Tram lines blamed for death of cyclist in central Croydon

A coroner has blamed the tram lines at East Croydon for the death of a cyclist in November last year. Roger de Klerk became trapped under a bus at the junction of Cherry Orchard Road and Addiscombe Road on 12th November 2013 having slipped on the tram lines shortly before the incident.

Selena Lynch, the coroner, stated in court that she “was in no doubt whatsoever” that the tram lines led to his death with the wheels of his bike apparently “coming into contact with the tram lines, causing him to lose control”. The bike was had smooth racing like wheels which, it was claimed, were narrow enough to become stuck in the grooves of the track although it was also wet on the ground which may have made the tracks slippery.

The coroner will now be writing to Croydon Council asking them to urgently look at the provision for cyclists at the junction and also across the rest of the Tramlink network.

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6 Responses to Tram lines blamed for death of cyclist in central Croydon

  1. Roland Harmer says:

    This problem is going to increase as tramways expand. What is the Dutch experience?

    This is tragic for all concerned. Riding a bike with thin racing tyres, in the wet, on the variable surfaces that you find in an urban environment must be demanding and more appropriate bike might have saved a life. To just blame the tramlines, as the coroner appears to have done, would be ignore a contributory factor.

  2. Ken Walker says:

    The coroner blames the tram lines for the cyclist’s death? What did the tram lines do? Leap out of the ground and clamp themselves round the wheels? This sort of sensationalist nonsense from supposedly professional people is the last thing we need, they’ll be wanting to ban trams from running in the street next. she does not seem to suggest any careless ess on the part of the cyclist, although thousands of other cyclists have presumably negotiated the area safely. It is noted that the bicycle had ‘smooth wheels’ but no apparent suggestion that this might have been the cause on a slippery road. And what provision does she want Tramlink to make for cyclists? Leave a 2 foot section with no rails and expect the trams to jump the gap?

  3. Peter says:

    Sometimes you have to wonder where these “conclusions” come from. All motor vehicles have to comply with certain regulations for tread on tyres, some countries go further with provisions for the winter period. Surely the main contributing factor this this tragic accident (stressing the word accident and not the more commanly used “incident” in this ever fault finding world we live in) is the use of smooth thin racing tyres on the bike rather than a more suitable tyre profile. In many case, the road surface can be as smooth, especially where small cracks have been filled with liquid tar and this would have produced the same effect. Again, a tragic outcome that should have been avoided by the cyclist hilself rather than looking for responsibilities with the tram tracks.

  4. John Stewart says:

    At last, a topic that I know quite a lot about! I have five bicycles and a tandem with tyres ranging from 19mm to 32mm in width. Obviously narrow tyres are more likely to drop into a flangeway than are wider tyres. The main reason for such is however the angle at which the tram lines are crossed. Anything more acute than 45 degrees in dry conditions and 75 degrees when wet is asking for trouble. The narrower the tyres, the closer to a right angle one should attempt to be. I always find the real horrors are cattle grids where a 75mm gap seems normal. Hit one of these much away from a right angle and you will be off! It seems to me that the cyclist should have regarded tramlines as a hazard similar to other ironwork in the carriageway, such as inspection chamber covers, and taken care to negotiate such. There was some degree of carelessness or lack of competence involved and the coroner seems to have blamed the public utility rather than balancing the inescapable technical aspects of tramlines set into a carriageway with a road user’s duty of care to himself.

  5. Graham Feakins says:

    Indeed. The Highway Code states this: “All road users, but particularly cyclists and motorcyclists, should take extra care when driving or riding close to or crossing the tracks, especially if the rails are wet. You should take particular care when crossing the rails at shallow angles, on bends and at junctions. It is safest to cross the tracks directly at right angles. Other road users should be aware that cyclists and motorcyclists may need more space to cross the tracks safely.”

    https://www.gov.uk/road-works-level-crossings-tramways-288-to-307/tramways-300-to-307

    Tramlink in Croydon went to great lengths to ensure that any usual cycle paths and carriageways where cycles were expected would cross the tram tracks at an optimum angle to avoid such incidents. That applies to the Cherry Orchard Road area of East Croydon. If the cyclist’s wheel(s) had become ‘stuck in the groove of the track’, then that implies a much more acute angle of crossing, suggesting he was already either swerving to avoid something or steering along rather than across the tracks, albeit in a seemingly reckless manner in any case.

    Tramlink issued from pre-Day 1 leaflets directed to the safety of cyclists crossing track and it is difficult to fathom how this should have occurred if the cyclist had been following official guidance.

  6. James palma says:

    Bit of a thought here. Which direction was the cyclist going when he got caught/slipped on the rails?

    Traffic direction is solely straight across them or turning left If heading south or right going north. I suggest, having done this journey on a bike daily for 7 years with no problem with avoiding any problem, such as slipping or skidding, that something else caused the incident. Possibly the cyclists behaviours? See that everyday!