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

Monday, 23 June 2014

Is it reasonable of me?

You're cycling along a country road, one that has a 30mph limit. It's a road that you've had hassle on before with close passes.

A bus overtakes you and gives you plenty of room.

Good.

A car overtakes you and gives you a reasonable amount of room.....but it does so with a car coming the other way. It's a bit close and the oncoming car has to slow a bit to allow the overtake. Not the worst by any means, but certainly not the best. I certainly wouldn't have contemplated that overtake. So you shake your head. Nothing more. It would never make it into a video, otherwise you'd be posting 5 or 6 videos a day.

Then, out of the corner of your eye you catch something very close to you on the right. At first you can't be sure what it is, but it is no more that 50 cm from you. It's passing at a reasonable rate. You crap yourself.

It turns out that the object coming into view is another cyclist.

This happened to me a while back and the video can be seen here.



Why bring it up now as I posted this video a while back?

It's because I came across a discussion about it on the rider's cycling club Facebook page, one where I take quite a considerable amount of abuse, some of which suggests that members of the club would like to use violence against me. In fact the rider in the video specifically suggests that he'd like to make things....a little uncomfortable for me. So I thought I'd clear matters up a little.

I was not on a club ride.

That's right. I was not on a club ride. I also wasn't on a sportive, something that I do from time to time and somewhere where I am quite happy to pass by and to be passed by other cyclists at close proximity. Just to be clear, I also wasn't racing. I'm too old (and have a very gammy knee)  and not enough time to train for it. In fact, I have actually considered joining a club before but I just don't have enough time.

The cyclist was going faster than me. Yes I think I am reasonably fit, but I also know the limits of my fitness on a bike, and that there are many club cyclists who, could quite simply, whip my ar$e. Mind you, I did have a heavy rucksack on and the cyclist did have a slingshot from behind the bus.....but I digress.....

I mention all of the above because I want to point out that close passing, when out on a club ride etc is expected and part of the normal etiquette. Close passing another cyclist, without warning when you don't know the cyclist, and when it is pretty obvious that they don't know you are there, and when it is pretty obvious that the cyclist is just cycling home, in my opinion isn't. Quite simply I wouldn't do it to other cyclists when out on the road and I know most other cyclists wouldn't either.

Is this not reasonable? Does this make me a 'Gringo' or a bellend? Why does it get one of the staff from the local bike shop 'ready to burst'? Should it result in me getting a camera stuffed up my ar$e?

Is it not reasonable to expect another cyclist to give me a bit more room on a pass? Or perhaps to give a little bit of a warning? What do you guys think, especially club cyclists from other clubs?

Instead I get a whole load of abuse, which is a nice advert for the club.

Another thing that I am often accused of comes up again as well. The fact that I 'over-react' or get annoyed at 'nothing'. This is seen as a problem. Is it though? Not everyone has the same threshold for incidents on the road, and not everyone is willing to just put up with things the way they are. In fact, I am probably about average  when it comes to how I react to bad driving.

Average?! Seriously?!?!

Yes, I think I am. Some cyclists keep their heads down. They don't mind cars passing within a foot, or sitting 0.5 seconds from their back wheel and they don't like other cyclists making a fuss. Then there are those who either don't cycle at all because they feel too scared by what they see on the roads, or they give up (and I know many who have unfortunately) because they just don't feel safe enough.

I reckon I am probably about half way between these two groups.

Who is right? Who knows. I suspect that those who keep their heads down, ignore some of the risks, and those who don't ride, overestimate the risks. That certainly doesn't mean I am always right, but I suspect that there are a lot of cyclists like me out there who love cycling but feel the roads need to be a lot friendlier, as the signatures on the cycle friendly Glasgow petition would suggest.

So Scott, more than happy to meet up if you if you want to chat about it. Probably best I don't bring my cameras though, for my safety.....apparently.

(I did consider posting on the Facebook page itself, however, I would have had to join the group to post. For obvious reasons, I'm not too keen to join).


Friday, 6 June 2014

Making Glasgow Cycle Friendly

Sometimes you have to stop complaining and start doing something...

As readers of this blog will no doubt have surmised, I'm getting a tired of picking holes in Glasgow City Council's cycling policy. Each time a new announcement is made of a new 'cycling infrastructure scheme' I feel a darkness descend over me. I know, with almost 100% certainty that it will be of very poor quality. It's generally quite depressing.

Luckily I'm actually a glass half full kind of guy, and whilst I do feel depressed looking at these schemes (read here, here and here for some examples), I always brighten my mood by thinking of things that could be done to improve things. Yes, there are many people who say, 'och, why bother....nothing will ever change'. Yes if we take that approach they are right. Nothing ever will. I'm a great believe that things will change if we all try to make them change.

What could be done though?

Well, I'm always full of hair-brained ideas, and there are plenty more of them to come, but one idea floated to the top. With the Commonwealth Games coming, and there being false promises of a lasting legacy for Glasgow, with little evidence of it, perhaps it's time to give the politicians a wake up call.

A petition is born.

A petition? What? That's not going to change anything! 

Well, I actually disagree. POP started with a petition for example and POP is now a strong grass roots movement which is powerful enough to force Transport Ministers to take heed.

A petition is an excellent way to draw a line in the sand. It sets out a position, one that isn't coming from just one or two cycle campaigners, but one that is back by people. When someone signs a petition they are saying, 'yes, I agree with this'. A petition is an excellent place to start. So a petition has been started.


At the time of writing this the petition is already standing at 696. That's impressive in such a short space of time. Not only that but it has gained the official support of Go-Bike, Strathclyde's cycle campaign and CTC Scotland (the Scottish arm of CTC). I am hoping that other organisations will lend support to.

That though, is not the most impressive thing about it. I've heard politicians dismissing online petitions in the past, as they are just too easy to sign. In fact Glasgow has an official route for petitions, one that requires actual signatures and actual writing (so 20th century!!). It's a system that has official recognition but keeps the numbers down unless you have lots of people who have lots of time to stand in the street asking for signatures. I'm sorry, the times have moved on.

More importantly though, is that having the petition online actually allows people to engage much more than the councils paper petition. People have the option (it is not required), to add some comments. So rather than being easier, it becomes a little less easy. I have to say, I have been impressed with some of the comments, especially the amount that have been coming from people who don't currently cycle but would like to. So, I'll stop writing now, and I'll let you read about some of the comments that have been made so far.


I'd like to be able to safely cycle to work, and for my ten year old daughter to cycle to school. It's simply too hazardous as things stand.
I don't currently cycle in Glasgow because there isn't a properly connected cycle infrastructure in Glasgow. I would cycle if there was one - simple!
I cycle every day, often with kids on my bike and accompanied by a child on a bike. It is often dangerous and we always have to go a ridiculously long way to school to avoid potential accidents.
I cycle every day into Glasgow using the Fastlink route which has been a nightmare during construction. The plans for the finished route seem to have no consideration for cyclists leaving a poorer facility than we currently have. I would not, in any way, encourage others to take up cycling in Glasgow. I've been doing it for years so know what to expect and still find cycling an uncomfortable experience when commuting.
After years of struggling to obtain incremental improvements for cycling in Glasgow, I think now there needs to be radical change in the Council's approach to cycling provision. What the Council builds in the name of cycling has to be vastly better than what has been seen to date.
Moved away from Glasgow because the roads are so bad for commuting by bike or for recreational use. This is a long time coming and I would welcome it being initiated.

Please help make Glasgow a cycle freindly city by telling the council what you want for Glasgow. Sign the petition and leave a comment. It is possible with your help.