Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ouch!

....well, actually, it wasn't quite as much ouch as it could have been.

Yes, after nine years riding my bike in Glasgow, having had a few close calls and having witnessed some very poor  driving (and yes, having fallen off occasionally of my own accord...), I have been knocked off my bike.

Fear not (or sorry to disappoint, depending on what your view of Magnatom is), I came away from the incident with very minor scratches. The bike....well, it wasn't so lucky. I'm waiting to hear about the damage.

Here is the video



It could have been a lot worse of course, and I was fortunate that the driver accepted his mistake.

What is interesting though, is how some people react to this. Most folk are sympathetic and hope that 'you are ok'. Some though, really really don't like me, and can still find fault in what I do. I should have been 'cycling on the divider lines' for instance (not a chance!), was one suggestion. However, another suggestion that I've had thrown at me is more substantial.....


Why do you take that route at all? There is an alternative route so you must be looking for trouble.

Well, I decided to answer that question in the place it was asked (doesn't matter where it is). However, I've also decided to copy the answer here, so that I could refer to it in the future. My answer also covers some of the criticism of some who don't either think campaigning for better infrastructure is worth it, or are actually scared by what they see as 'segregationism'.

Anyway, here is my answer.

I think I have seen you indirectly asking me quite a few times why I don't use the canal. You've not asked me directly, but I'll assume you actually want an answer.

I need to be at work for 9am. Actually, I ideally need to be at work before 9am. Unfortunately (actually I think it's fortunate, but hey ho) I have 3 kids, and as I work, and my wife works that means that we need to get the kids to the child-minders. Now for reasons that I don't feel the need to share, it works out better if I take the kids to the child minder. Unfortunately, the child minders only starts at 8am. Therefore, as much as I would love to leave earlier, I can't. The roads are far, far quicker than the canal, especially if you ride taking other canal users into account. In fact I rode on the canal the other day and, to be honest with you, it's in a poor state in many places. That was on a dry day. I'd have to buy a different bike to ride on it.

Interestingly though, despite suggestions that I look for trouble, the vast majority of my commutes to work are not along Balmore Road. If you look at my videos you will see quite a few where I take a quiet route via Baldernock. This does take a little longer, but is still quicker, and far more pleasant than the canal. Some days though, I am running late and that isn't an option.

Coming home, I must admit I only rarely take my Baldernock route. I am often later than I would like and, crazy I know, I want to get home to see my kids before it is time to get them ready for bed.

Then of course is the fact that, having kids, and not having a lot of spare time (I'm busy writing a blog, seeing the rest of my family, working out of hours trying to spin out a biotech company, talking to my wife etc....), I don't have time to go to the gym. My commute is also my exercise. My father died at 51 from a heart attack, and I am determined not to do the same, so by cycling on the roads, and yes the hilly back roads especially, I keep fit. I am nowhere near the fittest cyclist....far from it....but in relation to the general population my cycling keeps me very fit.

So you see, whilst it might fit some people's world view that I cycle down road X because I must be looking for trouble, it just isn't the case, no matter how much you want it to be.

As for changes to the roads and needing to build cycle ways in the sky....Have a look at at an aerial view of Canniesburn roundabout. There is a huge amount of wasted space that could be put to good use. There are many options to make that roundabout safe. For those who suggest we should just leave it as it is, and that the roads are fine, let me ask you this....how many children have you seen riding that roundabout, or in that area in general? In my years of riding it I have seen none. Not one. So, if you think the roads are fine, you are excluding children, along with the many other people who do not feel safe from riding there. Yes, you might feel safe and generally I do, but we are a small percentage of people who are willing to put up with current conditions.

I'm sorry, but I do not think that cycling should be the reserve of a brave and fortunate few. I think everyone should have the opportunity and I will continue to to fight for that, not in your name of course, but in my own name, and in the name of the many others that have signed petitions, come to demonstrations and will do so in the future. Of course, I do not assume that my views are shared by all, but I know they are shared by many.

As for change never coming, well, change is already coming..... http://www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/content/council_and_government/consultations,_complaints_and/consultation_and_engagement/current_consultation_activity/bears_way.aspx

They do have future plans for Canniesburn Toll as well......

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Counciltation

My previous blog provided a stark comparison between the two council areas I cycle in and how they approach cycle infrastructure consultation. There was no surprise that East Dunbartonshire won the battle with Glasgow. It wasn't even a fair contest.

East Dunbartonshire is not content with it's initial victory though, and it felt the need for one last 'punch' to finish Glasgow off. The upper hook has been delivered East Dunbartonshire in the form of a FAQ relating to the consultation.

What?! A FAQ?!?!

East Dunbartonshire are actually attempting to not only answer frequently answer questions about the consultation, but to answer them honestly!!?!

Apparently so.

At this point I do feel the need to apologise though. I apologise if you have already clicked my above link to the FAQ and have started looking at the document......

Yes.......it does use Comic Sans! (No I will not use Comic Sans to illustrate!!).

What were they thinking!

OK. Please ignore that fact and read on. It's actually quite an interesting read. It explains why they are doing what they are doing.  

The funds need to be spent within the current financial year....they can't do floating bus stops everywhere as there isn't space, but they are looking into moving the bus stops.....they can't do the area most in need due to other ongoing works.....etc.

You know what.....I really appreciate this approach. I really appreciate it it a lot! Ok, truth be told I don't entirely agree with everything they have said, especially the part that talks about a dual network (WE DON'T WANT OR NEED DUAL NETWORKS!!!!). Oh and a the road sweeper will be needed significantly more than they suggest!! However, I can at least understand their reasoning.


Most importantly they discuss.....phase 2. Yep, you read me correctly....this is the start of something bigger. They will look at the possibility of getting rid of the side switch and perhaps end up having nice wide lanes on both sides. It'll just take a bit of time. They will look to extend it, and to fill in any gaps.

So this is the start of the journey.

Perhaps we should help make it a wee bit easier for them. If you live in East Dunbartonshire (OK, most of my followers don't....), then why not write to your councillor and let them know that you appreciate the approach that the council is taking. You appreciate that, whilst it isn't perfect that they are listening. At the same time you can gently remind them that doing it wrong will be a waste of money, but doing it right could make the area the envy of the rest of Scotland.

 I'll be writing shortly.

I for one am quick to lambaste councils when I think they deserve it. Here I think it's time for a little congratulations.So well done East Dunbartonshire. Keep up the good work.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A Tail of Two Councils


I came across the following video the other day, and I must admit watching it almost brought a tear to my eye. No, it's not love story or a video of a really cute cat, it's a video of cycle infrastructure (did you ever think it would be anything else!?)

This video though is not of your everyday type infrastructure. It most certainly isn't something you would find in the UK! In fact, I suspect that even in cycling 'advanced' countries this is a bit of a luxury.

Watch.





Wow. Just.....wow.

I'm just trying to imagine what Glasgow central could be like if it had a facility like that.

Wow.

Of course, there is absolutely no point imagining something like this here. The depressing thing is that we are decades away from getting something like that. In fact, I wouldn't want money spent on something like that here. The fact is that you should only ever start considering projects like that when you have the basics right, and Rotterdam does have the basics right.

Back to reality now.....back to the basics.

As you'll no doubt be aware I handed a wee petition in recently to Glasgow, and hopefully as a result of that I'll be able to organise a meeting with Frank, Alistair and others shortly. However, in response to a letter I sent recently related to the petition it was mentioned that a consultation was about to begin for a segregated cycle route in Tradeston.....and so it has happened. You can find the documents here.

My first problem with this is, well, it isn't really a consultation. This is Glasgow, having designed the scheme, wanting to implement Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). More accurately, they want to actually get full permission to start the scheme. Hmm. This is not how I think this should be done, and I'll explain more about that a little later.

Anyway, please have a look at it and send your responses by the 29th August. I certainly will.

Here is one of the plans, but please look at them in detail.
























Unfortunately I have a major problem with this. I don't know about you, but I'm not urban planner or road engineer. I find it hard to work out what is going on here. There are even colours in there (the blue specifically) that aren't mentioned in the key.

Looking at it with my untrained eye, I think I can see some issues. At junctions, the very place you need infrastructure, it often disappears. It looks like you have to go on the path in places. It's not obvious how you enter and exit the lanes safely etc.

Luckily there are those that are better at looking at this than me, so if you want to read a critique of this, please look here

Does it have to be like this though?

It would appear not.

Move north of the city and into East Dunbartohshire where there is, what I personally think, is a REAL consultation. A few months back, East Dunbartonshire Council (EDC) held a street event where people could come and look at proposed plans for the A81 (part of my commute). The most important part of this was, that they were proposed. This wasn't a TRO. It wasn't looking for final tweeks, it was aiming to hear from stakeholders, i.e. people who actually use the road, what they think of proposals. Change was very much a possibility.

I went along and had a look. I had a few issues, and they listened to those. In fact, and I'll put this bit in capitals as it is quite amazing.....THEY ACTUALLY LISTENED! (Not just to me of course!)

The specific bit they listened to was with regards to the interaction of the segregated lane and bus stops. Originally there was going to be conflict, with the lane going in front of the bus stop. Having listened to me and others, the plans now have the lanes going behind the bus stops. PROPER FLOATING BUS STOPS!!!



Ok, so the plans aren't perfect. At one point on the route you have to 'swap sides'. It also stops before it gets to my favourite roundabout (ahem) at Burnbrae. However, it is progress and perhaps more can be made.

For an excellent summary of the plans you could do worse than read Car Sick Glasgow's blog here. He covers the positives and negatives of the scheme very well. Please consider sending in your comments.

So we have two schemes, not too far apart geographically, but very far apart in their ambitions, and in the processes in place for consultation and the approach to making them happen. Whilst EDC haven't quite got it right yet, I think GCC could learn a lot from there neighbours. I know which council is closer to making multi-story underground bike parking a reality.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Cycling With a Plan

They say a picture says a thousand words. I must admit I'm not entirely sure who 'they' are, but I thought I'd take them at their word and instead of writing a lot of words, I'd post a blog with a lot of pictures (OK it'll still have words!).

No point in posting random pictures of course, so I selected some very interesting (to me at least) pictures which I think tell a story. I think the following pictures bring some perspective to my grumps and misgivings about cycle infrastructure in Glasgow.

I was playing with Google Maps, as you do, and I was interested in the 'Bicycling' option that you get if you zoom in to certain areas. If you are looking at an area, say a city, for which Google has cycle infrastructure information, you get a map of green. At least, you get a map of green if there are decent cycle routes (I do not know how they classify decent!) So how does Glasgow look when you compare it to other cities around the world?

I'll start with some obvious comparisons and throw in a couple of interesting ones. Then I'll say what I think the pictures say. All the maps are at the same scale.

Amsterdam

Copenhagen

Berlin

Paris

Brussels

Boston

New York

Washington

Minneapolis

Adelaide

Warsaw

London

Manchester

Edinburgh

Glasgow


First the disclaimer. I have absolutely no idea how Google defines bike paths, and I certainly have no idea how it defines 'cycle-friendly roads'. Looking closely at Glasgow I know for a fact that at least some of these so called 'cycle friendly roads, are far from it! Thus, we can't read too much into the maps. Direct measurements of the amount of high quality infrastructure are not possible. For example I know 99% of Amsterdam's infrastructure is better than 99% of what Glasgow has!

However, looking at these maps, something struck me. It wasn't just the mass of green on nearly all of the non-UK maps, it was something more. Look closer....

On nearly all of the non-UK maps, just by looking at the green lines, you get an idea of the layout of the city. You can work out where the centre is by just looking at the green lines. They generally radiate and occasionally circle the city centre. In comparison, if you look at Glasgow, which I think (even ignoring my bias) is the worst of the UK cities I've listed, there is absolutely no pattern to the green whatsoever. Look at the green only and you'd be hard pressed to pinpoint the centre.

Why is this?

Glasgow and other UK cities are pretty damn poor at building and investing cycle infrastructure. It's actually quite embarrassing looking at these images. For a city Glasgow's size the lack of infrastructure is quite shocking (the scale of each image is the same).

However, it goes beyond the amount of infrastructure. The green you see on nearly all of the cities where it radiates from the centres look..... planned. The images scream...PLANNED... at you. Each city is systematically working towards creating (or already has) a viable network of safe routes ,not just in the areas that it is easy or cheap to implement, but where it is needed, i.e. on all the arterial routes of the cites.

I know for a fact that Glasgow doesn't have a plan. I know for a fact that it spends other people's money on bits and pieces, here and there without any overarching forethought.  Thus, we end up with a city that does not look inviting to anyone looking at the Google 'Bicycling' tab. There is no way you could actually plan a journey to get from A to B in the city and remain on the green routes.

So, when I arrange to meet councillors over the next month or so I'll be making this quite clear to them. We need investment AND we need planning. In fact we need planned and recurring investment. The time for piecemeal cycle infrastructure is over.

Anything else and we are resigning Glasgow to many more years as the sick man of Europe.






















Sunday, 10 August 2014

Cycling Solved - A Kick up the Backside

I've been off on holiday recently and had family visiting so I've been a bit distracted, but I had planned to get back into blogging today. I have plenty to write about, but I came across something recently that changed my planned blog. I saw the following Tweet.


Umm, err, what?!

Ok. I've followed Alex for quite a while now, and I trust what he posts, but this particular statement was so far from what I perceive to be true that I just had to background check this. Did the MSP for Maryhill and Springburn really say this?

A quick search through Alex's tweets found a link to the source. The source is an official report of proceedings of the parliament, so you have to reckon on this being pretty accurate. It has to be. It is however, quite long, but let me extract the text of interest that was associated with Patricia Ferguson.

A recent survey carried out for Glasgow City Council revealed that some two thirds of the people in the sample cohort in the east end who were out of work reported that they had a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity. How do we improve the health record of Glasgow and Scotland? Can that, too, be a legacy of the games? In my view, encouraging young people to walk or cycle to school, and giving more encouragement to people who walk or cycle regularly, would be a start. We have to start somewhere, so we could start there. Walking and cycling are not activities that require a great deal of infrastructure. People just need encouragement and the get-go.

So there you have it.

Effectively Patricia's solution for Glasgow's ills can be summarised by the following statement:

For goodness sake people of Glasgow, get off your lazy backsides and get cycling! The paint on the roads will keep you safe!

Feel free to bang your head off your nearest desk.

Ok, then Patricia, let's see if this works.


Patricia!! Yes you!! Stop driving your damn car or taking the damn bus. Dust off your bike and get your lazy, sorry arse (sorry if this seems a bit rude, but I'm taking a sort of Sergeant Major type approach to giving Patricia a wee bit of get-go) out of your comfortable air-conditioned, Radio 2 engulfed car seat and get on your damn bike!!

Right, hopefully you'll at least have the get-go now.

Now for a bit of encouragement.

Patricia I am more than happy to take you on a wee bike ride through Glasgow. Would you like to join me? Contrary to what it might seem in this blog, I'm actually quite a nice guy, and to prove that, if you do come for a wee bike ride with me, I'll buy you a wee bun and a coffee at the end. How's that?

As we cycle along the obviously 'cycle friendly' streets of Glasgow, I'll let you point out all the places where you think a wee bit of encouragement will convince me to take my children cycling along the roads of this fair city. You might be right, and I might just be imagining all the issues and difficulties that I face on a nearly daily basis on my commute to and from work.

Seriously, this is an offer. Will you come and ride with me?