Saturday, 26 July 2014

So What Now?

You might have noticed me mentioning a petition to Glasgow City Council recently. Yes, I may have mentioned it once or twice!

I have to say, the response to it has been impressive. After only a couple of months and with only word of mouth and a bit of Twitter and Facebook, the petition is sitting at over 1700 (1717 at the moment to be exact). It also contains many, many comments making it clear that cyclists (and non cyclists of Glasgow) do not think Glasgow has been delivering on cycling up until now, and that now is the time for change.

So yesterday, at fairly short notice, I organised a hand in event at the City Chambers where Frank MacAveety (cycling czar), and Alistair Watson (closest thing GCC has to a head of transport) came to receive the petition. I'd asked if anyone would like to come along. Knowing that it was happening during working hours and during the Commonwealth Games I knew I was asking a lot of people.

Despite that, 40 cyclists of all shapes and sizes turned up (thank you all for coming!!!!!) and did a wee lap with me and the petition around George Square with some cheers from the nearby pedestrians! We then handed the petition over to Frank and Alistair and had a few speeches.

The speeches were recorded, but due to the lament of a nearby piper you can't hear what was said (unless someone else has footage!). Suffice it to say both Alistair and Frank said nice words and said how they supported our cause. They are politicians after all.

I did find something interesting out, though.

Before the speeches Alistair had a chat with me. He said he was supportive but pointed out that there were those in the council that were not on our side. Some are great believers in the combustion engine, apparently. He pointed out that it was always going to be difficult to 'take space from cars'. He did though, point out that there were ongoing infrastructure projects that were 'doing the right thing'. At this point Alistair mentioned the new cycle infrastructure going in around the Southern General Hospital. He said this was a sign of good things happening and an imminent change in direction of the council. At this point I realised that he hadn't been reading my blog!

I'll be honest here, I think Alistair was genuine. I think he did honestly think that GCC was making forward strides and that they were starting to cater for cyclists. In my opinion he just doesn't understand that infrastructure like that going in around the hospital isn't helping anyone. Our message hasn't got through yet.

Bad news? Perhaps not. We just need to make sure we get the message through, and I think there is a glimmer of hope there. During the speeches Alistair and Frank suggested that we should meet up to discuss our issues. Thus I'll be organising a meeting shortly. So there is a window of opportunity to get a strong message across, and I'm not one to hold any punches!

I am going to ask to give a presentation at the start of the meeting (they may refuse), where I'll be as honest as I can about the situation in Glasgow. I'll discuss why the current direction that GCC is taking is the wrong one. I'll also try and demonstrate that by spending a small amount of transport budget on cycling, over a period of time, Glasgow could be transformed into not just a cycle friendly city, but a people friendly city.

Perhaps you could help by sending me details of infrastructure in Glasgow that you think demonstrates where they are getting it wrong!

I won't be alone at the meeting, and I hope that Go-Bike and some others will be represented to. So watch this space. I'll try to keep you update.


 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Glasgow Cycles Better. Please!

It's a funny old game, cycle campaigning. Sometimes you feel like you are standing on solid ground and that what you say is just common sense. Other times you feel like you are sticking your neck out and you hope that people agree with what you are saying.

Having been campaigning with Pedal on Parliament and focusing on what the government needs to do, generally it feels like I am on solid ground. With POP, whilst we don't have a direct mandate, we do have the general backing of those who attend the events. It feels like we have a strong voice and we try our best to use that wisely.

As an individual blogger, things are a bit different. Effectively my blog is my opinion. It isn't anyone elses. That doesn't matter too much though as a blog is a conversation point. I'd be amazed if everyone agreed all of the time.

However, it felt like the time was right to stick my neck out a wee bit and to test the waters in Glasgow, so I set up the petition.

Would people sign it? Would anyone actually support it? Was I alone in thinking that Glasgow needed a metaphorical kick up the saddle?

It would appear that I am not alone.

At the time of writing the petition has above 1600 signatures with many leaving powerful comments. Several cycling groups have e-mailed or tweeted support and many people have said to me that this was long overdue. Cycle campaigners that I and many others respect greatly, have written passionately on the subject supporting this approach (see below).

So it would appear that the time is ripe for change in Glasgow. It's time to take these thoughts and feelings directly to the politicians.

So if you happen to be free, why not join us outside the City Chambers on Friday (25th July). If you have a bike, why not bring it at 11:15am and we can go for a quick cycle around the square (and the press who are coming might take a picture or two). Then at 11:30am we will hand the petition over to councillors. You could bring a poster or a banner to brighten things up to. Perhaps the one below which was kindly produced by two friends on Twitter (
Let's make a little noise in Glasgow.

 

The following is a letter sent to the Herald, written by Norman Armstrong from Freewheel North. Norman was happy for me to reproduce the letter here.

Louise White was sitting in this morning on BBC Radio Scotland’s Call Kaye to lead a discussion on cycling. I went head to head with a motoring journalist from the Sunday Times who was keen to perpetuate the myth that motorists pay for the road space they use while cyclists do not.

The opposite is the case. No industry receives more subsidy than the automotive and oil business. Conversely cycling investment, looking at things holistically, has no cost.

The tax on petrol, vehicle and excise duty, VAT on motoring products nowhere near matches the cost to society of public space dominated by cars, not to mention of conflict in parts of world rich in oil.

For seven thousand years of human civilisation the purpose of public space was to facilitate human conversation and society. The space between primitive dwellings became living streets and squares where science, philosophy and economics evolved as a result of the melting pot that communal space represents.

Come the mid 20thcentury and the motor industry strove to eliminate the fabric of community in order to sell roads, cars and oil. The attrition of corner shops, cafes, pubs, water fountains, libraries, local clinics and schools goes on today. The financial cost is principally to the NHS as the removal of active space creates an inactive population and the isolation from the loss of community leads to an epidemic of social and mental health problems.


Walking and cycling on the contrary has negative cost since it positively contributes to society. A street design strategy based on human metabolism not only eliminates the cost of having to buy fuel, it transforms obesity into health and could solve most of Scotland’s social, energy and economic problems, even isolation in old age. When I was kid in the 60s the street was a playground served by local shops. Granny would sit out on the porch. Now that street is just a rat run for traffic and parked cars, there are no shops, you have to drive to Tesco, miles away. Kids are watching screens and granny is stuck indoors.

Scientific rationality evolved in the living realm of Ancient Greece, the squares and market places of Athens. The fact there is so little rationality in the cycling debate may be because there is no public arena in our communities where one might come up against cogent argument. Crackpots seem to dominate discussion and demand licenses, insurance and high visibility for cyclists. Any review of the evidence conducted in a spirit of truth shows that cyclists are not the problem. In the first decade of the 21st century 36,000 people were killed on British roads, out of these 10 at the most could be attributed to cyclists in any way. In the same period 300,000 died from traffic pollution. How many die from the effects of inactivity and obesity in places where walking and cycling is difficult?

The economic cost of a car dominated society is gigantic, but the human cost is greater.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Glasgow - It's Time for Change

UPDATE BELOW (21ST JULY)

I'm not one for using quotes from others in what I write but I came across this quote and it got me thinking....

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.


Oh no! What have I done!?! Not only have I changed a habit of a lifetime by using a quote, it's a quote from an American President! Barak Obama to be exact.

Apologies.

However, despite the political connections, I do think this an appropriate quote for what is happening in Glasgow just now with regards to cycling. With the Commonwealth Games due to start next week in Glasgow, we have an opportunity and opportunities like this do not come along very often.

Glasgow has a commitment to legacy, and part of that legacy is getting Glasgow active, and as I have discussed many times before, cycling is a big part of the answer. Yet while the council might be listening, they certainly aren't acting.

So how can me make them act?

Well, we certainly can't make them act by sitting back and letting business happen as usual. We need to stand up and be counted. Many of you have already been counted and have signed the cycle friendly Glasgow petition. Thank you very much for doing that!

In fact tonight it has reached 1500!

There is, though, another opportunity.

Cllr Frank MacAveety, Glasgow's 'cycling czar', and the political lead in Land and Environment Services Cllr Alistair Watson have agreed to accept the petition in person next Friday (25th July) at the City Chambers at 11:30am. I intend to cycle there with the petition and it has already been confirmed that I will be joined by Patricia Fort (convener of Go-Bike) and Sally Hinchcliffe (fellow Pedal on Parliament organiser). Whilst Sally isn't based in Glasgow, she has experienced the ups and downs of Glasgow's roads.

Why not join us next Friday, on bike, on foot, on skateboard, or any way you can, to show your support for investment in a safer cycling Glasgow. Why not bring your family? I hope to bring mine, although I must admit I'm not sure how I would get them cycling there safely...which is the whole point!

As Barak Obama suggested, there is no-one better than us to drive change and there is no better time than now to do it. With your help we can make Glasgow a cycle friendly city!

UPDATE
------------

The plan now is to meet at 11:15am outside the City Chambers. This will give us time to have a short group ride around George Square before handing in the petition. This will provide an opportunity for photos of those who turn up. I'm looking into some graphics that could be printed and put on banners/posters etc. Watch this space!





Monday, 14 July 2014

Glasgow City Council Responds

If you follow this blog (sorry about the lack of updates recently, I've been on my holidays!), you'll have noticed I wrote a letter to the leader of Glasgow City Council recently asking an important question.

What has Glasgow City Council been doing for cyclists?

I asked a number of very specific questions:

How much of the councils own transport budget was spent on cycling infrastructure in the last five years?

Of that, how much was spent on quality cycle infrastructure, that at the very least meets the minimum requirements of 'Cycling by Design' (a document that is itself in need of improvement)?

I would also like to ask you to look at this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQmcdSXJeAo). Are you happy with the standard of this new facility? Do you think that this facility improves the safety of cyclists, and do you think this is money well spent?

Also, can you tell me how much money the council is investing out of its transport budget in the facilities that are being put in place around the new Southern General Hospital?

I also asked about the city councils approach to segregated infrastructure:

Do you agree that it would be a preferred way of keeping cyclists safe on roads where there is potential conflict with motor vehicles? 

Do you agree that in general, some space needs to be taken from the motor vehicle to not only improve the safety of cyclists in Glasgow, but also to improve the city centre environment?

Whilst I was on holiday I received a reply. Here it is:


MESSAGE SENT ON BEHALF OF BRIAN DEVLIN

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

LAND AND ENVIRONMENTAL SERVICES

Dear Mr Brennan
I refer to your undernoted email to Councillor Matheson with regard to the above matter and can advise as follows:
Sustainable Transport Expenditure
The table below shows the capital funding for Glasgow’s Sustainable Transport (Cycling & Walking) Projects for the last 5 years. These figures are not specifically broken down into cycling schemes as much of the expenditure relates to infrastructure which is used by both cyclists and pedestrians.

2009/10
2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14
£3 m £2.6 m £3.3 m £1.3m £3.5m
It should be noted that the above table indicates the budget allocated in each year and not necessarily exactly when it was spent.

Langlands Road


The Langlands Road route to the new South Glasgow Hospital is still under construction and a traffic regulation order covering the cycle route and controlled parking in the area has still to be promoted, which will hopefully address most of your concerns.
New South Glasgow Hospital
As part of the approval of the planning application for the Southern General Hospital a Section 75 Agreement was entered into with the Council to improve pedestrian / cycling routes servicing the hospital site and surrounding area.  The NHS board committed to making a walking / cycling contribution of £750,000.
The Council in partnership with Renfrewshire Council has committed £130,000 for cross boundary cycle improvements to the New South Glasgow Hospital.  A further £200,000 has also been provided from Sustrans via their community links programme.
Segregated Cycle Routes
Where possible, infrastructure is being developed in accordance with Cycling by Design and utilises the expertise of the council’s experienced designers and stakeholder groups. The Council also ensures that all it’s design staff attend a Cycling by Design training course run by Cycling Scotland. However, it should also be recognised that much of what we aspire to provide must be retrofitted to an already extensively developed urban environment, which allied to budget constraints, mean that some compromise must occasionally be made.
The Council has already allocated road space over to segregated cycle routes on London Road and on the Coonect2 Kelvingrove to City Centre project.  In addition, we will shortly be consulting on the Tradeston Cycle Route which will be a fully segregated route linking Pollokshields to the Tradeston Footbridge.
Glasgow City Council is fully supportive of trying to make our roads safer and encourage more people to cycle. The Council’s Local Transport Strategy, a copy of which can be viewed by visiting  (http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3788) states that “Glasgow is committed to increasing the level of cycling in the city and providing and promoting a high quality cycle network”
 

I'm not going to pick apart the letter in detail. I will though pick up on a few critical points.

My original letter was addressed to a politician, but a council officer replied. Now that isn't entirely unusual, however, I think it is important for me to point out that I don't think the issue is with the cycling officers. Far from it. I think they work in difficult conditions with little political support or funding. Therefore I was disappointed that there was no reply from the councillor himself.

I'll be very interested to see how 'promotion' of the parking restrictions on Langlands Road (I couldn't see many when I cycled it) will make a difference, though I'll certainly revisit the area in the near future to see how that pans out.

The partnership money that is mentioned is Renfrewshire's money, as far as I can make out. It isn't Glasgow's money. I am also pretty sure that this is for infrastructure outside of the Glasgow boundary. Happy to be corrected about that if I am wrong, but I am 99% sure I'm not.

With regards to infrastructure, the use of the words 'where possible' say it all. Cycling by Design is a document that sets out minimum standards. In fact even these standards are way out of date, so in effect GCC are admitting that they install infrastructure that doesn't even meet out of date minimum standards. Fantastic.

Finally, with regards to funding, my question has not been answered at all. They list total money allocated for cycling and walking. So some of this money will not be on cycling (though spending on walking is good of course). It would also appear to contain money from outside sources, i.e. Sustrans money, Cycling, Walking & Safer Streets (CWSS), and spends that occurred as part of national level infrastructure projects (and possibly some other sources).

I'd asked how much of their transport budget they had spent in the last 5 years.

Thus we don't actually have an answer. However, we can get a hint at the answer thanks to the good work of Spokes. Each year they carry out a survey of Scotland's councils to get a handle on cycling spend. You can find this information here in the last bulletin of every year. It's worth a look.

The figures are complicated, but there is one headline figure that stands out. In the years 10/11, 11/12, 12/13, Edinburgh council spent £2.23m of their own transport funding on cycling. The yearly figure has actually been rising despite the actual transport total falling. Glasgow has spent approximately £0 of its transport budget on cycling.

Yes, that's right, diddly squat.

OK, so it would be remiss of me not to look beyond that headline figure, and yes Glasgow has spent some other of its own money on cycling over these three years. However, this has been part of big ticket projects such as the East End Regeneration Route (EERR) project where some money HAD to be spent on active travel. These projects were happening anyway and cycling only, pardon the pun, came along for the ride.

Looking at the figures alone, and this is the real headline, it is obvious that Edinburgh is planning. It is setting aside a budget and increasing it over time. Glasgow is spending what it has to on the back of big road projects (oh yes, we'd better put something in for the cyclists) or what it can cobble together from other sources.

Glasgow is the city where approximately 50% of households don't have access to a car. Glasgow is the city with the incredibly poor health record. Glasgow is the city with severe pollution problems. Glasgow is the city where the lead councillor claims to be 'investing in making cycling safer'.

Poppycock!

It's time we let the politicians know what we think of Glasgow's approach to cycling. It's time we called for a minimum of 5% of the transport budget to be spent on cycling infrastructure. It's time to sign this petition (as many of you have already) and let the leaders of the council know that now is the time to invest in the future of what could be a happy, health and environmentally friendly city.



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

My Letter to the Glasgow Council Leader

I have sent the following letter to the leader of Glasgow City Council Cllr Gordon Matheson following comments he made on a Reporting Scotland evening news report (25/06/2014). In the report Mr Matheson suggested that the council was investing significantly in making Glasgow safe for cycling.

Dear Gordon Matheson,
I would like to start this e-mail by saying that I am very pleased to see that Glasgow has finally installed a cycle hire scheme in the city centre. It is encouraging to see that the council understands that cycling is a viable mode of transport and is encouraging residents and visitors to cycle within the cities boundary. As someone who has used the Boris Bikes in London to get around when visiting on business, I understand how useful such a scheme can be. The current Glasgow scheme, whilst limited in its geographical spread, is at least a step in the right direction.

However, I was concerned when watching the report on Reporting Scotland yesterday (25th June 2014) about the scheme when I heard you  say that the council was investing significantly in making cycling safer in the city. This is not my, and many other people experience as is demonstrated by many of the comments that have been left on this ongoing petition (http://goo.gl/F8jcNA). Therefore, can I ask, how much of the councils own transport budget was spent on cycling infrastructure in the last five years? Of that, how much was spent on quality cycle infrastructure, that at the very least meets the minimum requirements of 'Cycling by Design' (a document that is itself in need of improvement)?

I would also like to ask you to look at this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQmcdSXJeAo). Are you happy with the standard of this new facility? Do you think that this facility improves the safety of cyclists, and do you think this is money well spent? Also, can you tell me how much money the council is investing out of its transport budget in the facilities that are being put in place around the new Southern General Hospital?

In more general terms I am interested to know your, and the council's view on segregated infrastructure. Whilst segregated infrastructure is certainly not required everywhere, do you agree that it would be a preferred way of keeping cyclists safe on roads where there is potential conflict with motor vehicles? Do you agree that in general, some space needs to be taken from the motor vehicle to not only improve the safety of cyclists in Glasgow, but also to improve the city centre environment?

I would be grateful to receive replies to the above questions directly and would prefer if you don't refer to previously published vision statements. Unfortunately, I find vision statements do not generally contain targets or milestones and so are easily ignored when it comes to implementation on the ground.

Your sincerely,

David Brennan