Wednesday 18 July 2012

Enough about Edinburgh!

As a Scottish cyclist in the world of cycle campaigning, I have come to realise that there are barriers that need to be overcome. There are political barriers, financial barriers, even barriers due to the myths around cycling. However, over the last couple of years I have also come to realise that there is another huge barrier that many of us have to face.

The geographical barrier.

No, I am not talking about hills, they are in fact part of the fun of cycling (they are honest!), its Edinburgh. Edinburgh is becoming a right royal pain in my backside.

Now I know that probably sounds like I have some huge weegie (an affectionate term for a Glaswegian just in case you were unaware...) chip on my shoulder. I don't. I absolutely love Glasgow, but I also appreciate the different character that Edinburgh brings to the central belt and the rest of Scotland. Glasgow without Edinburgh is a bit like Celtic without Rangers......oh wait! ;-)

So what is my issue with Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is literally light years ahead of the rest of Scotland when it comes to cycling. I am always gob-smacked every time I head over to the east coast and I see how many people cycle in the city. Yes, Edinburgh is miles away from being perfect, but it has a critical mass, it has an excellent cycling campaign group in SPOKES, it has outspoken cycle friendly politicians, and it has a council that is doing it's best (without central government support) to encourage cycling and to design it's roads for cycling. OK, it gets it wrong sometimes, but with a little guidance it could make an impact.

What about Glasgow?

It has the GoBike cycling campaign, which is doing its best (although I disagree with its excitement at getting more ASLs in the city), but without the critical mass of cyclists to feed personnel, ideas and funding into it, it can only do so much. Glasgow has a council that from time to time makes some sounds about cycling, but it is much misguided.  There is absolutely no impetus for chance. It's almost depressing.

Here is a city that is building a state of the art cycling velodrome that isn't even building decent cycle infrastructure to get to it. Here is a city that has some of the highest rates of obesity and heart disease, here is a city that suffers from terrible grid lock and yet spends little if any of its own money on cycle infrastructure. It certainly didn't spend any of it's own transport money on cycling in 2010/2011(see column d on page 7 here).

The only semi decent piece of cycle infrastructure I see on my commute when in Glasgow (of which 6 miles is in Glasgow) is the Clyde Tunnel cycle path. Even that is covered with graffiti and poorly surfaced.

So what really annoys me when I keep hearing about all the initiatives that are happening in Edinburgh is that there is virtually nothing happening in Glasgow. At best there is talk. I don't think many people who live in Edinburgh know quite how bad cycling can be in the nations other cities.

Do something about it then Magnatom!

I'd love to, though I have the slight complication of actually living outside Glasgow in East Dunbartonshire (that's another story!). I also wouldn't know where to start.....

OK, that's not true. I will soon start organising my cycle infrastructure tour that I hope will take in East Dunbartonshire and Glasgow. I will try to get some politicians and and council workers to come along to that. Perhaps it will be a start.GoBike is also leading a cycling forum that may bring progress in the future.

However, what is really needed is the critical mass. By that I don't mean we need more cyclists out there on the roads, although that certainly wouldn't hurt. What we need is a critical mass of cyclists and politicians with cycling sympathies to get together, to work together to get something done. Glasgow needs people to step out of the shadows and start shouting for better facilities, let the people in charge now that we need to be counted. Glasgow needs cycling bloggers, tweeters, and shouters.

If you are from Glasgow and want cycling conditions to improve, or even if you just have an interest in Glasgow and want to help why not drop me a message via my contact page and perhaps we can start co-ordinating an approach.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to undermine the work of others, work that is done in a particularly difficult environment, but change will only come if we approach this from lots of different angles.

Come on Glasgow! Lets make Glasgow a cycle friendly city. Let's make the east coast cyclists jealous of us for a change.


  1. Does that chip on your shoulder have salt n soss or salt n vinegar? ;-)

  2. Just vinegar for me. Its a bitter chip... ;-)

  3. There's only one solution - move East ;-)

  4. Aye, Glasgow is a good 20 years behind Edinburgh, it wasn't always as cycle friendly as it is now.

  5. I think that you might compare the Cockburn Association and the parallel New Glasgow Society to get part of the 'feel' for why things work differently in Edinburgh.

    Both Spokes and the Glasgow Cycling Campaign were started around the same time (roughly when I arrived in Scotland to work for BR) but whilst Spokes had a liberal/commune management structure Glasgow took the committee/constitution path.

    The Glasgow/Edinburgh mentality divide is also reflected in the sex industry. Glasgow drives it underground an has major problems with the welfare of workers, Edinburgh licences 'saunas' and I gather from conversations on the 01.30 and 03.00 coaches (the fall-back when the rail industry reneges of delivering a connection from the last train in to Edinburgh on a Friday or Saturday) that there is a substantial 'commuter traffic' driven by the better working conditions and rates of pay in Edinburgh.

    When I landed in Glasgow, as the M8 was ripping out the heart of the city, there was just one supermarket in the actual city centre (Coopers Fine Fare) and that shut at 6 pm, no corner shops no loft apartments etc, aside from the oasis of Garnethill, which had somehow escaped the fate of the Gorbals and Hutchie. Edinburgh had vitality late in to the night with local shops in the city and broad cross section of society living there around the clock.

    Our Glasgow 'traffic' problem isn't caused by weegies living in the city - less than 35% of households own a car, and outside a very short set of times these vast streets that are clogged solid lack only tumbleweed blowing along to resemble the wild West. The Parking Zone here had the Council cramming in as many parking bays as they could in expectation of coining it. The reality is that the commuters deserted the area (and the queues to join the M8 at 4-5pm vanished overnight) and wenow have vast areas of tarmac that really should be dug up and turned in to pocket parks, if nothing else, as a way to attenuate rainfall run-off and reduce flooding on the main roads.

    I could go on - you see it in the way Edinburgh and Glasgow are dealing with pedicabs, and planning enforcement (we could have had a brilliant riverside route through the city like so many fine examples across Europe but there was no backbone to resist developer pressure etc)

    Time to sit and mull over 460cl of diluted C2H5OH, with dissolved CO2 and other impurities perhaps

  6. Another idea is to log onto to write a petition, share it with the cycling organizations and ask if you can post a link on their Facebook page. The cyclists can sign it online, and post it on their FB page to share with their friends. Then collect the signatures, and deliver them in person to the government office.