Wednesday 7 November 2012

Giving up cycling

Today I received an e-mail from a fellow cyclist in Glasgow who commutes to the same place I work. Unfortunately, she has decided to stop cycling to work. I had asked her why she had stopped. Here is her answer.

Thanks for your email, much appreciated. Unfortunately the route I go through is via the Southside and though I've managed to re-arrange the majority of the busy sections, the route from Bellahouston Park through Ibrox/Shieldhall is terrifying - I'm compensating saving money and health benefits for safety; I'm not too happy about that but for the timebeing I feel as if I have no choice. My original route would take me 35 minutes through Shawlands and was quicker than by car, however, the volume of traffic was insane and it was a pretty intimidating route so I re-routed and went a slightly quieter route which adds a staggering 25 minutes onto my journey. At a push I could lengthen it even further but then I doubt I'd have the energy to do a full day's work. It's such an infuriating situation to be in; I love cycling and if the environment allowed it I'd cycle every day. But due to the current road layout I just don't think that's possible: I have a very timid and unassuming style of cycling that doesn't fit with the arrogance of the roads. On many occasions I feel as though I'm being bullied onto the pavements and it's now at the point where I dread my commute. So for the time being, and for the sake of my personal well being and safety I'm opting for the car.

However I'm by no means a hardcore cyclist so if this is the experience of somebody who has a genuine love of cycling, what chance is there of attracting newcomers to opt for the bike over other forms of transport?


So Glasgow has one less cyclist and one more driver. I don't blame her. Glasgow and many of our towns and cities are not cycle or people friendly. It took me five years to dare cycle on some of the busiest roads around me, and I'm no shrinking violet. How long until our politicians realise that without significant funding and as my friend suggests, new infrastructure, people will feel too scared to cycle on our streets.

Asking drivers to give us more space, painting strips of paint on the road, or training people how to ride assertively isn't the answer.  Cycling should be as easy as, riding a bike and with the right infrastructure it can be.

Let's be bold. Let's show the world that we want to make Scotland not just a cycle friendly nation, but a people friendly nation.


  1. It's sad, whilst I have no intention of throwing in the towel I can relate to this. I have made countless changes to my commute, a dodgy junction here, avoid a bit of dual carriageway there. I've realized that it isn't the roads that are the problem, it the selfish, impatient idiots using them.

  2. The continuation of the flawed and biased thinking in transport & planning for Glasgow is perfectly illustrated by the current construction of the new 'Arena' and other features along the riverside from the Kingston Bridge to the Kelvin and onwards downstream.

    The New Arena has an equal sized plot on which a multi storey car park - for perhaps 400-500 cars is being built connected with an umbelical footbridge, yet for the wont of a connection barely any longer, the rail station at Finneston (it is perhaps contestable to even remotely describe it as 'Exhibition Centre') is right on the doorstep.

    In that same area hundreds of service industry workers commute by rail to the same station and work for companies in 10 Elliott Place. Not for them access through the main foyer, but in past the loading docks and bin stores, and only through the sheer pressure of numbers trying to cross Finnieston Road, has (eventually) a signalled crossing been delivered for the exposed open air route from the station to the office complex. there is a multi store car park shoe-horned in to the site under great pressure, but cycle parking is hardly showing on the sidelines

    The SECC is equally an embarrassment in delivery of a venue with even the simplest integrated transport features. The cycle parking for the venue is risible, cycle routes to and through, full of compromises in design and priority. The whole site location was poorly conceived and this flaw compounded by the layout which makes it both unlikely and impossible to put main scheduled bus routes through the site, a clear time penalty of serving a cul de sac. The red worm/red shed have no readily visible display(s) of imminent train departures, or the bus service. Compare the stinking and patched up red worm. and the open air 'gaps' at each end with the walk you take to the NEC from its associated station, and it shouts that the conception of transport and activities for almost every development in Glasgow considers only the use of the private car. Quite simply the thinking of the dinosaur age.

    I'll haud back from saying anything about the crass decision - even in the wake of the transport disaster called the ERI - of putting the major hospital for Glasgow and the Wet on the opposite side of the River Clyde to the bulk of its clients, and without any coherent integration with existing transport infrastructure let alone jut getting the cycling detail right.

  3. I really sympathize. I only just continue cycling. Plenty of cycle routes here in Edinburgh they just don't go where I actually need to go. No safe routes North/South or East/West across the centre of town.

    I've been cycling as transport for over 30 years and I really feel things are getting worse - despite all the cycle lanes. But maybe I am just getting old and more aware of my own mortality....

  4. It's an interesting dilema. I wonder if, when learning to drive a car, whether the same over-cautious behaviour was present? The driver, perhaps, avoided busy roads and motorways due to their hostile nature... but now doesn't, has learned to take it in their stride.

    That confidence comes with time. It's worth sticking with and being strong example to all that may be contemplating giving cycling a go.

  5. Anonymous: I disagree with you - a nervous driver in a steel cage of crash-protected vehicle plus (at least one) airbag is a totally different thing. On a bicycle the 'impact zones' are mostly your own body, with the vehicle between your limbs. It's much harder to be confident about that in heavy traffic. I think it's callous to criticise anyone for not being confident enough. Yes, you need to be assertive to ride in heavy traffic but it can be very scary to do so (or more people would). Dave is right to call for separated routes to avoid this issue and move towards a situation like Denmark/Netherlands. See David Hembrow's blog for details:

    Dave H: I agree the SECC's bike parking is poor. I sent them an email about it after the Scottish Bike Show but they never replied. Strange reaction from a venue right next to National Cycle Routes - I guess they don't have many cycle visitors (or ocal ones anyway).

  6. I sympathise too. Commuting can be scary - I'm lucky I have the choice to only cycle on evenings and weekends.

    @Anonymous: It's a totally different thing to have confidence in a heavy steel vehicle with crash protection plus (one or more) airbag. On a bicycle the 'impact zones' are mostly your limbs. Even if assertive riding is safer it can be very hard to do that in the face of overwhelming traffic. A Dutch/Danish approach would help enormously, see David Hembrow's blog -

    @Dave H: I agree the SECC cycle parking is poor. I emailed them about it after the Scottish Bike Show but they never replied. Despite being next to National Cycle Routes and a train station they seem mainly focussed on cars. Balance may change a bit once Fast Link buses start -