10 December 2009

How to ride a bike

"Our country is in such a state that cyclists in Edinburgh are to be given lessons on how to ride their bikes along the city's busy streets" is what a colleague shouted across the office today. A little online digging proved the basis of his statement was correct.

The BBC has reported that since Edinburgh's iconic Princes Street has re-opened, six cycle accidents have occurred within a week. Princes Street now has tram lines installed, in readiness for the city's beleaguered tram network, the first phase of which is due to open in July 2011.

The following is footage uploaded to YouTube by David McCraw, which shows how his evening cycle along Edinburgh's iconic street ended with him being de-biked while travelling east-to-west, just outside Waverley Steps.

Obviously, I expected it to happen, but was shocked at how suddenly, in the darkness, the tracks appeared. What can be done to illuminate them better during the hours of darkness? Unfortunately, very little. Increased signage is required and cyclists need to take note of them - road signs aren't just for those behind the wheels of motor vehicles, something our politicians cycling in Whitehall need to remember. Other cities have had incidents with cycle tracks when wet and dark - Sheffield's Supertram network regularly has RTAs in the wet, with cars failing to brake effectively while descending roads with tram tracks on relatively steep gradients.

I'd be interested in attending one of these cycle training sessions just to see what exactly cyclists are told to do. Stay off the tracks and when crossing them, try to do so at right angles whenever possible. What else can be taught? Metal tracks are always going to be slippery when wet and with no effective way of making them glow in the dark, the risk is always going to be posed. The training sessions are this Sunday at 11am, with qualified bike specialists from The Bike Station on hand until 2pm on Sunday to teach cyclists how to navigate Princes Street.

Chris Hill, who runs the cycling forum CitycyclingEdinburgh.info, said: "The lines start in the middle of the street at the east end of Princes Street, they just come out of nowhere for cyclists. There are no signs or road markings to alert cyclist to the tram tracks and if one of the six people I have been told about, who have come off their bikes on the tram lines, had a bus behind them then they would have been squashed. It is simple stuff, we are talking about a bit of paint and some signs. At the moment the street is very dangerous to cyclists. Cyclists who are not confident are also going to avoid Princes Street, which is not what we want when Edinburgh City Council has signed up for 15% of journeys to be by bike by 2020."

With our culture of claiming for injuries sustained through no fault of our own, I'm pretty shocked that the tram lines are allowed to simply start 'from nowhere' in the middle of Princes Street and currently with no signage. This needs rectifying and fast, otherwise someone will feel they have no choice other than to test the law to see how Edinburgh City Council stands. Don't forget, we live in a country when children throwing snowballs during playtime can be classed as assault. (GL)