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New data reveals "biggest cause" of injury to cyclists in Sheffield

Campaigners say the council have failed to carry out agreed safety improvements, despite acknowledging potentially fatal risks.

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A section of CycleSheffield's user-generated map, showing crashes and serious injuries to cyclists involving tram tracks.

A new map created with crowdsourced data has revealed the scale of serious injuries that are caused to cyclists in Sheffield by the city's tram tracks.

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.

The map reveals 806 separate incidents since January 2015. Just in the past few weeks, one cyclist broke their arm riding across tram tracks while another had two teeth knocked out.

“I have come off on tram tracks twice,” cyclist Liz Glover told Now Then. “Both times were in rain, and in traffic – both times I 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.”

Crashes mostly occur when bike wheels get caught in the grooves of the tracks. Most roads used by Supertram, such as West Street, have no dedicated cycle lane, meaning cyclists have to share space with trams.

CycleSheffield describe the tram tracks as "the biggest cause of accidents and injuries to people on bikes in Sheffield."

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

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

"The warning signs will not in themselves resolve the problems created by the [tram] infrastructure," the council's own report from the time admits.

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Most crashes happen when bike wheels get caught in the grooves of tram tracks.

Benjamin Elliott on Unsplash.

"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."

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.

Now Then understands that 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.

Cllr Ben Miskell, chair of the Transport Committee, told us: "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."

Despite Cllr Miskell's statement, none of the current Connecting Sheffield schemes cover areas that include tram tracks, or propose any improvements to the incident hotspots identified in CycleSheffield's map.

Now Then understands that some cycling activists are exploring the possibility of taking legal action against the council, on the basis that they have acknowledged dangerous hazards but have failed to do anything about them.

In 2019, two cyclists successfully took Edinburgh Council to court after being thrown off their bikes by the city's tram tracks, and were awarded damages. A student in the city was killed in 2017 after her bike became caught in tram tracks and she fell into the road.

"The vast majority of crashes occur where people cycling are forced to cross the tracks at angles less than 90 degrees," CycleSheffield's Dexter Johnstone told Now Then. "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."

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One of the warning signs near Granville Square.

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

“You can ride over tram tracks safely but it takes an amazing amount of care and concentration which is just unreasonable to expect,” cyclist Chris Rust told Now Then. “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.”

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