Edinburgh Tram tracks must be moved to protect cyclist claims surgeon

Professor Chris Oliver claims to treat an injured cyclist every 5 days. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Professor Chris Oliver claims to treat an injured cyclist every 5 days. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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RADICAL action to protect cyclists on the Capital’s streets should include sending trams underground, a leading surgeon has said.

Professor Chris Oliver believes segregating cyclists from other traffic is the best way to keep them safe.

His team of medics at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh have patched up 220 riders with tram-related injuries in three years – or one every five days.

“The council won’t thank me for saying this but I think they need to segregate the dangerous hotspots – it needs to be done urgently,” he said.

“It’s radical, but things like putting the tramlines underground,” he added, though accepting the financial cost would be huge.

Prof Oliver was speaking at an Edinburgh Festival of Cycling event less than two weeks after the death of Zhi Min Soh as she cycled across Princes Street tram tracks.

He refused to discuss that case while a police investigation tries to determine the exact circumstances of the 23-year-old medical student’s death.

Consultant trauma 
orthopaedic and hand surgeon at RIE, Prof Oliver said he believed the figure of 220 could be higher with some not bothering with A&E or being treated outside Edinburgh.

Injuries included broken bones with heads, wrists and knees among common “soft tissue” injuries, such as sprains and strains.

Prof Oliver, himself a keen cyclist, said the tram network “wasn’t done well enough” and advice should have been heeded to provide cycle lanes.

“We should pedestrianise central Edinburgh like other European cities – pushing cars out of town,” he added.

A new transport policy that meant all new roads and infrastructure considered cyclists and pedestrians should be implemented, said Prof Oliver.

“What I’d like to see is any new bit of road under construction considering cyclists and pedestrians,” he added.

“To build the new Queensferry Crossing without any cycle or pedestrian access is just rubbish.”

He said the cost to the NHS of cycle injuries as a result of the tram network in Edinburgh is difficult to estimate but “must be more than £1 million”.

Although cars, buses and lorries are involved in far more cyclist injuries than trams, the latter constitutes “a new work stream” for his medical team, he said.

Cyclists can fall from their bikes on the tram network when their front wheel slips on metallic tracks or gets stuck in the grooves.

Kim Harding, director of Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, came off his bike on Princes Street while running a safety course for 
cyclists.

His back wheel slid from under him on a tram track as he turned around to check a bus, though he escaped with minor bruising.

Mr Harding called for buses to be diverted to Queen Street leaving Princes Street for cyclists and trams only.

“I’m very much aware of how dangerous tram tracks can be,” he said. “That’s how people get into the tracks – looking for something around them.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com