A quick ride through town this morning and there’s one very big difference. Metro trams have finally arrived!
Yep, that’s right, after what feels like aeon's watching men in high vis do seemingly very little it appears that the cumulative effect of very little is quite a lot. There are now brand new trams running that epically long distance from Snow Hill Station to Grand Central (maybe 750 metres max). At first glance it appears there has been significantly more thought gone into the tram lines in Birmingham than is true for our fellow cyclists in the equally tram infested city of Edingburgh. That doesn't mean the Birmingham Metro is without risk to cyclists, far from it.
So here’s our top 11 tips to surviving the presence of a big pink missile! It's not an exhaustive list so feel free to add your experience based tips.
1: Master your head check and always know what's behind you. Trams are a little stealth like so don't assume you'll hear it coming. Remember that a good head check involves pulling back your right shoulder and twisting your hip. Merely turning your neck will provide you with nothing more than an inspection of the adjacent shop window; good for shopping bad for your safety.
2: Tram lines are to be crossed at ninety degrees. O.K. so I clearly exagerate but would way rather be on the side of caution! A measly five degrees glide across the road and you’re likely to find yourself tasting the tarmac as your wheels get trapped. Never good!
3: If it shines it slides. Riding slicks means avoiding tram lines when wet.
4: Racing a tram doesn’t make you cool it just makes you a dumb ass with a death wish. Trams go so slow, you could probably win without pedalling the point is not to unduly increase your risk. Responsible shared use is the name of the game.
5: Behold the distraction! There is now something much bigger than you, it’s pink, and it makes a weird noise, it is also consuming folks attention in vast quantities. Assume therefore that you are invisible but not invincible. Remember there will be absolutely no shortage of mind numbingly stupid people who feel the need to stand right in your path while taking a selfie with the aforementioned big pink thing.
6: Stay where you belong. While a tram might now be sharing your road space that’s no excuse for you to attempt sharing the pavement with pedestrians. Stay where you belong. . . on the road.
7: Assume everyone is clueless about such finer details as right of way. For now they probably are.
8: Object to the ridiculous. You’re not allowed to take your bike on the tram but you are entitled to complain about such nonsense so please do!
9: Report it. If you are involved in any sort of accident however minor REPORT IT both to the Police, the City Council, the Metro and your insurance company.
10: Beware the pinch point. Trams stop at nearside platforms raised aprox 1m from the ground. Platforms often appear only a few metres from a bend in the road. Try cycling down the nearside of the tram and you’re likely to find yourself experiencing a severe squeeze.
11: Remember. Birmingham's extended tram line is a good demonstration that with clear political leadership massive infrastructure change is possible. When your councillor gives you yet another excuse for the lack of segregated cycle lines just point to the tram and ask, 'how hard can it be?'
Alternatively you could just AVOID TRAM ROUTES altogether!!