Monday, 7 October 2013

Glasgow - Dear Green Place?

I love Glasgow. It's a vibrant, friendly and exciting city. Unfortunately though it residents suffer from a number of problems. Many suffer from deprivation. Many suffer from poor health. Glasgow also suffers from pollution issues and ever increasing congestion.

Glasgow's problems are complex and work is ongoing to try and solve some of these issues. However, transport (including transport deprivation with less than 50% of Glasgow households having access to a car) is not an issue that Glasgow is tackling at all, at least not in any significant and meaningful way. The only significant spends on transport in recent years are on more motorway building. £692m for a 5 mile route.

Glasgow's transport arteries are clogged at the best of times. I have posted many congestion videos in the past. However, Glasgow's arteries are getting worse and are now critically blocked. There is little room for 'collateral flow'. It only takes one road 6 miles away being reduced from two lanes down to one to cause complete traffic chaos and transport meltdown.

Here is my experience of my commute this morning to the Southern General Hospital on one particular 2.4 mile stretch of road. I'm on my bike and cycling from north west of the city towards the south.

A quick calculation suggests I was travelling at just over 3200 cars an hour.

With the new Southern General Hospital currently being built south of the river (I work in the old part) many jobs are being transferred from elsewhere to this one location. Is this traffic a vision of Carmageddon that will affect this area more regularly in the future? With the government solution to congestion being to 'build more roads', which in turn induces more demand for the car, what will become of this area in years to come? Where is the space to build these new roads? Will public transport be the answer?

With the hospital build comes a number of new multi-story car parks and a small spattering of cycle parking (at least I assume there will be some cycle parking...). A small budget has been set aside for some cycle infrastructure close to the hospital. Unfortunately, the only draft plans I have seen focus on paint on the road, shared use lanes (shared with pedestrian ) and improved lighting. 

That'll do it.......hmmmm.....

Even these inadequate plans do not extend beyond a kilometre or so of the hospital and there are no plans for any cycle infrastructure on the stretch of road in the video, so scenes like this are set to continue and probably to get worse.

I have been accused of being negative in my campaigning by some. I think those commentators are probably right. If I look back at the tone of my blog posts and average them over time I am certain the tone would be generally negative.

Cycling is fun, it is healthy, it does in the long term save lives. I nearly always enjoy my commutes to and from work and I gain huge amounts of joy from seeing my children taking their first pedal strides on their own journeys towards independence. 

Let me be quite clear, I love cycling and feel very positive about it, and it's future. There would be no point in campaigning if I didn't.

My critics, however, rarely come from Glasgow. They very rarely cycle on the streets that I ride, day in day out. They don't generally understand that my negativity is borne out of frustration. I know what the road conditions could be like, compared to the reality I currently face on the street. They also don't understand how big a mountain Glasgow has to climb to become anywhere near a cycle friendly city.

But! And this is an important but. That does not mean that I throw my hands up in the air and say,

It'll never happen. Why bother!?

Glasgow and Scotland will one day be cycle friendly. Of that I am certain. Yes, it probably won't exist for my children, but if we start now, and we really put our hearts and souls into it, it could be a reality for our children's children.

So I ask you to share my video from today, and when you do, ask those you share it with, is this the future for Scotland's and the UK cities? Is it time to for change?

Unless we all believe that that we can change the landscapes of our cities then we are doomed to have cities that will never again be called, Dear Green Places.


  1. I share your frustration. I long ago realised that we wont become acycling nation in my lifetime, but had hoped it would be a reality in my sons (age 10 now).

    So frustrating to be endangered and squeezed out simply because of my choice of transport. Eventual retirement to Copenhagen is called for!

  2. Hmmm. Copenhagen? Is there not a warm sunny place with a beach that has excellent cycling? ;-)

  3. How i laughed along at Audi angry mans 11min acceleration ... thats why i live in hillhead - i keep my sanity

    1. What is about some car drivers, that they have to race ahead to the next queue, that they can actually *see*, just there, in about fifty yards? This morning on my commute I got overtaken, just as the road goes straight after a bend, by a car that could even see the car ahead moving toward the right to wait to turn right. Overtaking car couldn't get past, thus managing to block me as well. Grrrr.

  4. The very siting of the main hospital for the area, South of the river - when 70% of the population it serves live NORTH of the river and not even built on land abutting a railway line with a regular train service. Its a repeat of the crass move in Edinburgh where Hospital site in the city centre, where 80-90% of the staff, patients and visitors would either walk in or catch the bus (and quite a few cycled). now the modal split has practically inverted and 80-90% drive with huge issues over car parking, and domestic staff (who generally cannot afford to run a car) were stuffed for getting to work - the city centre site allowed them to get early and late bus services already running and viable through their other passengers coming & going from the city. mean while someone has cleaned up nicely on the hugely valuable city centre site for a residential development.
    Of course the NHS does not pay for the traffic congestion it causes though creating demand for 30,000 or more journeys per day, or the support for unviable bus services that need to be provided to get low paid staff and patients and visitors to the site.
    Glasgow SHOULD have returned the new hospital to its historic original site, still a semi derelict area with car parks in part but with rail and bus routes whoch would put most places in the Glasgow area within a 30 minute maximum train ride.
    With just 35% of households (and dropping) here in central Glasgow owning a car it is sad to see over 20,000 parking spaces in the city creating the hour of mayhem at the start and finish of the day as people who could easily come in and take less time if they caught a train or a bus (I know I used to observe folk who has left Dunblane before 6 am in order to get in before the traffic built up and find a parking space and then get to work for 9 am after having breakfast in the car and dumping the wrappings in our garden or the street outside, only to come back and spend 20-30 minutes queuing to get on to the M8 EVERY DAY! They could instead have caught a train around 8 am to get in for 9, and been home by 6 pm the same way.
    Break that habitual pattern and you'll be on the way to cracking the problem.
    BTW is 'Shreddies Man' still eating his breakfast as he drives along the Switchback Road?

  5. 10.2 miles by canal cycle route (NCN 754 in places), 10.4 miles by your road route - why do you put up with the stress and dangers of the road?

    1. I didnt realise there was canal going the Southern General? Sorry I will stop being wide. My guess (and I can only speak from personal experience) that the canal path appears modelled on downtown Beirut with craters and potholes as a result of a poorly maintained whinstone surface (is this because of weather or regularly driven over by canal maintenance vehicles?). Its also very circuitous. Unless you have a mountain or hybrid bike and dont mind a fine layer of clayey silt building up on all the moving parts, then you would probably go for the quickest and most direct route involving minimal hassle. No problem if you are a competent cyclist. The problem is, most are not and will choose the second most convenient option - a motor, which most people do.

  6. I've experienced commutes like this since the 80's and as a woman, I'm very unusual, I'm aware of that. As I see all those cars sat in traffic I can't help but think they are insane, sitting there taking many times as long as we would on a bike to get a few miles up the road. I just don't get it. Who made it like this? the people or the policies?
    I'm afraid, I can't see this government waging the kind of "war on the motorist" that is required. I have decided to move my family to Holland. My kids will be grown ups before it is safe and enjoyable to cycle in the UK.
    I miss riding next to my friends on a night out - my friends in the UK all drive.
    I miss the sounds of people and bells ringing, that in the UK is drowned out by traffic noise.