Tram Tracks

We’ve recently successfully settled four separate cycling injury cases involving the tram tracks in Edinburgh against The City of Edinburgh Council.

All four cases involved cyclists who fell from their bicycles and sustained injury as a result of their wheel(s) becoming either stuck or slipping on the tram tracks at different locations within Edinburgh City Centre.

In June 2019, two test cases were heard in The Court of Session which is the highest Civil Court in Scotland. Both pursuers were successful in establishing negligence on behalf of The City of Edinburgh Council. Lady Wolffe found that the road layout outside Haymarket train station and Princes Street constituted a significant hazard to cyclists. There was no safe angle for cyclists to cross the tram tracks outside Haymarket train station and on Princes Street cyclists were not able to cross the tram tracks as close to right angles which is advised in order to reduce the risk of falling when crossing the tracks. If the angle is less than 90 degrees when crossing, the risk of a bicycle wheel slipping or becoming lodged increases. We provided an update at the time.

Case 1 – Haymarket train station

Tram Tracks Haymarket

In April 2021, John had been on a leisurely cycle ride and was cycling home outside Haymarket train station. He utilised the red painted cycle lane and was negotiating the ‘jug handle’ bend when the front wheel of his bicycle became stuck within the tram track. He fell from his bike landing on the road surface. Jim was taken by ambulance to hospital and sustained abrasions to his face and knees which left permanent scarring.

Case 2 – Princes Street junction with South Charlotte Street

Tram Track Princes St

In August 2019, Steve was cycling home from work in the rain and the road was wet. He had cycled north on Lothian Road and had turned right onto Princes Street. As he moved across into the correct lane to proceed straight along Princes Street, the front wheel of his bicycle slid across the wet tram track and he fell to the ground. He was taken by ambulance to The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and was diagnosed as having sustained a fracture to his shoulder.

Case 3 – Princes Street junction with South St Andrew Street

Tram Track Princes St

In January 2020, Jim was cycling to work in an easterly direction on Princes Street. It was his intention to proceed straight at the junction with South St Andrew Street, continuing east on Princes Street. As he crossed over the tram tracks, his front wheel became stuck causing him to fall and land on the road. He took a taxi to the Western General Hospital where he was diagnosed with a fracture to his right shoulder.

Case 4 – Shandwick Place

Tram Track Shandwick Place

In September 2020, Eve was cycling home from work at the West end of Princes Street. It was her intention to proceed straight at the junction with Lothian Road and continue onto Shandwick Place. As she moved from the left lane to the right lane, the front wheel of her bicycle became trapped in the tram tracks and she was thrown over the handlebars. Thankfully, the bus that had been travelling behind her saw the whole incident and was able to stop, thus avoiding hitting her. She sustained a soft tissue injury to her knee. Ele had commuted to and from work by bicycle and enjoyed the fitness aspect of this. Following this incident, she did not return to cycling and instead walked. She engaged in CBT sessions to assist with her returning to cycling.

Summary

In all four cases, liability was denied by The City of Edinburgh Council. This meant that in order to progress each case, they required to be raised in Court. Once the cases were raised in Court, settlement was reached prior to the cases reaching the Court date, known as the Proof. We were able to establish negligence on behalf of The City of Edinburgh Council and secured settlement awards for our clients and the injuries they had sustained.

A takeaway from the recently settled cases is that settlement is being agreed without the need for the case to be heard at Proof in Court. However, whilst offers are being made and settlements are being reached, liability is still being denied. Each case continues to be looked at on an individual basis once the case is raised in Court.

This approach seems very bizarre given the idea of the test cases heard in June 2019 at The Court of Session was to reduce the cost of every cyclist raising a separate case in Court.

Since 2012, 422 incidents have been recorded with cyclists on the Edinburgh tram tracks and over £1.2 million has been paid out by the Council on 196 successful claims.

A hope is that lessons can be learned before the extension of the tram tracks to Newhaven opens this Spring. Our advice remains for cyclists to take care when negotiating the tram tracks in Edinburgh and if you have been involved in an incident where you have been injured, to contact us for advice.

Zara Jones – Associate Solicitor

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