Measures intended to improve road safety for cyclists at junctions with tram tracks in Edinburgh are very welcome, and come not before time.
Cyclists have been coming croppers at the tram tracks since the line was opened, and many of them now consider the tram lines as no-go routes on two wheels.
Accident statistics alone tell the story that urgent action was required. Almost 200 cyclists have been injured in incidents involving the tram tracks, and an estimated cost to the NHS of £1.25 million. In addition, over 100 of those injured on the tracks are suing Edinburgh council.
But tragically, despite all the warnings and the mounting evidence which demonstrated this specific problem for cyclists, it took a fatal accident in the west end of the city before a safety rethink prompted this installation of safety lanes.
The council insists that safety measures were under consideration before the death of university student Zhi Min Soh at Shandwick Place in May this year, hit by a minibus after apparently getting a bike wheel stuck in the tram tracks, but it admits that this particular location had not been under consideration prior to the fatal accident. The new crossing areas will be backed up by the on-going campaign to encourage drivers to give cyclists more room, and the next phase of the response will be to install advanced stop lines for cyclists at six locations. But the latter will need to be properly policed if the ‘ safe distance’ mechanism to make a difference. Despite attempts to stop motorists from straying into existing advance cycle positions at junctions when traffic lights are at red, disregard endures.
Motorists are also being advised to avoid driving over the new lanes when cyclists are turning right. Without this co-operation, the lanes will be ineffective and cyclists will continue to feel vulnerable.
However, the council should be given credit for prioritising this matter, with the new safety lanes to be installed next week, and for devising the measures in consultation with cycling groups Spokes and Sustrans.
As last week’s announcement on segregated cycle lanes demonstrated, Scotland is starting to get serious about encouraging cycling by protecting the cyclist. These new measures are another step in the right direction – but from now on, let’s see pro-active measures, not reactive.