Edinburgh council facing compensation battle over injured cyclists

Published in the Daily Mail 23 November 2012

TRAM lines in Edinburgh have caused injuries to more than 70 cyclists who are now demanded more over £1m in compensation, it emerged today.

Cycle lanes in Princes Street have been painted on top of the tram lines and riders keep falling off after their wheels get lodged in the track.

Several cyclists are set to sue the city and the lawyers representing them claim the situation is a “a fatality waiting to happen”.

SCT_TRAM_CAR_PARK_DN01

According to a report published by Thompsons solicitors, 74 cyclists have suffered accidents since 2009.

The firm says it is a “disgrace” that despite the number of accidents, Edinburgh is sticking with shared tram and cycle lanes.

Patrick McGuire, a partner with Thompsons, said: “The situation in and around Princes Street is a fatality waiting to happen.

“In all the cases we are dealing with if the cyclist had been subsequently hit by a vehicle after falling from their bike then it is possible they wouldn’t be here today.

“It is a disgrace that the council is continuing to bury its head in the sand and is refusing to implement simple safety measures to ensure the city centre is a safe place for all who use it.”

Among the victims is cyclist Sara Reed, 40, who has been cycling in the capital for 20 years.

Staggering

She fell off her bike and fractured her collarbone on Princes Street on October 23 when her wheel lodged in a tram line. She said: “I was lucky a taxi didn’t hit me when I fell, but the force of the crash meant that I broke my collarbone and sustained a head injury, despite wearing a helmet.” Reed slammed the local authority for not taking action to prevent accidents like hers.

She said: “It is staggering that Edinburgh City Council knows that many cyclists are having accidents as a direct result of tram tracks and have taken no action. “Edinburgh is no longer a safe place for cyclists – people are getting seriously injured and the council needs to resolve the situation before someone is killed.”

Cycling organisations have backed Mr McGuire’s calls for safety measures.

These include the removal of shared tram and bicycle lanes, marking all tram line crossings, appropriate lighting, and better signage. They point out that when Nottingham installed a tram network in 2004 the city put up warning signs and provided alternative cycle routes.

Chris Field, chair of the Cyclists Defence Fund, claims the number of accidents is even higher.

He said: “Local cycle campaigners had repeatedly voiced concerns about the hazards of Edinburgh’s new tram scheme.

“It is now all too clear that they were right – over 80 cyclists have been injured in Edinburgh’s main street and the trams haven’t even started running yet.”

In Blackpool, pedestrians and cyclists are not allowed to enter areas where trams run for safety reasons. However, Edinburgh transport bosses have insisted that their precautions are adequate.

A council spokeswoman said: “Experience of other European cities shows that trams and cyclists can exist safely together.

“It’s a priority to improve safety right across the city and the council’s coalition agreement commitment to invest 5 per cent of the transport budget on provision for cyclists will help us achieve this.

“We lead a cycle forum where we discuss the safe development of cycling in the city with cyclists themselves but we’re always happy to listen to new suggestions and ideas.”

Son who saved dad honoured

A 15 year old schoolboy who helped save his father’s life after a bike accident has received an award from the Lothian and Borders Police.

Andy Duncan, 49,who had to be airlifted to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, suffered two heart attacks and three brain haemorrhages after the incident. Doctors believe that it was the quick thinking and actions of his son Fraser Duncan, who was 12 at the time, and three of his friends that saved his life.

The accident happened in August 2009 when Fraser went cycling with his friends Stuart Anderson, who was 14 and brother and sister Charlie and Lucy Finlayson, then 14 and 12. The youngster had forgotten his cycling helmet so his mother Linda dispatched her husband to deliver it.

After handing his son the helmet Mr Duncan, who was not wearing one, went over the handlebars of his bike.

It was then that the four youngsters sprung into action using Mr Duncan’s mobile phone to contact emergency services. Fraser and Stuart stayed with the victim while Charlie and Lucy went onto the main road to guide the ambulance to the isolated location.

It was during this period that Fraser claims that Stuart became the real hero of the story. He said: “Stuart was a lifesaver, he became the team captain, giving us all tasks and keeping us calm, especially me.”

Fraser suffered from nightmares for over a year after the accident, blaming himself for events. However, his father is in no doubt that his sons actions helped save his life.

Mr Duncan said: “In my mind there are three reasons why I am standing here today. Firstly I had my mobile phone with me as none of the kids had one, secondly an air ambulance was available to take me to hospital and most importantly these four.”

The fact that Mr Duncan had his mobile phone with him was a stroke of luck as his wife Linda, 47 explained: “After Andy left I noticed that he had left his phone behind. “I ran out after him and gave him it. Normally he puts everything in his right pocket but that day for some reason he put it in his left pocket.

He fell on his right side so it would probably have been smashed if it was in that pocket. We feel like someone was looking down on us that day.”

Mr Duncan who works as  a senior project manager in Edinburgh returned to work six months after the accident which had left him in a coma for almost a month. Doctors described this recovery time as “miraculous” as they had initially doubted whether Mr Duncan would ever be able to walk again.

Fraser and Stuart have formed a particularly strong bond in the wake of the incident. Fraser said: “After the accident me and my little sister Rachel went to stay with Stuart’s family and he was our rock and he is now a very close family friend.”

The four each received a meritorious award from the Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders Police David Strang. Other recipients of awards at the event at the forces Fettes headquarters included Peebles man Robin Waddell who gave life-saving CPR to a one year old girl outside his home.

Council graffiti stunt backfires

Appeared in the Daily Record 17 November 2012

A HIGH-profile bid to bust graffiti ended with red faces after a cherry picker broke down – leaving two council workers stranded 40ft above the ground for two hours.

Edinburgh Council summoned journalists to the stunt in Leith where they were launching a big clean-up effort.

But a mechanical fault with the cherry picker left two “specialist cleansing staff” stranded high above the streets before they had deployed their brushes.

The event was scrapped after officials were unable to fix the problem and the two men were left in the air for two hours, next to a Tesco store in the city’s Duke Street, awaiting rescue.

As officials scratched their heads wondering how to get their employees down, the men had to suffer taunts from highly-amused colleagues.

Neither of the men – both called Dave – wished to comment on their predicament.

Over the two hours a string of council vehicles was summoned  to attempt to get the cherry picker working, but were unable to assist their stricken colleagues.

Eventually a second cherry picker was dispatched and successfully lowered the pair to safety.

The event was part of a three week event which plans to improve the appearance of the streets of Leith. It aims to remove graffiti, stickers, posters and cable ties from buildings and structures such as  bus stops, lamp posts, phone boxes and post boxes in the area.

City Environment Convener Lesley Hinds had praised the initiative. She said: “One of our key commitments of the Capital Coalition is to maintain and improve the quality of life in Edinburgh and Shipshape Leith is a fine example of this in action.”

The council had also  made Friday volunteer day, calling for local residents to come along and help out with the clean-up operation.

A Council spokesman said: “Shipshape Leith was a great success today with nearly 50 people, including many volunteers, helping to clean up the streets. The project is continuing for the next two weeks and I’m happy to report that the two staff on the cherry picker which broke down are safely back on ground level and the graffiti will be cleared soon.”

Tonks and Atiga return for Edinburgh Rugby

Edinburgh’s Greig Tonks

Full-back Greig Tonks and centre Ben Atiga have recovered from injury to make to make their Heineken Cup debuts for  Edinburgh against Munster on Sunday.

The duo are among five changes made by head coach Michael Bradley as his team look to bounce back from last week’s disastrous 45-0 home defeat at the hands of Saracens. Tonks and Atiga replace Tom Brown and Matt Scott, who both drop to the bench, respectively.

The capital side have a point to prove after the Saracens result but Bradley is  acutely aware that a trip to face Munster on their Limerick home turf is a daunting one. Bradley said: ““Thomond Park is a fortress, steeped in the Heineken Cup history. The fans and the players will be fired up for this, so we’ll need to front up to the physical aspects of the game from the outset.”

Bradley’s will be hoping that his changes will give his side both a physical and attacking edge for the vital fixture. Fijian Number 8 Netani Talei  returns to the back row with Stuart McInally moving to open-side flanker in place of Ross Rennie who does not make the match-day squad. Scotland prop Geoff Cross comes back into the pack at tight-head in place of Willem Nel. Club captain Greig Laidlaw has failed to recover from the shoulder injury he sustained in last week’s match  and his place at stand-off goes to Gregor Hunter while second row Sean Cox will skipper the team.

To win the match Bradley insists that Edinburgh must front up against the two-times former European champions and silence the home crowd. He said: “If we match them physically, and are patient and accurate in possession, then we have a chance to impose our game plan and not be dictated to by the Munster players and a Thomond Park crowd that will be desperate for a home win.”

Edinburgh Rugby team to play Munster in round two of the Heineken Cup at Thomond Park, Limerick (kick-off 12.45) – live on SkySports

15 Greig Tonks

14 Lee Jones
13 Nick De Luca
12 Ben Atiga
11 Tim Visser

10 Gregor Hunter
9 Richie Rees

1 John Yapp
2 Ross Ford
3 Geoff Cross
4 Grant Gilchrist
5 Sean Cox CAPTAIN
6 David Denton
7 Stuart McInally
8 Netani Talei

Substitutes
16 Andy Titterrell
17 Robin Hislop
18 Willem Nel
19 Robert McAlpine
20 Dimitri Basilaia
21 Chris Leck
22 Matt Scott
23 Tom Brown

Original here

McInally starts for Edinburgh rugby against Saracens

Edinburgh rugby star Stuart McInally

Edinburgh rugby star Stuart McInally has been rewarded for his fine early season form with a starting berth in the club’s opening Heiniken Cup match against Saracens on Saturday.

McInally is selected at Number 8 ahead of Fijian Netani Talei in a strong line-up as the capital side look to emulate last years European performances when they reached the semi-final stage for the first time in their history.

Head coach Michael Bradley says that last years experience in Europe’s premier club competition has left everyone connected with Edinburgh eager to experience more of the same this season. Bradley said: “The Heineken Cup is the best club rugby competition on the planet and it’s the one that every player and club wants to be part of. It’s a very special competition and we’re all very excited to get started.

“The support we received in last season’s competition was exceptional and undoubtedly played a massive part in the successes we enjoyed here at Murrayfield. The pressure, the pace, and the physicality, combined with the heightened tension and suspense are what makes this such a special tournament.”

Scotland props Allan Jacobsen and Geoff Cross find themselves relegated to the bench with Welshman John Yapp and South African Willem Nel starting in the front row alongside Scotland captain Ross Ford. The presence of four internationalists in Jacobsen, Cross, Talei and England’s Andy Titterrell amongst the replacements underlines the new-found strength of depth in the Edinburgh squad. Bradley acknowledges this while conceding that the English club will provide a tough examination of his squads ability. Bradley said: ““Our opening pool match will pose a serious test for our squad and will give us a good understanding of where we are as a team.

“We face a side which, I expect, will use a strong kicking game and very a combative defense to try and keep the game in our third of the field.”

McInally is one of six changes from last weeks disappointing home defeat against  Italian side Trevisio. Yapp, Tom Brown, Richie Rees, Ross Rennie and Nick De Luca are the other new faces.

Edinburgh Rugby team to play Saracens at Murrayfield Stadium in Heineken Cup round one (kick-off 1.35pm)

15 Tom Brown

14 Lee Jones 13 Nick De Luca 12 Matt Scott 11 Tim Visser

10 Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN 9 Richie Rees

1 John Yapp 2 Ross Ford 3 Willem Nel 4 Grant Gilchrist 5 Sean Cox 6 David Denton 7 Ross Rennie 8 Stuart McInally

Substitutes 16 Andy Titterrell 17 Allan Jacobsen 18 Geoff Cross 19 Robert McAlpine 20 Netani Talei 21 Chris Leck 22 Harry Leonard 23 Dougie Fife

Original here

Labour launch consultation document ahead of council elections

Edinburgh Labour today launched its Moving Edinburgh Forward consultation document ahead of the 2012 local council elections.

The document, which was unveiled along with the group’s full list of candidates for next May’s poll, endorses a move towards a co-operative method of local government in the city. The party promise to engage with local communities and to involve all political parties in decision-making under their plans.

Speaking at the launch Labour group leader, Andrew Burns, stressed the benefits of a co-operative council and dismissed any similarities to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Burns said:- “ A co-operative council is in essence a council that does things with its communities, as opposed to doing things to its communities. Ed Milliband signed up to the co-operative model long before Cameron’s big society was launched. It’s more John Lewis than Easy Jet.”

 The document highlights a number of areas which could be implemented in a co-operative manner. These include setting up a ‘childcare co-op’, the re-introduction of community newspapers and giving local sports clubs a role in running the pitches and pavilions they use.

Burns feels that the party is showing commitment to the city by launching a consultative document six months ahead of the elections, and by being the first group from any party in Scotland to select all its candidates.  Burns said: –  “It is an absolute statement of our intent to move Edinburgh forward at next May’s local elections.

 ”We are taking a really bold step today. We are opening up a public dialogue about our ideas and our visions a full six months before the election. I think it is a completely unprecedented move.”

As well as consulting local residents, the party pledges to involve councillors from across the political spectrum in any decisions under a Labour-led administration. On the prospect of working with the Lib Dems under Jenny Dawe or Steve Cardownie’s SNP Burns said:- “I rule out nothing. It is down to the members of the public to make the decision. We will do what is right for Edinburgh.”

Original here – http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2011/11/labour-launch-consultation-document-ahead-of-council-elections/

Edinburgh still Occupied

One week on from last Saturday’s day of protest  around 40 protesters are still camping in St Andrew Square.

Organisers from Occupy Edinburgh say that the protest has been peaceful, and that good relations have been maintained with the police as well as with local residents and businesses. The group currently aim to maintain a presence in the square until Christmas.

Those braving the elements for the anti-capitalist cause come from all over the globe. Mattia Lunia is a 19 year-old student at Edinburgh University and has been camping all week. Lunia comes from New York and it was the Occupy Wall Street campaign in his home city that inspired him. Lunia said:- “I heard what was going on in New York so I was very envious of all my friends there, and now I can bring it to Edinburgh.”

On public reaction to the campaigners, Lunia feels that despite some negativity the general feedback has been positive. He commented:- “You sometimes get the feeling that what you are doing is pointless and that you are dirty hippies doing nothing, but the feedback has been mainly positive.”

Lunia is particularly grateful for what he describes as “amazing” donations of food and warm clothes from members of the public. Edinburgh restaurants the Himalayas and the Mosque Kitchen have also donated hot food. Looking to the future the main aim is to get more people actively involved. Lunia says :- “We just need to get more people into the Square, because while people have been very supportive we need them to get down here and get mobilised – that’s our new goal.”

In addition to those pitching their tents, a number of activists have been coming down daily to help. One such person is 65 year-old Edinburgh woman, Pat Smith. After attending last Saturday’s rally Smith felt motivated to come down every day to lend a hand. She said:- “It’s been inspirational – personally, I certainly have been inspired. I have been out of politics for decades, but it is very instructive when you come down and see how these people are. They are very respectful of everyone and really welcoming.”

Smith echoes others comments that the public have been very supportive of the protesters. She puts this down in part to the atmosphere generated in the square. She said:- “The camp is a small example of how you can live in a very different way – setting up camp in the heart of a big capitalist city.”

With over 20 tents currently pitched there, the camp looks set to be a feature of Edinburgh for some time if the campaigners have their way.

Originally published here – http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2011/10/edinburgh-still-occupied/