outside Haymarket station has been drastically cut by a series of measures, most recently the brightly coloured cycle lane.   The West End is a complex junction and several cyclist movements need catered for, including…

  • A light-controlled cycle/pedestrian ‘tiger crossing’ to link Lothian Road/Rutland Street with Hope Street, Charlotte Square and the planned West-East cycleroute. A suggested layout was shown in Spokes 123 [p3].
  • Turning right from Lothian Road to continue along Princes St is the most dangerous manoeuvre, in the worst case crossing the tramlines at a bad angle with traffic on both sides.  One solution (for all but the most confident cyclists) would be a 2-stage turn, as suggested in the above Spokes 123 layout.  A simpler option is cycle advance traffic lights as you leave Lothian Road, though this doesn’t help cyclists who haven’t reached the front at the appropriate time.
  • Princes Street to Shandwick Place is another tricky but essential problem to be tackled at the West End junction.  Replacing the cycle symbol between the tram tracks by the word ‘CYCLE,’ as in phase 2 above, will help reduce confusion, but cannot be a final solution.

This is a very dangerous manoeuvre.   Either you turn right across the tramlines at a relatively poor angle, often with traffic on both sides; or you stick to the left, cross at a safe angle, but then get ‘cut up’ by traffic heading from Dalry Road into Grosvenor Street.

The Council had considered a red-surfacing solution but we felt this did nothing to help at this particular location, and so it was agreed to postpone for possible better solutions in the later phases.   We can only see two sensible options…

  • Our preferred solution is closing Grosvenor Street to traffic entering from Dalry Road, so cyclists could cross at a safe angle and not subsequently risk being cut up.  However, the Council reckons this would block West Maitland Street, with jams tailing back into Haymarket junction.
  • Alternatively, a 2-stage turning, with cyclists from Dalry Road crossing the tramlines at a safe angle into a waiting space, then moving forward with a straight-ahead traffic light phase.

It is tragic that a work programme such as the above has proved necessary, to tackle problems many of which could have been avoided by a holistic approach – designing a transport corridor for tram, bus, cycling and walking rather than just designing a tram system then trying to fit in everything else.

We are therefore pleased that the first meeting of the new Council included this in its motion on tramline safety [agenda item 9.1]..

“to ensure design of any future tram line extension reflects council’s policies to prioritise pedestrian and cyclist safety and convenience including consideration of segregated cycle lanes.”

We trust the designers of the extension will consult early on with user organisations and the public.  In particular, the new segregated cycle lanes in Leith Walk should be continued to the Foot of the Walk.   There will be many other issues along the whole route to Newhaven, not least of them being the initial narrow section of Constitution Street where a tram stop is expected.

  • Feed back your experience of the Phase 1 arrangements – good or bad – email activetravel@edinburgh.gov.uk.   Send us a copy.
  • If you have ideas about the later phases, including anything that is missed out, send in your ideas.
  • If you are a Spokes member we will keep you in touch with consultation arrangements for the tramline extension once they are known.

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