Cycle safety to be reviewed after tragic death

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Plans are being put in place to review cycle safety in the Capital after a 24-year-old tragically lost her life in a collision on Princes Street.

The woman suffered fatal injuries after falling into the path of a minibus when her bike got caught in a tram track at the junction with Lothian Road in the Wednesday morning rush hour.

City leaders have now pledged to look at accelerating safety measures after a law firm representing 141 cyclists with tram-track injuries accused the council of ignoring warnings over the risks of crossing the lines.

SNP group leader Adam McVey said the incident had been a “profound tragedy” and said he had already spoken with council officers about possible changes.

He said: “It was deeply saddening for everyone in the city and my heart goes out to the family and friends of the women who lost her life.

“Events like this bring home just how vulnerable cyclists can be on our roads and emphasise how important new infrastructure and safety measures are to improve conditions for cyclists.

“I’ve spoken to senior officers about their immediate plans to improve cyclist safety, particularly on Princes Street, and about how we can accelerate some plans already in the pipeline to help improve safety for those on bikes across the city.”

It is understood parts of the East-West cycle route, which will connect Leith Walk and Roseburn via George Street and would be partly segregated, are among the measures which could be sped up.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday sent her “heartfelt sympathies” to the cyclist’s family and friends, saying the incident was “sad almost beyond words”.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was assisting investigations into the incident in any way it could and highlighted she had increased investment in cycle safety.

She added: “The relevant minister would be willing to meet with cycling groups, not just in Edinburgh but across the country, to look at what further action we can take to make sure cycling, which is an activity we want to encourage, is as safe as it possibly can be for everyone who partakes in it.”

Her comments were welcomed by Lothians Green MSP Alison Johnstone, who questioned Ms Sturgeon on the issue at Holyrood.

She said: “Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the young woman who died.

“While an investigation is under way into the circumstances, it is terrible that it often takes such shocking events to prompt a rethink of how we plan our infrastructure.

“Cycling should be a safe way of getting about our towns and cities for every-day activities.

“I’m pleased that the First Minister agreed to my request that the transport minister meets with campaign groups to discuss what can be done to prevent any further injuries or loss of life.”

Cycle campaigners, including Spokes, are now calling for urgent action to improve safety, amid claims previous safety concerns raised over the tram line’s layout had not been taken seriously.

Thompson’s solicitors partner Patrick McGuire said the firm had previously appealed unsuccessfully for “urgent action” to prevent a fatality from cyclists crossing the tracks.

He said: “Almost two years ago to the day I spoke out about the need for urgent action to be taken by the council to make the tram lines safer for cyclists because if it wasn’t we would be facing a fatality.

“No action was taken to make these safety improvements.”

Floral tributes could be seen at the site of the collision, which involved a 16-seater Rabbie’s Tours bus departing for a day trip to the West Highlands.

Witnesses told the News the bus driver had no time to avoid the cyclist after she fell into its path, saying it appeared the woman had lost her balance while trying to pull the bike.

She was rushed to the Royal Infirmary but sadly succumbed to her injuries a short while later.

Brenda Mitchell, a senior partner at legal firm Cycle Law Scotland, said she was saddened by the young woman’s “avoidable” death.

Ms Mitchell, who is also a member of the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party cycling group, said the tragedy was made even worse by the fact it had come against a background of prior warning from other cyclists injured in similar incidents.

She said: “We have this background of prior warning and prior notice of significant hazard created by tramlines.

“When you look at the interaction with cyclists and the tram tracks they don’t interact well and there must be urgent consideration for separate infrastructure.

“I’d go even further and say I know it’s early days, and until such time as the collision investigation by Police Scotland is carried out we won’t know the full cause in relation to this, but given Professor [Chris] Oliver’s report the fact there are hundreds of injured cyclists it is time for an inquiry.”

Figures compiled by Prof Oliver, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Royal Infirmary, previously revealed 252 people had been injured on tram tracks in Edinburgh, 191 of them cyclists.

Ms Mitchell said: “Tragically a lot of these injuries are young cyclists – it’s absolutely appalling and I think Edinburgh city council need to do more.

“In that area [of Princes Street] cyclists are encouraged to cross over the tram tracks and cycle between them – that’s wholly impossible.

“We know tram tracks when wet are slippery.

“This is Scotland – we get rain regularly – so we have the slip problem and also a trapping problem.

“Spokes have come up with numerous recommendations time and time again and the time for paying lip service to this has got to an end. We need serious action.”

More than 100 cyclists are currently looking to sue the city council after falling foul of the tram tracks.

However, at a Court of Session hearing in February, claimants were told they could have to wait until 2019 for lead cases to be heard.

A council spokesman said: “We remain deeply saddened by the tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the young woman’s friends and family.

“In light of this, and notwithstanding Police Scotland’s ongoing inspection, we will carry out a road safety assessment of the area, considering all users and aspects of the junction and its approaches.

“This will include consultation with key stakeholders and any findings that could lead to safety improvements will be carefully considered.

“Further, and more generally, we have invited Edinburgh Trams to review their day-to-day operations and consider any changes that can be made to enhance safety.

“The council and our partners take road safety extremely seriously and we constantly review the range of measures we have in place to ensure that the Capital’s roads are safe for all road users.

“Following feedback regarding Haymarket junction, for example, we made a number improvements to road markings and signage, resulting in a better experience for cyclists and a drop in the number of incidents.”

They added the council had “made every effort” to raise awareness of the impact of trams on all road users.

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk