Saturday 28 July 2012

The Mind of Glasgow Council

I've written quite a bit about Glasgow recently and it's indifference to cycling and active travel as you can read for yourself here and here. As much as I love working in and living close to Glasgow from a cycling and active travel perspective I find it embarrassing to call myself a Glaswegian.

Despite this I was still shocked by an e-mail I received today from a fellow concerned Glasgow cyclist (who I know and trust). He'd received an e-mail from an employee of the council, who will remain unnamed.

The cyclist in this exchange was one of many who feel that the cycle infrastructure in Glasgow is generally appalling or in most cases non-existent. Thus, like many others he publishes some of the problems he faces online and then directs the council to the information. As I myself am only too aware, it is only through publicising issues such as these that councils/politicians etc actually get off their backsides and do something about it.

The e-mail from the Council employee was polite enough, but strongly suggested that publicising the issues was not the right approach. The employee suggested that such public posting might put new cyclists off. He was worried that future cyclists might see the online pictures and comments and feel that the roads weren't safe enough and thus decide not to ride a bike. This in turn would mean less cyclists on the road and, apparently, would translate into less funding for cycle infrastructure.


Let's look at the logic here. Concerned cyclist takes pictures of terrible cycle infrastructure. It is terrible because it is poor quality or even dangerous. A new cyclist looks online and see these images, and decides, mmmm, that looks dangerous, perhaps I won't go by bike. As a result there are fewer cyclists and therefore Glasgow City Council decides to spend less on cycle infrastructure!!

Here is the logic in a nutshell.

Someone points out roads are bad for cyclists, so there are less cyclists, so spend less on cycling, roads are worse,  so there are less cycling, so spend less on cyclists, roads are worse, there are less cyclists so spend less on cycling....

Mmm. That seemed a bit complicated. Let me simplify it...

Crap Cycle Infrastructure = Spend less on Cycle Infrastructure

Way to go Glasgow!

To be fair to the employee writing the e-mail, I suspect that he is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and almost said so himself. It sounds like has very limited resources and he wants to improve things, but he's stuck with the Glasgow 'Crap, so Less' funding system.

So Edinburgh council, whilst not perfect, has seen the light and understands that investing in cycling pays back in so many ways, Glasgow is caught in the Death Spiral of Doom.

And you wonder why Glasgow has some of the most polluted streets, has terrible traffic congestion has some of the worst rates of heart disease, and is often called the sick man of Europe.

It's actually quite ironic. I've heard politicians in the past saying we need to change the culture on the roads before investing in the infrastructure. That is of course the wrong way around. We need to make it safe before more will use bikes and the culture will change.

The irony is, that we do indeed need to change culture first. The culture within Glasgow City Council.


  1. It's the "if you are not with us, you must be against us" attitude that attempts to shutdown debate or criticism. It's a golden moment now for British cycling and councils will be hoping to associate themselves with it by putting out a positive message. Only time will tell if we see an improvement in facilities but keep blogging to keep politicians true to their word!

  2. So putting pictures of bad infrastructure on-line is putting potential cyclists off, and it not the seeing it in reality that puts people off? Where do Glasgow Council get their staff from? Mars?

    The Mind of Glasgow Council is a small dark place, not a dear green place...