The serious incident involving a young person on South Promenade on Monday is a tragic event which called for rescue teams releasing the victim from underneath the tramcar. Quite understandably he is undergoing medical specialist attention for severe injuries. There is now a formal investigation ongoing to determine the sequence of events and exact circumstance in which the tram and young cyclist became in conflict. This must run its course before definitive statements on the tragedy.
Apparently a future course of action being looked at is to stop the trams from running at all on the promenade during this annual evening/nighttime event. Just why an essential light rail service needs to be terminated entirely to provide free use of the promenade by both cyclists and pedestrians for what is a recent addition to the lengthening list of road closures along the seafront - is a question needing a responsible answer.
The frequency by which under normal circumstances, cyclists prefer to ride either on the promenade pedestrian paths - or the 'permanent way' of the paved tramway is already alarming to tram drivers and indeed pedestrians. And this is during daylight hours. Inviting the public to turn out en masse with young children, pets and friends - to 'view the Lights' whether by bicycle or on foot during hours of dusk and darkness is perhaps pushing the health and safety envelope too far. 'Ride The Lights' does not have a tradition of purpose over the decades. It is a recently contrived addition to the now never ending calendar of parades, marches, processions and other contrived forums utilising the town's seafront thoroughfare. Bus services disrupted, road traffic snarled, small armies of contracted road attendants, ever growing expenditures on signage and detours to add to someone's account.
It is one thing to conduct these events in daylight hours when the trams in particular are at least allowed clearer vision of their railbound reserved track. It is quite another to tempt fate with a nighttime exercise on a Promenade which is now sadly bereft of strong lighting over pedestrian space and the tramway itself. This was not always the case but consistent with Council budget cuts and trimming of overall budgets - the illuminations/lighting departments are a shadow of their former operational condition and struggling to meet the expectations of event planners.
Perhaps the better resolution to a nocturnal conflict between cyclists, pedestrians and tramcars along limited shared space will be to suggest ride the lights is achieved on public transport - whether bus, tram or chartered coach - if indeed it is to continue in its current form. Mixing young and inexperienced cyclists with quiet running light rail vehicles during hours of darkness is a folly and bodes ill for the sort of incident which has brought about life threatening injuries to one young person.
Blackpool's trams have an enviable record in terms of fatal accidents since the light rail upgrade - given the millions of visitors thronging the seafront during summer months. They should not now be labelled as dangers to cyclists, pedestrians or road users. 'Ride the Lights' is best done on the eminently popular 'Illumination Tours' which could in fact be supplemented with the now dormant fleet of double deck trams held at Rigby Road, stripped down to provide viewing platforms eminently more suitable for this purpose than the low floor and usually crowded light rail fleet which are far from ideal for Illuminations viewing.
Many decades previously the city of New Haven, Connecticut and its transit operator - maintained a considerable fleet of turn of the century open cross bench cars solely needed when Yale University's team played its matches at 'Yale Bowl'. Just a handful of times each year these fifty year old veteran cars creaked and groaned their way along to the Bowl, more or less hidden by hordes of students hanging on to the running boards, car ends and anywhere that a foothold permitted. I am not espousing Blackpool's operator similarly turns out its older trams to offer similar levels of travelling esprit for younger spirits. However a purpose 'ride the lights tram night' from Starr Gate and Pleasure Beach stops could well provide a safer and equally popular means of achieving the same aims as the current organisers intend. Food for thought.