Cyclists win damages over Edinburgh tram track injuries

A judge ruled two locations of the infrastructure posed 'a relevant hazard' to the individuals.

Trams: Two cyclists win damages.
Trams: Two cyclists win damages.

Two cyclists who were injured on Edinburgh’s tram tracks have won damages claims in lead actions in the first of a batch of cases to come to court.

A judge ruled that at two different locations, where accidents occurred to Elizabeth Fairley and Iain Lowdean, the infrastructure posed “a relevant hazard” to the cyclists.

Ms Fairley, who was injured at Haymarket, raised an action against Edinburgh Trams Ltd and the city council while Mr Lowdean, who was injured at Princes Street, sued Transport Initiatives Edinburgh and the council.

Damages in the claims were agreed but liability was contested.

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Lady Wolffe said: “There was no breach of duty on the part of either pursuer; they bore no responsibility in law for the accidents that befell them.

“There have been numerous other accidents involving cyclists and the tram infrastructure. These two actions are the first of these claims to come to proof.”

Ms Fairley, who was working as a nurse at the Sick Children’s Hospital in Edinburgh, earlier told the Court of Session that she was thrown from her bike as she negotiated tram tracks as she cycled home from work on October 16, 2013.

The advanced nurse practitioner said she travelled down Morrison Street to Haymarket before she was injured on the semi-dark, wet evening.

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The 58-year-old said: “I was looking at the front wheel and trying to get that over and trying to avoid the cars passing.

“Something pulled me into the tram track and threw me over in the path of the cars that were overtaking me.”

She told the court: “I have to think it was the back wheel slipping back into the tram tracks. The rear wheel, I think, is the one that got caught in the tram tracks.

“It all happened in a split second. The bike got thrown over. I got thrown over to the right hand side and fell on the road.”

She suffered injuries to her knee and chin and a black eye appeared the following day.

Ms Fairley originally sued for £50,000, but the court heard that the amount of damages to be paid if her claim succeeded was agreed.

A similar agreement was reached in the second case involving Mr Lowdean, 35, from Edinburgh, who originally sued for £15,000, after he fell when his bike slipped on the tram tracks in Princes Street in October 2012.

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He suffered injuries to his hands and right knee.

Other claims brought by cyclists were put on hold while the lead cases proceed.

It was claimed in the action: “It has been well known for many years that the presence of tram tracks in an urban street poses a danger to cyclists. This was apparent when trams were part of the public transport infrastructure in the 1950s.”

It is said that the reintroduction of trams led to a greater appreciation of the danger posed by tracks and the measures necessary to minimise it.

A report produced in the 1990s highlighted the hazard of cycle wheels being trapped or skidding on the flange groove of a tram track and noted the need for cyclists to cross them at as perpendicular an angle as possible.

The council had maintained that it fulfilled all duties of reasonable care.


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