Category Archives: tram

Sheffield’s long overdue tram cycle safety report is yet another disappointment

The latest Sheffield Council report into the dangers caused to cyclists by the city’s tram lines has been a long time coming. Commissioned in July 2014, issued to the council in Sept 2015, and published in June 2016. After almost 2 years of work, the report should be impressive, but sadly it’s deeply disappointing and its severely lacking in a number of key areas outlined below. You can read the full report here.

Converting footways to ‘shared use’: lumping people cycling in with people walking to the frustration of all

Suggested road layout changes focus on converting existing footways to ‘shared use’, with a presumption that cycling space must come from existing (limited) pedestrian space. Reallocation of space away from motor traffic is not given a single thought, and the creation of dedicated cycle ways is noticeable in its absence.

where footway width and pedestrian activity precluded almost any physical changes to the road and footway layouts

“…where footway width and pedestrian activity precluded almost any physical changes to the road and footway layouts”

space limitation in the highway, narrow footways near the tramway and significant levels of pedestrian activity in various locations mean that opportunities that some other tramways (especially in Holland, USA and Canada) have been able to utilise are not readily available on most of the Supertram network.

“…space limitation in the highway, narrow footways near the tramway and significant levels of pedestrian activity in various locations mean that opportunities that some other tramways (especially in Holland, USA and Canada) have been able to utilise are not readily available on most of the Supertram network.”

Unfortunately many of the methods have been shown to be difficult to employ at sites in Sheffield and on other tramway systems, due to constraints such as existing minimal footway and carriageway width, and exensive pedestrian activity in footway areas.

Constraints do not include motor traffic, it never crossed their minds to change the space allocated to motor traffic.

None of the provisional layout changes create cycleways, they just lump cycling in with walking, on the footway. It is a cycling report inspired by LTN2/08, widely considered to be obsolete and far behind recognised best practice in designing for walking and cycling.

Fundamental misunderstanding of how Dutch tramways reduce danger…

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of how Dutch tramways reduce danger,  referring to sustainably safe junction layouts as ‘road markings’. The examples from the report below are shown as ‘road markings’ even though they clearly show separated cycle tracks, which provide clear routes across junctions with embedded tram tracks. The layout of these junctions has been designed to be as safe as possible, it’s not the ‘road markings’ that mean that these are safe, and cherry picking and replicating ‘road markings’ alone will not create a safe solution.

From articles and web forums it would appear that many cyclists worldwide believe that track / cycle crossing problems in Europe (e.g. in Holland) have already been fully resolved. However, it is clear from the information that was obtained that, even with various measures and design arrangements being introduced to reduce these issues, some problems still exist on many European tramway systems. Cyclists and tram operators in these places generally seem to be aware of this and, even in Hollsan, there is advice provided to cyclists about how to cross the tracks safely.

…And the best Dutch examples are missing

It’s disappointing that a detailed review of the best high quality cycle infrastructure around tram lines was not included. This example is from Utrecht.

No review of what’s been tried before and why it failed

There is no discussion of Sheffield’s previous plan for dealing with the danger of tram lines, no review of previous programmes of work, no review of their effectiveness, and no discussion of why previous work failed to adequately address the danger. There is no mention of the hospital study conducted in 1994.

No funding, nor any plan to seek it

Funding is non existent, there is no funding plan to go with this report.

Discussion of potential funding sources completely ignores the Sheffield City Region Growth Deal and devolved transport funding, instead choosing to focus on DfT direct funding.

Funding 2

Current tram rail replacement: a missed opportunity?

The report fails to mention the approximately £5 million currently being spent on tram line replacement and fails to identify opportunities from that project to improve the safety of cycling around tram lines.

Funding 1

Funding 2

Funding 3

Failure to look at the bigger picture

This report contains numerous missed opportunities. One if its real shortcomings is its failure to view the tram system as part of the wider street and transport network. Only very immediate localised changes have been proposed (e.g to tram stops, or the roads which have rails themselves), which fail to identify opportunities such as the potential use of service roads alongside tramways as cycling infrastructure. This is something commonly seen in the Netherlands and other European countries.

Service roads like this should be designed to support cycling parallel to the tram lines as is normal in The Netherlands.

Service roads like this should be designed to support cycling parallel to the tram lines as is normal in The Netherlands.

We know the council can do better, we’ve seen better designs in the past. The report doesn’t include the visionary design of the crossing of Upper Hanover Street tram lines, perhaps the best piece of cycle infrastructure design to have ever come from Sheffield Council. It’s not even mentioned in the report. (I’m sorry, I don’t have an image for this and I don’t think it’s been published and I think the design was later watered down citing concerns over motor traffic gridlock).

Desperate scrabbling for a ‘behaviour change’ solution

I’ve not even mentioned the suggestion of building a tram line cyclist training facility…

Additionally, it could be considered whether it might be possible to install a trial facility with tram rails away from live tramway somewhere in Sheffield and provide training sessions for cyclists as to how best to cross the tram tracks.

'Cyclists could also usefully become more aware of traction circle issues'

‘Cyclists could also usefully become more aware of traction circle issues’

Shifting the blame for under-reporting of incidents

The report states that ‘adequate data for cycle incidents in relation to crossing tram tracks in Sheffield is almost non-existent’. This is true, but it sets the blame squarely on the shoulders of cyclists, saying ‘these single person accidents tend not to be reported to the Police’ and ‘the only accident data available is when cyclists report incidents to SCC, SYPTE or Supertram… under-reporting of these types of incidents could be significant’.

Stats19

SYPTE reporting

This is a misrepresentation the situation. Research by CycleSheffield has found that when cyclists report these crashes to the police, they often refuse to accept the report. The Sheffield Council cycle forum has even sent a letter to South Yorkshire Police expressing concern at their failings to record these crashes. Another route is to report incidents to the Council or Supertram but people are often fobbed off just the same (as documented by CycleSheffield).

“I tried to report it to the police via 101 and they insisted that it was not reportable.”

“Supertram, they were not in the slightest interested and told me I should have gotten off my bike and walked across the junction.”

The blame for a lack of data lies squarely with our local authorities.

If you’ve crashed on the tram lines then report it at tramcrash.co.uk which is run by CycleSheffield. They collect the information and anonymously share it with whoever needs it (including Sheffield City Council). They have created an up to date map of all reported crashes.

Conclusion

So, to sum up, very very disappointing. I hope that CycleSheffield are able to put pressure on Sheffield City Council to improve this report. As a proven major cause of injury and distress, cycle crashes on Sheffield’s tram tracks should be taken seriously. Sheffield City Council says it wants to increase the number of journeys made by bike in the city, now we need some action to prove it.

Update (June 2016)

And they have, the report has been pulled from the council meeting agenda pending further discussion.

Bicycles not part of the Sheffield tram train trial (and the ridiculous reasons used to justify this)

Sheffield is embarking on a national pilot for running light rail trams on traditional heavy rail train track. The transport authority in charge have today confirmed that tram trains will not carry bicycles at any time.

The knowledge that we obtain from the pilot will enable us to understand the technical and operational challenges involved in this project so that the concept can potentially be rolled out elsewhere in the UK – Norman Baker – May 2012

10_IRR_tram_train_main1

By setting the precedent that bicycles will not be carried without even attempting to do so, this trial will condemn future projects around the UK to the same fate. The precedent has been set as part of the national trial, bicycles will not be carried on tram trains. I would be very surprised if tram trains don’t start to displace normal trains on some routes.

Here are the key recommendations of the report to be discussed at Thursday’s Integrated Transport Meeting

2. RECOMMENDATIONS
2.1 That the ITA supports the recommendation of Option 1 as the design to be taken forward for the manufacture of the Tram/Train vehicle.
2.2 In order to provide the optimal position for the priority seating and due to the limitations of the vehicle structural design and legal obligations Option 1 does not include facilities for the carriage of bicycles (other than folding bike). ITA are therefore also asked to endorse that bicycles shall not be carried on Tram/Train vehicles, unless of the folding type.

SYPTE did some research which shows that of the UK/European tram networks they could get data for, 42 tram networks allow bicycles and 10 do not (of which 6 are in the UK!)

I’ll try to summarise the reasons this decision has been made, the full document is available from here. These get more and more ridiculous as you go down the list!

  • Legal requirements under the equality act
  • Must have at least 2 wheelchair spaces under Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations 2010
  • Must be no obstruction to prevent or cause unreasonable difficulty to a wheelchair being manoeuvred in a rail vehicle to, from, into or out of any wheelchair compatible doorway or wheelchair space
  • No fittings for the use of passengers other than disabled persons in wheelchairs are allowed in the wheelchair spaces. This prohibits the use of some form of bicycle storage or securing system
  • It’s actually Stagecoach Supertram’s decision to make
  • Existing tramway Bylaws and Condition of Carriage prohibit the carriage of bicycles (but they admit that these could be changed)
  • The carriage of bicycles on the exterior of the vehicle wouldn’t be possible for a number of reasons(length, time taken to add and remove racks, need access to train track to put bike on and off, footholds for ‘tram surfers’, similar design to bull bars which are illegal)
  • Allowing bicycles would increase competition for low floor space with wheelchairs, mobility scooters, luggage, prams, and standing people.
  • People tend to sit in the fold out seat area and would be forced to go to the middle of the tram and negotiate steps which some may not want to or be able to do
  • People like to stand in the doorway and would be inconvenienced by having to relocate to other parts of the tram
  • Carriage of bicycles would compound issues of dissatisfaction with availability of seats at peak times
  • Not all vehicles would be of the new tram/train type, cyclists may try to use existing vehicles which they’re not allowed to and get confused
  • We need policies to deal with bicycles which would create conflict, and our Conductors primary role is to collect revenue and not act in any safety capacity
  • The management of bicycles on tram stops would need to be managed to avoid accidents to waiting passengers and those boarding and alighting
  • There are heavy rail trains running the same route that will carry bicycles that provide an alternative for those wishing to take bicycles
  • Bicycle hire like Bike&Go is available at Rotherham Central Station
  • Cycle lanes and large lengths of segregated routes are already provided between Rotherham and Sheffield
  • The trial of bikes on DLR in London has been financially supported by TfL, this is beyond SYPTE in it’s current financial situation
  • Trams often need to brake because they encounter pedestrians, this increases the risk of unsecured bicycles becoming projectiles
  • Other passengers might get dirty from bicycles
  • The tram/train vehicle might get dirty from bicycles
  • Bicycles introduce objects that are potentially hazardous to passengers, eg sharp points such as handlebars and pedals.

Irresponsible and dangerous workmanship on Sheffield tram track replacement

railreplaceweblarge

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the dangers posed to cycling from tram tracks. I quoted from a Sheffield Council investigation into the safety of cycling around tram tracks. The report mentions the need for good quality road surfaces around tram lines.

In most documents regarding on-street cycle lanes it is specifically recommended that maintenance of the surface should be of primary importance, as cyclists are particularly sensitive to the quality of a road surface. Whilst in practice this is rarely implemented due to financial constraints, throughout the tram route the road has been remade and the surface re-laid and so is generally in good condition and can be expected to remain so for a number of years to come.

The rails have recently been being replaced in on street sections, this is what the on road tram tracks look like today on West Street in Sheffield City Centre.

P1080553 (Large) P1080551 (Large) P1080555 (Large) P1080534 (Large) P1080545 (Large) P1080537 (Large) P1080532 (Large)

The tram tracks should look like this.P1080543 (Large)It is now extremely dangerous to cycle around these tram tracks. There are now huge grooves running in the direction of travel parallel to the tram tracks. When cyclists comes across these they will be in serious danger.

Who is responsible? All of the companies charged with maintaining our roads. Stagecoach Supertram, South Yorkshirie Passenger Transport Executive, South Yorkshire Integrated Transport Authority and Sheffield City Council. All the responsible authorities should be ashamed of themselves for taking this insane risk with the safety of anyone who cycles along this road.

 

SYPTE_logosupertramP1050814.resizedSYITA_logo

 

Cycling and the Sheffield Tram Network – A match made in hell!

Update: Have you crashed on the tram lines? You can now report it online, here, at tramcrash.co.uk

TramCrash.co.uk Report your bicycle crashes on tram lines here

TramCrash.co.uk Report your bicycle crashes on tram lines here

We have a tram network in Sheffield known as the Supertram, it opened in 1994 and has 35km of track with about 50% of this on normal streets shared with normal vehicles.

If there’s one thing to know about riding a bike on tram lines, it’s that you must NEVER get your wheel stuck in the tram line, you are very very likely to be thrown off.

It has been estimated that there are a minimum of 33 accidents per annum where cyclists have difficulties with tram tracks, and over 50% are serious in nature (An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998). These figures were calculated using data from 1994 to 1998, the numbers of people cycling has more than doubled since then so the number of accidents may have increased.

The tram network is about 50% on road in Sheffield

The tram network is about 50% on road in Sheffield

The on street sections are difficult for use by cyclists, a typical tram track on a street has a 1.1m gap between the kerb and the left most rail. A Sheffield City Council report from 1998 states that

A width of 1.1m is within DETR guidelines for advisory cycle lanes and similar widths have been used successfully in the past. It is acceptable then as a reasonable width for cyclists to have to use.

It goes on to say that

It is well known that this area on a carriageway nearest to the kerb,is less than ideal as the preferred position for riding a bicycle. Cyclists are required to navigate through litter, everyday road detritus, uneven surfaces due to badly levelled or positioned gullies, badly applied zig-zag and yellow lines and potholes, whilst also avoiding the hazards of left turning and parking vehicles and car doors opening from vehicles already parked.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

What wasn’t stated though is it’s important for cyclists to be able to take a primary position where the road narrows or there isn’t space to do this. To do this you must cross the tram line at a narrow angle, and this can be very dangerous.

Not much space for bicycles

Not much space for bicycles

Tram stops are a nasty periodic danger, they are built out into the road so there is no gap when people board a tram. This buildout narrows the available space to the left of the track to about 35cm.

A typical section of on carriageway with a footway and platform

A typical section of on carriageway with a footway and platform

On a bike you need to either move out into the middle of the tracks or risk crashing into them by going up the inside, like the guy in this photo does.

This is an often quoted problem that cyclists face on the tram network, that at regular intervals along a route they are forced to move out in front of other traffic whilst negotiating crossing the tram tracks.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

A braver man than me!

A braver man than me!

Trams cannot pass people on bicycles, there is not enough room as the trams and tracks are designed to sweep within 38cm of the kerbline, known at gutter running.

The tram is unable to move out and the cyclist is unable to move in. Advice from Stagecoach who run the trams to cyclists is “get off the road”.

Supertram publicity leaflets suggest in their advice to cyclists, “when a tram is approaching move clear of the tramway”, and Supertram spokesmen have publicly supported this opinion.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

No space for a bicycle

No space for a bicycle

This has lead to problems with bullying when trams come up behind cyclists.

Some cyclists however, have experienced problems when they have found themselves ahead of a tram. Reports suggest that some cyclists have been bullied by Supertram drivers who have expected the cyclist to pull over, stop and allow the tram to pass.

Supertram drivers have been accused of intimidating cyclists in this manner by sounding the warning bell, driving very close behind and attempting to pass without sufficient room. These actions have forced”cyclists to stop for fear of serious injury.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

The report makes it clear that trams have no priority over bicycles as we would expect.

 It should be reiterated that the tram has no right to this supposed priority and that, assuming no vehicles are prohibited by Traffic Regulation Order, all vehicles have an equal right to use the carriageway.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

The tram lines have been in place for almost 20 years and no good solutions have been found. There is a cycle track along about 150m of tramway, but this is the only example. There are plans afoot to extend then tram network further into the City Centre along designated bicycle routes. There are also plans to replace the rails which those of a different design – this impact on cyclists is not clear.

So, when in Sheffield on a bike and you come across a tram line, find an alternative route.

Cyclists need access to high amenity areas in a similar way that pedestrians do. The Supertram route often passes along the main road through these areas and thus alternative, useful routes are difficult to locate. Encouraging cyclists to use alternative routes is likely to take them away from the areas they wish to access and may therefore be of limited safety benefit.

An Investigation Into Cyclist Safety on the Supertram Network In Sheffield, South Yorkshire, Sheffield City Council, December 1998

 The report I’ve been quoting from is available here.

When is a cycle lane not a cycle lane?

Are these cycle lanes?

Lane 1.resized.jpg

Lane 2.resized.jpg

Lane 3.resized.jpg

 

Perhaps the cycle route signs give an obvious answer?

 

Off road to on road.resized.jpg

Off road to on road 2.resized.jpg
 

 

If you think they are cycle lanes then you’d be wrong. These are not cycle lanes.. These ‘lanes’ actually indicate areas of danger according to information presented to the Sheffield City Council Cycle Forum.

As part of the Supertram project, red surfacing and white lines were introduced to indicate to drivers how to avoid the tram tracks and to guide them onto a conventional surface.

This has created a problem for cyclists, given a perception that cycle lanes are often coloured red, and therefore with many believing that the nearside red surfacing adjacent to the tram tracks is a cycle lane. Cyclists are then presented with tram stops where the platforms extend into the ‘road’ and the ‘cycle lane’ disappears. Cyclists then find themselves crossing the tram tracks at a narrow angle and slipping into the rails, or find themselves ‘forced out’ often into faster moving traffic. There have been a number of injuries, some serious, as a result.

Sheffield Cycle Forum notes – 19th March 2013

Use these ‘cycle lanes’ at your own risk. They will end suddenly and force you to cross tram lines at a dangerous angle.

Lane ends.resized.jpg

These road marking will soon be replaced by hatched markings. Hopefully less misleading for anyone who use these routes.

Replace the red surfacing and white line (the ‘cycle lane’) at the nearside with a solid white line and hatching for 5m to 10m. The hatching then ceases and the white line continues, solid or broken as appropriate. At side roads the process is repeated.

If there is insufficient width to provide hatching a solid white ‘nose’ can be provided, followed bythe white line.

Sheffield Cycle Forum notes – 19th March 2013

But… good luck sharing the road with trams, you’ll need to get out of the way if one comes up behind you. They can’t overtake and there’s not enough room to move over to let one past.

Tram from back.resized.jpg

Tram from side.resized.jpg