Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Cycling campaign says tram tracks "the biggest cause of accidents and injuries" to cyclists in Sheffield

A new crowdsourced map shows 806 separate accidents along Sheffield's tram lines since 2015...

CyclingSheffield has highlighted the danger posed by the city's tram tracks to cyclists, after a new map with crowdsourced data revealed 806 separate incidents where cyclists were injured along the tracks, and has criticised the council of failing to implement safety improvements despite acknowledging potential risks.

Just in the last few weeks, three cyclists have been injured — one breaking their arm, and another two suffering dental injuries, having their teeth knocked out.

Campaign group CycleSheffield asked their followers to log details of any tram-related crashes on the map, specifying whether the incident caused broken bones, a serious injury, or no serious injury.

CycleSheffield said that the tram tracks were "the biggest cause of accidents and injuries to people on bikes in Sheffield."

> Cyclists call for action on Sheffield tram track

Dexter Johnstone from the group said: "The vast majority of crashes occur where people cycling are forced to cross the tracks at angles less than 90 degrees. This mainly happens at tram platforms and where the tracks bend on or off the road, and can be seen on the map where there are definite clusters of crashes.

"The council should have implemented highways improvements in these areas years ago, utilising things like tram stop bypasses and other minor highways alterations to allow people to cross the rails at a larger angle."

He added: "In the long run, the council should be designing and building a cycle network which is separate from the tram network."

Sheffield City Council had approved a Tram Cycle Safety Action Plan co-created with CycleSheffield in 2017. It proposed a number of interventions, including a comprehensive program of design solutions at the 20 worst incident sites.

However, since then only one part of the plan has been carried out – installing warning signs for cyclists around the 20 worst sites.

> Sheffield cyclist accuses Supertram of ignoring potholes near tram tracks

The council's own report from six years ago reads: "The warning signs will not in themselves resolve the problems created by the [tram] infrastructure.

"If progress is to be made in drastically reducing accident numbers other measures will be necessary. These will need to be designed and implemented over the coming years, starting with the 20 worst sites."

But none of these design changes to improve crossing points or to alter the tracks themselves (which, according to the plan, were supposed to be complete by 2019) have yet been implemented.

According to Now Then, the council funding for the project came to an end, meaning more comprehensive work to improve bike safety around tram tracks is now on hold indefinitely.

Councillor Ben Miskell, chair of the Transport Committee, said: "The safety of all road users, including the most vulnerable users such as pedestrians and cyclists, is extremely important to us and that is why we are introducing some vital changes to our roads and how we use them through our Connecting Sheffield scheme."

"While progress on warning signs has halted I wish to assure cyclists that through Connecting Sheffield we are designing out collision hotspots and building in safer cycling routes."

> Campaigners call for segregated cycle lanes on proposed Edinburgh tramway extension

Liz Glover, a cyclist from Sheffield said that she came off tram tracks twice — both times in rain and amidst traffic, adding that she "was lucky not to be hit by cars behind me".

"I've been cycle commuting for over ten years and these are the only accidents that I’ve had," she said.

Another cyclist Chris Rust said: "You can ride over tram tracks safely but it takes an amazing amount of care and concentration which is just unreasonable to expect. Especially when you are also having to worry about traffic, including drivers who may be impatient and have no idea why you are riding so carefully.”

Injuries suffered by cyclists due to poorly designed tram infrastructure is not unique to Sheffield. Last year, we reported that the City of Edinburgh Council paid out £1.2 million in compensation to cyclists injured on the tram line, with 422 incidents occuring since the trams were installed more than a decade ago, most of them on Princes Street and Haymarket.

A freedom of information request revealed that 196 successful claims have been made against Edinburgh City Council since 2012 by cyclists who suffered injuries or whose bikes were damaged after slipping on the city’s tram tracks or getting their wheels stuck.

In 2017, a 23-year-old medical student, was killed when the wheel of her bike became trapped in a tram track and she was struck by a tour bus driver.

A local councillor had said: "It’s outrageous that the council knows the tram line is dangerous for people on bikes, but it is paying out injury claims instead of making it safe.

"Unless the council truly prioritises road safety, and invests in making safe spaces for cycling, hundreds more people will be hurt."

> MP says it is "a matter of time" before a cyclist is killed on stretch of Nottingham tramway

Cyclists in Nottingham had also gotten injured after falling on the tram lines. One cyclist who was crossing the road in 2016 required stitches after her glasses broke and got embedded in her head, prompting tram bosses to make changes to aid cyclists.

In Sheffield itself, the group CycleSheffield had set up the website Tram Crash for reporting on such incidents, with 228 of them reported in just two years by 2016.

Dexter Johnson from CycleSheffield had said: "Cycling along a tram track is a harrowing experience which puts people off cycling in Sheffield. The surface is increasingly poor with numerous potholes and little room for manoeuvre. Approaching tram platforms is a risky business, especially with vehicles passing too close and too fast for comfort.

"The tram network is 20 years old and there is no good reason why improvements to reduce cycle accidents have not been built by now."

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

Add new comment

25 comments

Avatar
Summerisle | 7 months ago
0 likes

I had a meeting with Ben Miskell a few weeks ago, in it he mentioned the council would like to see the tram one day come up Ecclesall road.  I wondered that if it did and at some point a cyclist lost their life because of it, then is any of it worth it.  I've come a cropper twice on the tracks and both times in Hillsborough, no doubt through my own inexperience.  I just avoid them now. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Summerisle | 7 months ago
1 like
Summerisle wrote:

...I've come a cropper twice on the tracks and both times in Hillsborough, no doubt through my own inexperience.  I just avoid them now. 

There is a "right" way to do it but they're just a hazard. If the road layout directs some people to cross at a shallow angle or cycle parallel and near to them there will be crashes.

Apparently you can mitigate the wheel trapping issue to some extent with flexible plastic guards but there are down sides to this. (can't recall why offhand, no doubt adds expense and possibly not very effective or long- lasting). Not aware of anything that will mitigate the low-friction of the rails though!

Avatar
perce replied to Summerisle | 7 months ago
0 likes

Wow. Ecclesall Road is a nightmare as it is. I can't see a tram alleviating the situation at all.

Avatar
neilmck | 7 months ago
3 likes

Personally I cannot see the benefit of trams compared to buses. However they have put in a lot of tram tracks here in Paris over the last 20 years. The trams are only put in wide boulevards and have their own lanes for their unique use. When changing the road configuration for them they have always added segregated cycle lanes.

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to neilmck | 7 months ago
3 likes
neilmck wrote:

Personally I cannot see the benefit of trams compared to buses.

As I understand it, trams are three times more energy effficient than buses, due to running on hard wheels and rails instead of rubber tyres, the bigger size means operating costs are lower (driver/passenger ratios), you can adjust the capacity by adding or subtracting carriages, running on their own tracks they are far more able to stick to a timetable, and drawing their energy directly from the grid as it's used through the overhead wire negates the need for the costly and maintenance-heavy recharging depots.I must say that in cities where trams are done properly (like Brussels, where I spent some time as a child) they're just a joy, you know when you can start your journey and how long it will take and the ride quality and comfort is light years ahead of a lurching, stop-start bus in traffic. I would love to have more in London, unfortunately the only one we've got, although it confers all of the above advantages, takes one to Croydon, and travelling in a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce with a bottle of good champagne in the ice bucket at one's side wouldn't be much of a pleasure if one knew that one's end destination was Croydon…

Avatar
Steve K replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
3 likes

Oi, piss off with the snobbery about the town I grew up in 😝

And it also takes you to Beckenham or Wimbledon (or New Addington).

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to Steve K | 7 months ago
2 likes
Steve K wrote:

Oi, piss off with the snobbery about the town I grew up in 😝 And it also takes you to Beckenham or Wimbledon (or New Addington).

yes So did Mrs H, I notice neither of you have stayed there!

Avatar
Simon E replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
2 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

I must say that in cities where trams are done properly (like Brussels, where I spent some time as a child) they're just a joy, you know when you can start your journey and how long it will take and the ride quality and comfort is light years ahead of a lurching, stop-start bus in traffic.

A fellow who lives near my workplace visited his son in Germany (Berlin, I think) recently and was genuinely amazed at the trams that passed every 4 minutes, always on time, quiet and efficient... and free.

But in UK cities we prefer to have aggressive drivers in diesel taxis and SUVs, generously bestowing on us the huge benefits of asthma, COPD, stunted brain development and lung cancer, it seems. 20 mph speed limits, good cycling and walking infra and efficient public transport are some of the many things we refuse to support because, well, FREEDOM innit.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Simon E | 7 months ago
2 likes
Simon E wrote:

A fellow who lives near my workplace visited his son in Germany (Berlin, I think) recently and was genuinely amazed at the trams that passed every 4 minutes, always on time, quiet and efficient... and free.

But in UK cities we prefer to have aggressive drivers in diesel taxis and SUVs, generously bestowing on us the huge benefits of asthma, COPD, stunted brain development and lung cancer, it seems. 20 mph speed limits, good cycling and walking infra and efficient public transport are some of the many things we refuse to support because, well, FREEDOM innit.

Well, if lots of people aren't suffering, how are the oil companies going to really enjoy all their profits?

Avatar
perce replied to Simon E | 7 months ago
2 likes

Back in the seventies, in the socialist republic of South Yorkshire, we had a cheap bus fares policy which was absolutely fantastic. Travelling from one side of Sheffield to the other cost no more than ten pence, buses were plentiful and reliable and well used. I didn't learn how to drive until I was 35 because there was no need. I had a bus stop close by and could go anywhere I needed to by bus. All that changed however with the advent of bus deregulation brought in by, of course, the tories. I think tory twat Portillo was the chief instigator behind it.

Avatar
mattw | 7 months ago
7 likes

I went over the handlebars of a Brompton in Istanbul due to tram tracks back in about 2018.

The very concerned gentleman who picked me up and gave me a coffee then tried to sell me a carpet. I kid you not.

Avatar
cyclisto replied to mattw | 7 months ago
1 like

The carpet was to soften your impact for the next time you fell off your bike.

Do I have to explain everything??

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
0 likes

Shurely he saw mattw trying to fly through the air and failing and thought "I have just the carpet for this person"?

Avatar
mattw | 7 months ago
0 likes

Nottingham seems safer ?

I think probably as a fair amount of it is off road, but I don't really know enogh to judge. Nor how it compares to other European cities

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-63991023

Avatar
DrG82 | 7 months ago
3 likes

I crashed and almost got run over by a bus on the Sheffield tram tracks (near infirmary lane stop ironically). The problem comes when you're riding on a road with a track, riding to the left of the track so as to not unnecessarily block traffic, and then you reach a tram stop where the platform steps out into the lane. At this point you either cross the track or get off and walk.
I'd usually choose to bunny hop the track but I was riding an ancient road bike with luggage attached. Luckily the bus driver behind was on the ball and stopped about a meter away from me.

Avatar
eburtthebike | 7 months ago
5 likes

"The tram network is 20 years old and there is no good reason why improvements to reduce cycle accidents have not been built by now."

But that begs the question why weren't they designed to be safe in the first place?  There is vast knowledge and experience about designing for trams and cyclists, so how did such a bad design occur, and from what I've seen and heard, it keeps happening, again and again.  That certainly applies to road layout and bridges, with the same mistakes made repeatedly.

Why don't designers follow best practice?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 7 months ago
7 likes
eburtthebike wrote:

Why don't designers follow best practice?

Zero accountability.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to eburtthebike | 7 months ago
1 like
eburtthebike wrote:

There is vast knowledge and experience about designing for trams and cyclists ...

... but not in the UK, where there seems to be little tram design knowledge, even less cycling design knowledge (well, *good* design...) and so the odds of having both must be tiny.

eburtthebike wrote:

Why don't designers follow best practice?

Because it's not been put near the top of their priority list (behind budget, scheduling, avoiding disruption to motorists, concerns of local businesses, residents...)?
Because even if it's *on* the list, in the UK "the code is more what you'd call guidelines than actual rules"?
Because all this is (in the UK, with exceptions) pretty new and uncommon?

Avatar
perce replied to eburtthebike | 7 months ago
3 likes

I think it's nearer thirty years old now - the son of a guy I worked with sadly died when his bike wheels got stuck in the tracks. This would be the mid nineties I think. They don't seem to have made any improvements since then. I don't understand why it was built in the first place - the areas it serves have probably the best bus services in the city anyway.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to perce | 7 months ago
3 likes

In the case of Edinburgh "why?" is also a very good question.  Perhaps if the network (what was originally planned) was built it would make more sense.  Currently the tram duplicates buses (and the buses are still there!).

As I understand it the main arguments are capacity and speed.  (There are other benefits like being more energy efficient because "on rails" but I'm not sure whether that really matters to people installing / operating them).

Speed depends on whether the tram can get dedicated space;  however it will be slow and may get delayed through the city centre portion of routes anywhere.  The need for extra capacity would need to be judged on its merits.

I'm not convinced either are a good argument in the Edinburgh case but haven't seen numbers.  It seems suspiciously like the main reason was "look we have a tram!" (or worse) with a charitable defense of "Fly to Edinburgh!  You can get from the airport into the city centre on our prestigious tram (much nicer than a bus!) a little bit quicker!"

Avatar
HLaB replied to perce | 7 months ago
4 likes

I'm very sorry to hear that.

As to why its debatable:

  • Prestige/ Image - it looks good for the city,  
  • Tourism - Follows on from the above 
  • Political
  • Some folk are too snobby (for want of a better word) to consider getting out of their car for a bus.
  • Congestion - Buses may (I don't know the city) be stuck in congestion where as trams are more likely to have their own space.

I prefer the more flexible and cheaper to build bus led systems (BRT) like Bogota has had for years my self:

https://use.metropolis.org/case-studies/transmilenio-bus-rapid-transit-s...

 

Avatar
Steve K | 7 months ago
2 likes

I've twice come a cropper on the tram tracks in Croydon - thankfully just bruising and no bike damage on each occasion. If you get it wrong, there really is nothing you can do. Both were some time ago, but I am ultra cautious crossing them now and really hate it.

Avatar
Fignon's ghost | 7 months ago
1 like

I have to agree. I've been railroaded a few times in past endeavours. Tram tracks are dangerous to all cyclists and need to be clearly highlighted.

My lightning quick bunny hopping skills were the only thing that saved me from skin off or worse.

It's easy to panic in that moment you get trapped and cannot turn. But if you do have the time around you. Keep calm. Slam brakes on and free yourself from a standing start.
If there are obstacles ahead, you'll need your bmx skills to avoid the inevitable.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Fignon's ghost | 7 months ago
3 likes
Fignon's ghost wrote:

I have to agree. I've been railroaded a few times in past endeavours. Tram tracks are dangerous to all cyclists and need to be clearly highlighted.

Glad to hear you didn't suffer serious injury or worse but much more is needed than you suggest.

Tram routes and cycle routes need arranging so they interact as little as possible but ALWAYS at right angles where they cross. No matter people's skill levels, there will be some crashes. It's a hazard.

Councils - just go and copy how they do it in Europe already! But no - it's the UK's "not invented here" again...

"Clearly highlighting" tram tracks is at best an emergency stopgap measure. And needing to do that is itself ridiculous - because tram routes aren't made up on the fly or laid overnight.

Where I stay Edinburgh Council had years before building anything to take this on board and didn't. (They were even offered a professional report, commissioned and funded by the local cycle group - "not our experts" of course). After people predictably started getting injured (and one died) they clearly did the math - cheaper to keep losing in court than find the millions needed to do this properly. Worse, they made some related errors when they extended the line.

They've also got a "paint it better" scheme (still not finished, only been a decade though...) It seems life and health are still cheap.

Avatar
OldRidgeback replied to Fignon's ghost | 7 months ago
2 likes

Yep, when cycling across tram lines you have to cross them at 90 degrees for safety. And cyclists need proper warnings too. I know there have been plenty of injuries in Edinburgh due to the poor routing of cycling provision across the tram lines. I'm curious what data has been collated from Manchester regarding cyclist injuries at tram lines? 

I've cycled around South London a lot over many years and all the crossings I've seen for the tram system there have been at 90 degrees. Quite a few of the crossings are for pedestrians so you have to wheel your bike across.

Latest Comments