Cycling and Tram Tracks


The Christchurch City Council receives occasional comments about tram tracks causing problems for people on bikes.  A small number of crashes are recorded in the CAS (Crash Analysis System, the Police’s crash database), but the Council suspected this does not represent the full extent of the problem, since most incidents would not involve motor vehicles and are unlikely to be reported to the Police.  Thus, CCC employed ViaStrada to dig deeper.

Glen Koorey and Megan Gregory obtained data from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), the National Injury Query System (hospitals), and other District Health Board data; however, no dataset provided complete or sufficiently detailed coverage of cycle crashes on tram tracks. They therefore conducted a public survey to supplement the existing data, looking at accidents and “near-accidents” occurring from 2015 to 2018.

CAS included only one cycle crash in the vicinity of the tram tracks for the analysis period, and this did not indicate the tram tracks as causal factor.  ACC data suggested approximately 75 claims per year for cycling injuries relating to tram tracks; however, the data were aggregated with no information regarding the location or circumstances of the incidents.

The public online survey, developed by ViaStrada, was completed by 76 people who reported a total of 51 accidents and 35 “near-accidents” (i.e. they didn’t fall off their bike or hit anything, but considered that they almost had).

The heatmap below shows the tram track zones (divided according to road intersections and midblock sections) coloured according to the number of incidents reported.

The location with the most reported incidents (by far) was on Armagh Street, just east of Rolleston Avenue, where the cycle lane and tram tracks cross in the vicinity of high-use parking.  ViaStrada made some recommendations, which CCC have implemented and anecdotally appear to have mitigated the problem.

In general, the predominant factors contributing to cycling accidents at tram tracks were: having narrower bike tyres (which might be addressed by products that mitigate the tram track flange gap); crossing the tracks at a shallow angle (can be addressed by layout designs, signage and education that encourage people on bikes to cross at a wider angle); and wet / slippery / icy tracks (a danger during colder months).

The responses confirmed that people were more likely to report their tram track cycling accident to ACC than the City Council or the Police, but a large proportion of incidents are not reported to any authority.

Christchurch City Council have used the research findings to address black spot locations and inform future route planning and design of safer cycling facilities in the vicinity of tram tracks.

To learn more about the extent and nature of cycling problems caused by tram tracks
Christchurch City Council
Christchurch Central City
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Glen Koorey
Director – Principal Transportation Engineer & Transportation Planner