Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Glasgow's Miles Better? Going Back to the 80's

I've heard some promising talk from Glasgow City Council recently. Frank McAveety the recently appointed 'cycling czar' (I don't think he particularly likes the title) has said some promising things. He is certainly suggesting that Glasgow wants to move forward and to design cycle infrastructure for the future.

After all, Glasgow is in desperate need of a shot in the arm. Actually that's a bit weak. We need a right good kick up the backside. We are one of the sickest cities, not just in the UK but in the developed world. I know this personally as in my other life (yes I have a job) I am working with others on developing new technologies in acute stroke diagnosis and treatment. I often find myself selling our work by pointing out that there is...

No better place to be doing stroke research than in Glasgow. There's no shortage in the patient population.

Whilst that is great for my work and the techniques that we are developing, it isn't so great for Glasgow or its population. Glasgow desperately needs significant interventions to become healthier and fitter.

Approaching 2014 the year where Glasgow will host the Commonwealth Games, we have an opportunity. More Glaswegians than ever will be exposed to sport, and will be exposed to cycling. Perhaps with the right encouragement some of its residents could be encouraged out of their cars an onto their bikes. Perhaps there is hope.

One of the venues at the Commonwealth Games is Cathkin Braes. Here we have a world class mountain biking facility just on the south edge of Glasgow. If you watch the video on the link you'll see just how close the facility is to Glasgow. As things stand the best way to get there is car.

Fear not though, Glasgow is moving forward and last night I was sent plans (shortly to be released for consultation) for a new cycling walking route to the facility. Brilliant! No need to lumber the car there any more, just lock out your suspension, ride there, unlock your suspension, ride the course, lock out your suspension and ride back.

As Frank and others within the council have either been to Amsterdam or been to the Go Dutch conference recently, then the new cycling facilities will be properly designed. Won't they?

Umm, errr.....well.....ummmm.....not quite......ummm...errr...actually.....no. Not at all.

Imagine a facility that was designed in the 1980's. We are not talking 1980's Dutch style, as that would actually be pretty good. Imagine 1980's Glasgow style. What would you get? Yes you would probably have cyclists wearing infeasibly short shorts, and funky sweatbands, but what would the cycle facilities be like? Yes, you've guessed it..... shared use.

Pedestrians and cyclists sharing space that previously was pedestrian only. Yes, that's the answer. Oh and where there isn't anywhere near enough space, take some grass away. to create.....still not enough space.

Don't dare take any space from cars. People in cars are far more important than people on bikes or people who walk. After all, car drivers pay tax that pays for the roads, and we need more roads, because we need more cars and we need more cars because we are all getting lazier and we are getting lazier because we have more roads to drive on, and thus we need to buy a car because it isn't safe to walk as there are too many cars......


I suspect that the problem lies in the guidelines. They have probably followed our UK/Scottish guidelines. Road is x busy, paths are y busy. We have z amount of space. UK/Scottish answer: Pedestrians and cyclists share.

Double sigh.

Anyway, don't take my word for the 'quality of the 'design'. Have a look at the plans. Here is the cover letter  (and yes they are planning on having designing a dual network for novices and 'regular' riders. Is that what they do in the Netherlands?). Here is the overview of the route. And here are the plans, here, here, here, and here.


Of course this is a consultation (I don't think it is actually open yet) so there will be time to let GCC know what we think of the plans. However, they need to change significantly if they are to be anything but a waste of more money.

As I mentioned above these plans are actually part of a dual network. That is, this phase of work (phase 3a) is for 'novice' cyclists. There is a phase 3b that will be aimed at 'regular' cyclists. This phase I can only assume will be alongside the the 'novice' network. I'm going to hazard a guess here and guess that the 'regular' network will consist of ASLs with left hand feeders. Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know how much I love ASLs. I'll bet GCC is probably thinking internally...

Look, we are giving cyclists two networks to choose from! You have no right to complain!!

Hmmmm. There is another option of course. Design one network that suits everyone. It's not rocket science!

GCC I'm sorry to say, on the above evidence, you haven't got a clue.


  1. I'm a Glaswegian who left the city 20 years ago and now lives - and cycles - in New York. I was back in the city for a few days in the summer and you're entirely right about the thinking on issues like cycling. I saw more people riding bikes than I remember seeing when I was cycling to my postgraduate journalism course in Glasgow in 1993. But, as I remarked in a blogpost at that time, Glasgow hasn't taken the fundamental step of recognising that the road-building of the 1970s did very little for the city and that it needs to take a decisively different path now: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-gorbals-robert-moses-and-hometown.html


  2. As a Glaswegian who has now lived in Holland for nearly 4 years. What are you thinking? Have you BEEN to Glasgow lately? Even my Dutch boyfriend laughed at this post with me. Glasgow is / and the entirety of the Randstadt is ___. You cannot comfortably commute by bike around Glasgow because of the hills all over the shop! The Dutch sure wouldn't attempt it in Glasgow either. There's a mountain biking facility on the edge of the city? The entire city center is a mountain biking facility mate!

    1. As someone who has lived largely in Edinburgh, Bradford, and Glasgow and cycled everywhere around these cities, single speed, fixed wheel, 56-13 which equates to about 25% higher than top gear on a typical 3-speed shopper bike. I did not find it particularly difficult then and neither do I now, as each of these cities has a topographic detail that avoids bashing up hills.

      Bradford sits in a bowl so that instead of going down in to the city to go up the other side you ride around the rim. Edinburgh has volcanic dykes (the rock-sort) and so you work out some neat cross-town traverses, and go round the back of Castle Hill rather than over it. Glasgow has plugs rather than dykes, and these deliver the clay coated drumlins. With a bit of careful observation, travel through the town becomes a drumlin slalom,

  3. And yet the whole section being discussed, shown in the plans etc is pretty much flat... and links to the riverside - which last time I checked was pretty much flat...

  4. Look on the bright side, at least they are attempting to join something up.

    1. So you're basically equating the people who run Scotland's largest city to a 3 year old? Probably not a bad summation.

  5. There is a high-quality, segregated cycle track on the London Road. Most cyclists don't use it. The neds continue to cycle on the pavement and the Lycra Mob continue to cycle in the middle of the general traffic lane. The reason money is not squandered on cycling facilities is because the authorities know just as well as you and I do that cyclists won't use them.

    1. You mean the one that starts near the city centre and finishes a whole 300 m away at Greendyke St , or maybe you're thinking of the luxuriously long 450 m from Bridgeton station to Kirkpatrick St. Most of the 5 km road has no provision for cyclists at all and it's one of the the best in the city for that. People will use what there is most of and which they feel is safe enough (cycle path, footway or road) so they don't have to keep chopping and changing. If there were enough joined up cycle paths I bet you'd soon see them used.

      @Glaswegian in Holland - if hills are an issue for you or anyone you could always use an e-bike. You spelled Randstad incorrectly BTW

    2. I think you should question whether these facilities are "high quality" if cyclists do not want to use them, and instead choose the roadway or footway instead, are these more attractive options? If the council are putting in cycle infrastructure that current cyclists dont want to use, what hope is there for possible future cyclists? Fortunately the previous poster has correctly identified the problem - the lack of a coherent network - not to mention having to cross a busy lane of oncoming traffic head-on to access the 'quality' infrastructure when travelling in certain directions.

    3. I live in Dennistoun - the London Road tracks aren't as useful as they should be. When I've commuted to work via Bridgeton train station I used Abercromby or Broad St (despite its dire surface) and only used that track for a short stretch. Fielden/Millerston Rd is very pot-holed and busy so I try to avoid it. The tracks should've extended to the velodrome to make a better link between the city centre and the East End (they dug up the whole road/drains and have space left even now - shows these were 'tacked on' after-thoughts).

      I often go across the city via Glasgow Green/north bank of the Clyde so seldom use tracks towards St Andrews St. London Rd section has a very poor surface even on shared path.

      However, I often use the Waterloo St/'Bridge to Nowhere'/Berkeley St tracks between the city centre, Anderston and Kelvingrove Park. That's a good section - I only wish it was properly signposted. It would be stowed if more people knew about it.

    4. Well as Anon of 14.36 19/09 correctly identifies that cycle facility is would be regarded as an hilarious joke if it wasn't actually considered by you and others as a quality facility - just watch Magnatom's ride back in to Glasgow from the Velodrome with me and others earlier this year. I'm the one who avoided some of the hazards by riding on the main carriageway where appropriate.

      This month I used it with the Sustrans party celebrating the West-East use from the Kelvingrove Park to the Velodrome. You could sense the embarrassment at the way the cycle route required around 25 metres of cycling in to the oncoming traffic from Bridgeton Station and outside London Road Police Staion you were meant intuitively (not a sign in sight) to cross the path of oncoming cyclists and turn on to the footway (not signed with shared use signs at all), or ride in to a solid kerb across your path (not highlighted either) we got to the traffic signals which ran through nearly 2 complete cycles for the traffic on the carriageway before some of the group said sod this and rode across when there was a gap in the traffic rather than wait for the green man/bike signal, and then ignored the next set of signalled crossings because they would deliver the same level of service.

  6. Interesting that the plans don't include the current (terrible) provision at Polmadie Road - perhaps the planners were embarrassed. Junction 1A of the new M74 is terrible for all traffic, but worse for bikes. I think the following streetview link perfectly illustrates why shared use paths are terrible - look at that corner!

    cyclists dismount considered harmful