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Cyclist suffers life-threatening injuries in crash after wheel got "stuck in tramlines"

The rider's partner said she is "heartbroken" following the incident in Sheffield...

A cyclist in Sheffield was taken to hospital in a critical condition yesterday evening after a crash his partner says happened when one of his bicycle's wheels got trapped in a tram track. 

The Star reports the incident happened on White Lane, Gleadless, in the south-east of the South Yorkshire city shortly before 7pm and was attended by multiple emergency services.

Writing on social media the cyclist's partner, who said she is "heartbroken", explained that he had been riding along the road when the bike became "stuck in the tramlines". Updating friends and family on his condition, she added: "He is critical and might not make it".

Appealing for witnesses, South Yorkshire Police confirmed the incident was a "single-vehicle collision" and that "a man, aged in his 30s, had been taken to hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries".

"Officers are now appealing for anyone who witnessed the collision to come forward, particularly those who were driving past and may have captured the incident on dash cam footage," the statement read.

"We would also like to speak to anybody who has information relating to the whereabouts of the vehicle involved as it was taken from the scene before officers arrived."

A long-standing danger

Elsewhere in the UK, in 2017, it was revealed that Edinburgh's tram tracks had been involved in crashes injuring 191 cyclists since 2010, prompting the council to introduce cycle lanes indicating the safest angle to cross tram tracks by bike.

> Edinburgh to introduce cycle lanes indicating safest angle to cross tram tracks

Prof Chris Oliver, a consultant at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, said he had counted 252 tram track incidents, 191 involving cyclists, and told the BBC injuries due to the tracks had "become a new work stream for us".

In June of the same year Zhi Min Soh was killed after coming off her bike on tram tracks and then being hit by a minibus being driven on the same route. At the time, it was said that Edinburgh tram bosses had "largely ignored" a report warning that cycle lanes should be installed along the length of the network.

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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25 comments

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Fignon's ghost | 1 year ago
1 like

Along with sand. Tramlines are always to be avoided or bunny hopped completely.

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Geoff Ingram | 1 year ago
2 likes

Best wishes for a full recovery. I slid off on some wet tram lines I normally cross perpendicularly when someone stepped into the road just in front and I had to dodge them. Treacherous, especially if poorly designed

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Poolster | 1 year ago
1 like

I've run afoul of these tram lines at Sheffields Hillsborough corner heading out towards loxley. The last set next to the bus stop are super dangerous. I only suffered superficial damage but more importantly the bike was fine :-), although it did put a nice dent into my skid lid which saved my head and the NHS from another casualty.

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MSimpson | 1 year ago
3 likes

Here is the very road and the very reason cyclists may feel the need to go over the tram tracks. Taken from my commute home yeaterday, after waiting for the car to emerge there is the tram stop to negotiate where the gutter i'm riding in simply disapears.

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Sriracha replied to MSimpson | 1 year ago
3 likes

Wow! That's bloody lethal. How does something like that ever get off the page? Surely there is some basic element of risk assessment before a road design gets approved?

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hawkinspeter replied to Sriracha | 1 year ago
5 likes
Sriracha wrote:

Wow! That's bloody lethal. How does something like that ever get off the page? Surely there is some basic element of risk assessment before a road design gets approved?

Presumably they assess risk for the drivers and don't really care about any other traffic

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

Not entirely true - they've put "pedestrian strainers" on to keep the walkers out of the way...

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Not entirely true - they've put "pedestrian strainers" on to keep the walkers out of the way...

Or are they there to prevent corner-cutting motorists?

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 year ago
1 like

If put there for that purpose they're a waste of money, because they're always getting damaged by those bloody cyclists.

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chrisonabike | 1 year ago
0 likes

Does anyone have figures for Europe / tram accidents?  They do them extensively in many European countries - including The Netherlands.  Shouldn't be beyond the wit of someone in this country to, you know, look at where it works?  (I mean, we all know the NL is a country-sized death-trap for cyclists...)

UPDATE: a study from Belgium on this.

Edinburgh council were offered the help of a tram safety engineer from The Netherlands (funded by / arranged by the local cycle campaign group - their trams page has a lot of other useful info on the subject).  He made some recommendations which were largely ignored.  I'm guessing "not our expert" applied.  After one death and a *lot* of injuries and losing cases the council has - very slowly, sort of - got the message.  Unfortunately now we're limited to "divert the bikes a bit and paint / sign it better".

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OldRidgeback replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
5 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:

Does anyone have figures for Europe / tram accidents?  They do them extensively in many European countries - including The Netherlands.  Shouldn't be beyond the wit of someone in this country to, you know, look at where it works?  (I mean, we all know the NL is a country-sized death-trap for cyclists...)

UPDATE: a study from Belgium on this.

Edinburgh council were offered the help of a tram safety engineer from The Netherlands (funded by / arranged by the local cycle campaign group - their trams page has a lot of other useful info on the subject).  He made some recommendations which were largely ignored.  I'm guessing "not our expert" applied.  After one death and a *lot* of injuries and losing cases the council has - very slowly, sort of - got the message.  Unfortunately now we're limited to "divert the bikes a bit and paint / sign it better".

Edinburgh council ignored a lot of advice when building the tram system and not just about cycling safety. The council planners were inexperienced, naive and incompetent and that's why the project was hugely delayed, massively over budget and much shorter than originally intended. If they'd listened to sage advice from industry (and perhaps got Transport Scotland to manage it), they could have had twice the network in half the time and for half the money.

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Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
5 likes

Wishing the gentleman a swift and speedy recovery. I've never understood why we continue with trams when trolleybuses can do the same job, are more flexible, cost a fraction of what trams cost to build new networks and don't pose any incidental hazards to cyclists. I did read somewhere a while ago that it's because trams are seen as "sexier" by authorities, setting up a whole new urban transit system looking more dynamic than just implementing what is effectively a more efficient and reliable bus service, but that surely can't be the only reason?

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Bmblbzzz replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
4 likes

TBF trams are more efficient, both because they are longer (so more people moved per vehicle) and because of the much reduced rolling resistance of steel wheels on steel rails compared to rubber tyres on tarmac or concrete. Trolleybuses can also suffer disconnection problems (the connecting poles coming off the wires) though I think that's often due to poor maintenance. 

That said, both share the efficiency of electric traction of course, and I certainly wouldn't discount the "sexy new system" element.

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Backladder replied to Bmblbzzz | 1 year ago
1 like

I'll counter that by trams are more dangerous because of extended braking distances of steel wheels on steel tracks and the inability to turn to avoid a collision. Battery trolleybuses solve the temporary disconnection problem and can run in battery mode to give more route flexibiity whilst still running on mains for the majority or the route, minimising the cost and disruption of putting in the overhead cables while allowing for changes in use pattern over time. 

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

I don't have a beef either way but when I checked it was as Bmblbzzz says.  It's a balancing act e.g. different solutions may be optimal in different circumstances.  As you allude to I think "big bung theory" applies.  Major projects are exciting and money attracts money.   Large sums mean more potential bungs and troughing - apologies - "jobs and local economic benefits" to put it in PC language.

There's also a "capacity" factor.  Again this is dependent on having enough people to use the tram in the first place.  Given that, as I understand it trams can be expanded (by adding length) for absolute carrying capacity.  Another important factor is they can have more doors and get people on and off more quickly.  Trams can be longer - I think - because as the vehicle length increases going round a corner on a fixed track is easier engineering-wise / safer (see concerns about bendy buses...).

There are also probably some things you can do *because* trams are more expensive e.g. an extra million or two for more infra doesn't seem a big deal when you're in the hundreds of millions or more.

In the case of my town (Edinburgh) I haven't seen the usage figures.  Sadly because the whole thing became a spectacular SNAFU * I suspect we're not a good case study for capacity vs. value.  I suspect that putting in decent separated cycling infra and doing "smaller" public transport (maybe bus lanes / tracks) would in many cases be much more cost-effective for the same or better capacity and greater flexibility / resiliance.  I don't have any suitable places for comparison in mind though.

* Edinburgh is probably a good case study in hubris / how not to do it.  *Massive* underestimates of costs / time.  Strangely this is virtually a law for large-scale public infra projects yet is a surprise every time...

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mattw replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
0 likes

>In 2019 we recorded over 7.4 million customers journeys.

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Steve K | 1 year ago
2 likes

I've twice (over a fairly long period of time) come a cropper on the Croydon tramlines.  No serious injuries in either case, but not pleasant and I really dislike going across them (which I have to do on a fairly frequent basis).

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JohnP_SM7 replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
0 likes

I've come a cropper once in Croydon on the tramlines - fortunately with only a few cuts and bruises. I'd even "reminded" myself, just a few seconds earlier to "mind the tramlines!"  I'm much more wary of them now...

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OldRidgeback replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
0 likes

Me too actually...

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IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
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My daughter, crossing lines perpendicularly at a designated crossing point on a bike lane still managed to fall off, smashing the side of her face and being knocked unconscious.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
2 likes

Was that because the metal was slippy in the wet? another reason they are dangerous to cyclists. 

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IanMSpencer replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 1 year ago
0 likes

Yes, riding a broad tyred hybrid e-bike.

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chrisonabike replied to IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
1 like

Nasty - especially being incapacitated on tram tracks (likely trams AND cars).  Not heard of this mode of failure, only thing I can think of is maybe either front braking leading to loss of grip or if it was a hub-motor maybe that suddenly spinning then the jolt when it got traction again.

The Edinburgh crashes aren't all just wheel-wedging I think.  I've seen and experienced loss of front end when crossing at a shallow angle (rather than perpendicular).  Like suddenly hitting ice.  Belatedly the council has retro-fitted wider turns / guide paint for bikes to try to get people crossing at 90 degrees to the rails.

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IanMSpencer replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
1 like

She doesn't really know, but I think it was damp track and a slight imbalance. There is a point where your contact point is entirely on the track and in that instant the bike will vanish from under you.

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Off the back | 1 year ago
0 likes

Unfortunately this isnt the first time ive heard of a cyclist being seriously injured in Sheffield as a result of them getting caught in tramlines

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