BBC News

Lawyers warn of cyclists' tram risk

By David Miller
BBC Scotland transport correspondent

image captionHaymarket in the city's west end is regarded by cyclists as the most dangerous section of tram line.

Lawyers representing cyclists injured on Edinburgh's tram tracks have warned the city council it must take action to prevent a fatality.

There are also claims the number of cyclists being hurt is much greater than official reports suggest.

One legal firm has told BBC Scotland it is now dealing with almost 100 cases.

Lawyers at Thompsons Solicitors estimate the council is facing a compensation bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The council has defended its safety record.

Safety record

Patrick McGuire, a partner at the firm, said: "We've had people who've lost finger tips, we've had people who've had broken collar bones, we've had people who've had broken legs.

"To my mind, it's absolutely inevitable that unless something happens we will see a death on the streets of our capital city."

The council said it could not comment on claims for compensation which had yet to be heard in court.

But it is understood officials believe they have a strong case.

image captionCyclists' wheels get stuck in the tram grooves

City of Edinburgh Council transport convener Lesley Hinds said: "We have always encouraged cyclists to take care when travelling near the tram tracks, especially during wet weather when they can become slippery.

"The council advises that it's best to cross the tracks as close to a right angle as possible and to take extra care to avoid getting wheels caught in between the rail grooves.

"We have also installed signage which helps to guide cyclists along the safest possible routes."

Haymarket in the city's west end is regarded by cyclists as the most dangerous section of tram line.

They argue the angle at which the tramline crosses the road makes it almost impossible to navigate safely.

The council is facing growing calls to introduce a coloured pathway guiding riders through the complex series of busy junctions.

Local businessman Hamish Mitchell required surgery after falling from his bike in the area.

He said: "My wheel slipped on the surface of the tram line.

"I landed on my knee, pulled my hip, damaged my shoulder, broke three teeth and took the end off my finger.

image captionCyclists have been injured crossing the tram lines

"All of that happened in milliseconds."

David Steele was also injured while falling on the track at Haymarket.

He told BBC Scotland: "I was really angry. Why has my simple commute into town to do a bit of shopping now become a life-threatening journey?

"My motivation is to get action to get it sorted.

"We've got to redesign the junction to make it safer for all road users."

image copyrightbbc
image captionThe tram system in Edinburgh has been operating for a year

Meanwhile, the council's response to a freedom of information request asking for details of tram line accidents is under scrutiny.

Cyclists have told BBC Scotland their cases do not feature in the official record, despite being reported.

That has led to claims the scale of the problem is greater than the statistics suggest.

Lawyers have defended cyclists' right to claim compensation and campaign for the road layout to be improved.

Patrick McGuire of Thompsons Solicitors said: "Edinburgh city council have a statutory duty under the Road Traffic Act to ensure the safety of cyclists, to ensure the lessons from previous accidents are learned, and to make changes.

"They have utterly failed in that. Cyclists are doing absolutely the right thing in coming forward and demanding these changes."

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