Monday 29 December 2014

Facing Your Worst Fear

When it comes to cycling, what exactly is my worst fear?

Well, that's probably a pretty easy question to's being knocked off my bike by a large vehicle and perhaps being seriously injured or killed. I pray that it never happens.

Is that really my worst fear though when it comes to cycle safety?

Perhaps not.....

There is possibly something worse than could happen (though not necessarily worse for my family). Imagine if, when driving my car I was involved in a collision with a cyclist that resulted in me severely injuring or killing them.

That would be absolutely horrific! 

Umm, errr, hmmm......

Don't panic, I haven't been in a collision with a cyclist when I was driving, where they have been seriously injured or killed, thank goodness! I have though, been in a collision with a cyclist....


Umm, err yes. A month or so ago whilst I was driving my car I collided with a cyclist who came off his bike, and fortunately, was only slightly bruised by the incident. Let me explain....

Early Saturday mornings are usually a rush in the Magnatom household. My wife is getting my daughter ready to take her to her dancing class (I'm hoping she'll change that for cycling one day!) and I'm getting the two boys ready for the cycling club that we attend. This Saturday was a little unusual though. We were early!

So there I was in the car, switching the engine on, wondering what to do with all this new found time. I ask the boys, 'as we are early, shall we go the high way?'....'Yes!'.

The 'high way' is the name I gave once to a route that I very occasionally cycle to work, and even less occasionally drive. It takes in some lovely single track road. The roads are narrow (as single track suggests) and it is quite a windy road. It also has a fairly steep gradient at about 17% at one point. However, the views from the top are worth it. In fact, I have a video of me cycling up that very road.

It's lovely isn't it?

Anyway, the boys and I were all togged up in our cycling gear with the bikes attached to the back of the car all ready for some fun on the bikes.... so I take the right turn up the hill and drop gear down to second to get me up the steep section. I'm not 100% certain what speed I was doing up there, but it was certainly less than 20mph and my best guess was about 15mph.

What could possibly go wrong...

Then it happened.

Just as I was coming around one of the corners, (I can't remember exactly which one as that didn't seem relevant at the time...) a cyclist appeared coming the other way. This shouldn't really present a problem of course...I'm happy to slow further and move over if needed to let him pass....however, there wasn't going to be time for that!

He was!


I'm pretty sure I managed to turn the wheel to the left, the car did stop with its wheels on the left verge. I'm also pretty sure that I quickly hit the brake and stopped pretty quickly after that. However, before any of that had any chance to take effect, the cyclist had collided with the drivers wing-mirror, scrapped along the side of the car and went flying into a bush behind me!

Eek (or words to that effect)!

It's in moments like that that time seems to grind to a complete halt and I'll admit it felt like ages before I actually fully registered what had happened and started getting out of the car. It probably was only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

Oh no! I hope the cyclist is ok!!

That was honestly the very first thing that went through my mind. Whilst I didn't actually see his 'dismount' behind my car I could tell from the speed he was going, the bang that the collision had made, and the squeals of my two boys, that he had taken quite a tumble. Those few seconds were a few of the worst seconds of my life. It was therefore a huge relief for me when as I started to get out the car I saw the cyclist climbing to his feet and starting to brush himself off....

Are you OK? Oh my God, are you OK?!!!!!

Amazingly he was! Miraculously he escaped his 'close inspection' of my car and resulting tumble with only a few minor cuts and bangs, the worst of which appeared to be to the front of his hip. I didn't take a photo, sorry!

My next question was....Is your bike OK?

Anyone who cycles knows how important this question is, and is rightly only second to questions regarding serious injury. Amazingly the bike also appeared to have suffered only minor scratches and was in full working order.


It was only at this point that I turned towards my car. I knew the wing-mirror was busted open (it's one of those movable/heating up electric jobbies that would not be cheap to replace). Indeed, initial inspections did not look to good and my roadside attempt to put it back together failed miserably. It was only a minute or so later that I noticed the big gouged scratch down the drivers door that only ended on the rear drivers door.


It really was only once we were 100% certain that the cyclist was OK that this became an issue.

I'm really sorry mate, it was entirely my fault. I'll be honest with you, I was day-dreaming as I was coming down the hill fast and I wasn't paying enough attention. I'll cover any damage to the car.


Now if I'm honest, I wasn't surprised because 'I felt I was at fault'. I didn't think I was. Going 15mph up this hill was a reasonable and considering the size of the car, it's hard to miss (so it would seem...). However, we were out in the middle of nowhere, my only witnesses were my kids (9 and 7), and I just assumed that because of this, I was going to have to take the hit (pardon the pun).

Not at all. The cyclist was a complete gentleman. He owned up to fault, was happy to give me his details, and suggested he would cover all the repair costs. I was shocked by his honesty. I really shouldn't have been shocked, but having dealt with many other road users over the years who have...well...denied any wrong doing.....I was shocked.

Of course in my fluster I couldn't find a pen, and having broken my mobile phone a few days before, I didn't have a phone to take any details down. He didn't have a phone on him either. So, he told me who he was, where he worked and....we parted ways.

I took the boys on to the cycling, but I didn't do it myself that day. I wanted to get the car home, have a proper look at it, and call my insurance. Oh and that gave me a chance to check if I could find the cyclists details. I was honestly keen to find out if he made it back OK. So I dropped the boys off at cycling (they were OK now...) and took the car home.

Turned out the mirror could be clicked back together and worked fine. It had a couple of extra scratches, but otherwise it was fine. The was a bit of a mess.. The chaps details turned out to be 100% legitimate. In fact the photo of him on his works website confirmed that!

The call to the insurance was interesting. They listened and 'ummed and ahhed' and then told me that in 9 out of 10 cases it would go down as a 'at fault claim'.....unless the cyclist fully admitted fault.

He did admit fault.

Once I got in contact with the cyclist (who was, thank goodness, fine!) he contacted my insurance company, admitted fault and he offered to pay for the damage directly with me. A few quotes later (ranging from very expensive to downright reasonable), and the bodywork damage was gone and fully paid for.

Bloody cyclists!

Well actually, thank goodness there was no, bloody at all. The chap was incredibly reasonable throughout and I hope that in the new year, we might arrange a ride together, where I will be buying the cake! If we do I will of course blog about it!

2014 has certainly been a interesting year for me. Having never been in a road accident before with another road user, I was first knocked off my bike (and the driver there was incredibly reasonable about it all), and then I was collision with a cyclist whilst driving my car (this time the cyclist was incredibly reasonable)!


In both cases everyone was very reasonable about it, no-one was badly hurt, and all the damage was fully paid for.


I have no doubt that some reading this will be saying....

Ah that bl**dy he was at fault.....he never makes mistakes does he......blah, blah, blah...

Yes, I do make mistakes and I certainly have. I've been lucky that they haven't resulted in anyone else getting hurt or anything else getting damaged. If though, that time comes, I  hope that I approach the situation as well as both the other driver and the cyclist did.

For all the idiots out there on the roads, and there are plenty, we must remember there are some genuinely good souls as well. So thank you Mr Driver and Cyclist for helping to restore my faith in 'Road User Kind'.

I hope that 2015 will be completely accident free not only for me, but for all my readers, whether you agree with what I do and say, or not. So I wish you all a happy, prosperous and safe New Year when it comes, and I hope that perhaps 2015 will be the year when we start making all of our roads people friendly.


Tuesday 16 December 2014

A Wee Boost

Was I not just saying that I had had a wee crisis of faith? Well, I'm well on the road to regaining my campaigning mojo and yesterday I received a extra wee boost.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this blog has indeed been nominated for the Trespass cycling blog of the year contest, thingy. Yes, yes, I know that I just blether on about stuff I'm angry/frustrated/infuriated about and so how could I possibly be considered for an award. To be honest I look at the other blogs in the list and they are, well.....umm...err, better presented, better written (yes this is typo heaven) and probably a whole lot more coherent, not to mention happier!

I have my suspicions how this happened....... someone at Trespass perhaps had had a few too many vinos one night. They were looking for entertainment videos on YouTube and stumbled on one of my videos. They wondered, who is this shouty clown?... and followed a link to my blog. At the same time they had a second browser window open, one that pointed to their latest project selecting good blogs. Whilst reading my blog they read something outrageous that I had written (or perhaps if they are a stickler for grammar they noticed one of my glaring mistakes...) and in a fit of outrage hit the keyboard. Unbeknownst (think that's the first time I've ever actually used that word in anger) to them, they had accidentally hit the add button on the work browser and I am.

They may yet correct the mistake....

Anyway, ignoring all of that, it's still nice to be part of the list. Will I win? Hmm, I suspect not. However, being one to take on difficult challenges (and helping make Scotland become a cycle friendly nation is one hell of a challenge!) I've decided that I will aim for....not being last.

Reach for the stars!!!

If you enjoy my blog, be you supporter or hater (mind you, as a hater I suspect you will vote for every other blog) or if you generally have some sympathy for underdogs, then pop along to the voting site, click on the cycling blog bit and put a wee tick next to Magnatom.

Thank you!

Monday 15 December 2014

Losing and Regaining Faith

It's been a while, hasn't it?

What you haven't noticed!?

Yes, its been just over a month since I last posted a blog and even then, that blog was not my own words, but the words of Frank MacAveety. It's not like me to stop posting blogs, I normally have plenty to say, and if I'm honest, I haven't actually ran out of things to say.

So why the silence?

Good question. I certainly have been busy over the last month. There are things going on at work that are keeping me busy, I've been busy spending time and doing stuff with my wife and kids, I've had bits and pieces on my bikes that have needed fixed, I've had to look for tiles for a new bathroom....blah, blah blah...

Yes, I've been busy and I've managed to find many excuses for not writing. Each time I considered writing something I had an excuse not to.....or so I thought.

It's was only now, with things quieting down a little bit as the year draws to a close, that I realised that even when I had time in an evening to put down some words, I wasn't. I started to wonder more deeply why that was. Then a couple of days ago I realised what had happened.

I'd lost faith.

Anyone who has read my blog over the years will know I'm not the quiet and unassuming type. In fact my blogs can often come across as angry/passionate/frustrated and perhaps a little shouty. This style of writing/campaigning doesn't though, actually reflect my personal attitude to life and to cycle campaigning.

To be a cycle campaigner you have to be optimistic. 

I am at heart an optimistic person, and that is exactly why I got involved in campaigning. I got involved because I saw a problem, I realised there was a solution and.....and this is the important part....I felt that with the right amount of pressure things could change. I believed that logic, sense, and ethics would win the day, and that the government and councils would see fit to invest in active travel.

Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't wearing rose tinted specs, and I knew that change took time, but I felt that progress, even if slow could be made.

Unfortunately a few things happened recently that shook my faith. It felt that things were moving backwards rather than forwards.

The first was my discussions with my local MSP. I laid a case before her, backed it up with hard facts and figures and asked that she take this information to he superiors. It was dismissed outright. When I questioned this, I was dismissed once again, this time in one line. I certainly didn't and don't take these things personally, and that was not the issue. The issue was that this particular MSP has in the past suggested that she was cycling friendly, and had even become a member of the All Party Cycling Group in Holyrood.

She has never attended any of those meetings.

How could she get away with such dismissals? Well, she is an SNP MSP, and the SNP are now riding on the crest of the 'post independence vote' wave. What does she have to fear from some irritating local cyclist?! Seriously!?!?

Then I got this letter from Frank which was a follow on from the Cycle Friendly Glasgow Petition and from the resulting meeting. It's a letter that says, well, it says......hmmm....nothing really. It says, yeah we get it, cycling's good 'n stuff, and yeah we should be doing more.....and we will think about that and we might consider doing stuff and some later date...perhaps...maybe.....but it was good to meet you, really it was.

It was....bleh.

Unfortunately.....bleh.... was the last thing that we needed after the meeting I had had with them. At that meeting it was stated that Glasgow would not set aside any money to invest in active travel, that it was impossible, and that ....and this is what Alistair Watson actually said.....

'we will not be setting aside money for cycling whilst I am here'.

This was the same meeting where the cycling officers admitted that they couldn't plan ahead properly or run consultations because there was no funding, and thus no ongoing planning for future projects. They did stuff piecemeal and in reaction to small pots of cash becoming available. Cycling infrastructure had to be planned and implemented in a rush.

But!!!! Glasgow has spent more on cycling than Edinburgh....said Frank!

Ohh....pi$$ off!!

Glasgow really could look like this!

The truth is that Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games. Glasgow should have been shoveling in huge amounts of investment in the health and well-being of its citizens as part of the 'legacy'. The truth is for a couple of years it beat Edinburgh, a bit....oh and big chuck of the money spent wasn't even Glasgow's money at all. Don't get me wrong, in the odd place here and there Glasgow is improving things but there is no coherent plan, there is no commitment to ongoing funding, and there no political will to bring about change.

Glasgow shouldn't be extolling its virtues, it should be embarrassed!

The camels back was finally broken by the straw....or something like that....

I didn't realise it but having fought these two battles and to a great extent lost them, I felt deflated and defeated. Sure I wasn't expecting an instant agreement for 5% transport budget spending, but in both cases to make no progress at all and to feel like things were moving backwards......what was the point?!

I'd lost faith.

I'm back though, did I have an epiphany?!

Not really. Just like progress in cycle campaigning, my faith in a Glasgow and Scotland that can be cycling friendly has returned, slowly. I wish there had been some wonderful moment, perhaps cycling to work, seeing a mother and her children cycling happily to school, demonstrating that there is demand for safe cycling, rekindled my fire......but that didn't happen. Not many mothers cycle with their kids to school in Glasgow and I don't blame them.

No. I think just letting the frustration wash over me for a wee while has just allowed my energy levels to rise again. I think I've just come to terms with quite how big the mountain is to climb and how much work.....and that is combined work with many other like mind campaigners... it will take to move forward.

I'm just one of many people working towards better conditions for cycling and walking, but we do need more people and more noise to be made. I have some ideas about things that can be done, and I'll keep pushing in any way I can, but I need your help to.

If you have something to say, write a blog. If you want safer cycling, tell your MSP. If you think roads should be for all, and not just those in a car, tell your councillors. Most importantly of all, follow, spread the word and come along to Pedal on Parliament 2015.

My loss of faith was only a temporary blip. I feel reinvigorated by it. I am more determined than ever to do whatever I can to push for change, and if you join us, we CAN make it happen.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Cycle Friendly Glasgow Petition Response From Glasgow City Council

It's been a while since I started my 'Cycle Friendly Glasgow' petition and since I met with councillors to discuss it. However, I have now received an official response from Glasgow City Council. The response I have received is below.

I won't comment on this response for the time being, I will do that in a couple of days. I do though encourage you to let me know your thoughts, either by leaving a comment below, or contacting me via my contact page if you prefer to send me your comments in private.

Dear Dave

Many thanks for visiting last month in support of your petition and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Please pass on my thanks to Tricia, Michelle, Norman and Calum for contributing to the discussion with Councillor Watson, council officers and myself.

Since the discussion was quite wide ranging, I will focus on the most salient points. Firstly, I recognise that the Council’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2010 – 2020 has been criticised by some of the local cycle user groups recently. In response, I would point out that during the life of the document, more is being spent on cycling than previously, more council staff are engaged in cycling development projects than before and more people are cycling in Glasgow than before. Whilst not directly attributing all of this to the Strategic Plan, it is clear that Glasgow has been enormously successful in its endeavours regarding cycling. Due recognition was given at the National Transport Awards recently, where Glasgow won The Excellence in Cycling and Walking award.

Nonetheless, thank you for suggesting areas where our Strategic Plan could be improved. I am pleased to confirm that senior councillors, who are already very committed to developing cycling, will ensure that a review of the Strategic Plan is undertaken. The review will address the content of the Strategic Plan and the governance arrangements. As you are aware, the Council works closely with cycle user groups via the GCC Cycling Forum and the Strategic Plan Transport Sub-group, but there is scope to seek more community input, especially regarding projects that are being taken forward. Larger cycling projects such as Connect2 and Smarter Choices have always encompassed community contributions, but it is hoped that similar contributions can be derived for smaller projects, even when timelines are tight.

With regard to infrastructure, your petition highlights three schemes: Cathkin Braes, Fastlink and New Southern General Hospital. I would like to respond by first acknowledging the role that a desirable public transport system plays in restraining car use, something that Glasgow has historically been very good at. A segregated bus rapid transit or tram-like system offers many benefits in this respect. Unfortunately, examples of such systems elsewhere highlight concerns regarding allowing cyclists into this new environment. As the design work and implementation has advanced, the Council has been able to review initial assumptions that were made regarding cyclists and has already indicated that certain parts of Fastlink will be suitable for cycling. The opportunity is also being taken to investigate what improvements may be able to be undertaken on adjacent cycle routes.

In Cathkin Braes Country Park, a brand new mountain biking facility has been built. To ensure that this facility is accessible to local citizens and to reduce the impact of cars travelling through local communities, a cycle route to the Braes was also constructed. Although primarily built as a leisure route, aimed at recreational cyclists and young people in particular, the route passes through many communities and local trip generators. It therefore fulfils an additional role for utility trips and these short journeys can ideally be undertaken by cycling. As you mentioned during your visit to the City Chambers though, it is important that Glasgow’s new cycle routes attract those who are not cycling at present. Since fear of traffic is one of the main deterrents to cycling, the route uses shared use surfaces, quiet streets and remote footpaths. At most locations, widths are almost double those recommended by Cycling by Design.

As you know, a series of consultation events took place with staff at the Southern General Hospital and at other hospitals to enable opinions to be given to Council staff regarding cycling to the new hospital. As could be expected, a wide variety of views were expressed, from people who were cycling novices, through to more experienced cyclists like yourself, confirming how hard it can be to deliver one facility that will meet the needs of so many different types of cyclist. Your preferred layout for Langlands Road, put forward during your presentation, is interesting.  I recall that it involved segregation, but retained the car parking. The desire for segregation along cycle routes is understood and it is an option that is being considered for some of the schemes that are currently being taken forward by the Council.

Edinburgh’s allocation of funding for cycling projects is laudable. It should be noted however, that as shown in the Spokes annual surveys, Glasgow outstripped Edinburgh’s expenditure (pence per head of population) on two out of the last three years. During the last five years, up to March 2014, Glasgow City Council has spent over £10million on cycling related initiatives that have been delivered through Land and Environmental Services. A further £4.1m has currently been secured for spending on cycling projects up until March 2015.  This shows that Glasgow is committed to cycling and often spends more than 5% of our transport budget on cycling schemes. It should be remembered that this has been achieved against a backdrop of severe financial budget cuts.

I concur with your comments on network planning and can advise that LES currently have Sustrans officers embedded within their Service. They are specifically looking at a city wide network plan for future schemes which we will be able to use to cost the network.  The network will comprise segregated, commuter routes, quiet ways, shared use paths and remote footpaths to provide facilities for both leisure and active travel. Details of these proposals will of course be shared when appropriate.

I am sure you would agree that it is great to see so many people cycling in the city. The recent City Centre cordon count showing that cycling has increased by 200% in the last 5 years verifies that Glaswegians are taking up cycling. It is clear that a latent demand exists and that with the correct infrastructure and encouragement, much progress can be made. I can assure you we see cycling as a key component in our active travel strategy but also in the potential it offers to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Glasgow.  I am determined to build on the progress we have made and recognise the many voices keen for the city to do even more in making Glasgow a cycle friendly city.

Once again, I thank you for attending the City Chambers and presenting your petition objectives and look forward to working with you and the cycle user groups in the future.

Councillor Frank McAveety

Monday 10 November 2014

Who I Won't be Voting For

Anyone who reads this blog will already know that I am not the shy, retiring type. I'm a big believer in asking a question if it needs to be asked, or making a statement if I feel it needs to be made. I try to be polite in what I write, but I also try to be honest and firm. If I ever stray from polite, honest but firm, please let me know.

I think the polite/honest/firm approach is particularly relevant when talking to or about politicians, after all politicians are there to represent us in a very public way, and thus should be questioned robustly to ensure that they do indeed represent the views of the people that they....represent. That is why I recently decided to enter dialog with my own local MSP, Fiona McLeod.

Again, anyone who has read this blog before will know that one of my passions is cycling (Really? You'd never know!) and making the roads safer for everyone in Scotland. Whilst I am willing to don Lycra and mix with traffic (though sometimes I don't enjoy it), I know that the majority of people think I, and others like me, are nuts. I've even had police officers tell me, 'you'd never get me cycling on the roads'.

That's wrong. It shouldn't be like that.

Thus, I wrote this letter to my MSP. I think it was a very reasonable letter, asking reasonable questions. In summary I asked if she agreed that politicians needed to look at the issue of road justice, and did she agree that more needed to be spent on cycling infrastructure to make the roads safer. Please take a moment to read the letter in full.

This was the reply I got.

Dear Dr Brennan,
I understand that Police Scotland have recently announced a focus on driver behaviour.
Government funding for cycling continues to increase and I am persuaded by the arguments and evidence for training as a way towards safer cycling. We have a significant example here in my constituency with the work being done by ED's Cycle Coop especially in Bishopbriggs where they have already exceeded the 20% target for cycling to school.
One of the consequences of the NO vote in the referendum is that the Scottish Government will continue to have their budget squeezed.
Yours sincerely
Fiona McLeod MSP
Strathkelvin & Bearsden

I felt that the reply was poor. It didn't address the main questions of my letter, seemed to miss the point, and suggested that spending on cycling was increasing, when it wasn't. Thus, I replied to Fiona. My reply is here, which I again ask that you read. 

Yes, I was firm, but I think I was fair, asking fair questions and backing them up with a number of hard facts. I was hopeful that Fiona would read this and provide me with a more detailed answer.

Was that reasonable expectation for a constituent when writing to his MSP?

I didn't receive a reply so I sent a short but polite chaser e-mail. Shortly after that I received this reply.

Dear Dr Brennan,
I think I covered all your points in my reply.
Yours sincerely

Fiona McLeod MSP
Strathkelvin & Bearsden

That was it. A one line answer. Apparently my questions have been answered.... No they have not. In fact, if I'm honest, you've failed to answer any of all.

So what can I take from this exchange.

Does Fiona actually think that spending on cycling is going up, when it isn't? 
Does Fiona understand what the difference is between the police asking drivers to be nice and the police taking road justice issues seriously?
Does Fiona understand that the police asking drivers to be nice has hee haw to do with road justice issues with regards to the Procurator Fiscal?
Does Fiona really think that because there is a limit to the Scottish budget (there is always a limit, that's why it is called a....budget...) that this provides an excuse to further cut speniding on cycling and active travel, whilst telling us that things are improving?
Does Fiona really expect parents to send their kids to cycle training and then to feel happy sending them off cycling on the roads? Would she?

Or, does Fiona not just give a hoot?

I'll be honest, I don't have any answers for any of the above questions as Fiona has effectively refused to answer. I suspect (though as I have no answers I may be wrong) that there are two reasons for this refusal. Firstly, the questions I have asked are difficult to answer, mainly because of the poor record the government has on cycling. Shockingly poor in fact. Secondly, and perhaps more onerously, she feels that whether she answers me or not, doesn't matter.

The SNP in Scotland are riding on a post independence wave. SNP membership is significantly up and the SNP is doing well in polls. Labour is not the force in Scotland it once was.

Whilst Fiona is likely to be disappointed in the referendum result itself,you can bet that she and her colleagues now feel much, much safer in their respective positions due to the change in public opinion in Scotland. It would take some major upheaval within the Labour movement for politicians like Fiona to be ousted at the next Scottish elections. She feels safe and secure, at least, as safe and secure as any politician can feel.

So along comes a wee mouthy cyclist, asking awkward questions.

Hmm, what's my best option here.....try and answer the questions? Face up to the fact that the SNP is dead set on more road building at the expense of everything else and that we are sleepwalking the country towards further car dependence? Or......I could just ignore the annoying wee b......yes that's what I'll do.....
And so I've been ignored as a nuisance.

Thing is, I'm a voter. Yes, I'm only one voter, but I am a voter all the same. I will not, under any circumstances whatsoever be voting for Fiona in the next Scottish elections. I will also be sharing this story with others that I know in East Dunbartonshire and perhaps they will also consider their future voting on what they have heard.

Let me make it clear, this is in no way personal. I'm sure Fiona is a lovely lady, but I for one see the future of transport in this country as a serious issue. Funding, or lack of funding for active travel has effects not only on transport policy, but also on health policy, and environmental policy and I now understand that Fiona just doesn't get this, even when faced with irrefutable facts.

Who will I vote for though? Well, I'll certainly be asking all prospective MSPs in the area on the run up to the Scottish elections where they stand on active travel. I'll also hope, that our area will see fit to put up a green candidate at the next election. Whilst I'm not saying I'd definitely vote for them, they'd certainly be in with a significantly better chance than Fiona.


Friday 31 October 2014

Tourmalet! Not the Mountain the Cucu Jersey!

There aren't many personal benefits to being a cycle blogger in Glasgow. Generally it can be a bit....fraught. However, from time to time I get an offer to review something, and this is one such instance. So for a change, a happy blog, one where I get to try on my new Cucu Tourmalet Jersey courtesy of Blog on Brands who were nice enough to send it on to me.
...and no, that's not me!
First off, yes your are right, I probably have no right to wear this jersey as I have never cycled up Tourmalet. In fact, I have never cycled up any Alpine or Alpine like climb. However, I felt justified in wearing the jersey as I promised myself that I would one day cycle up Tourmalet. There you go, I've said it.

Now I just need someone to fund it for me.....

Anyway, back to the jersey.

I have to say that this jersey was far nicer looking than any jersey I have ever bought myself, though that is at least partly a reflection on my normally practical tastes. It's really good looking in the flesh with a very classic style. In fact it is so classic I must admit it looks far better if you aren't wearing a helmet at the time for that proper, classic look. Being a helmet camera cyclist, this could be a problem....
With the right coloured helmet it might work...

As a rider who is about 5ft 10 in in height and perhaps carrying just a tad extra weight, I went for the large sizing, which seemed to fit nicely. In fact I could possibly have got away with a medium to show off my...ahem...muscles, but the large was a good enough fit. The silicone grippers in all the right places seem to keep it where it should.

The top has a 3/4 length zip which unfortunately is absolutely no use whatsoever in the Scottish winter, but might be useful on that Tuesday in summer when the sun shines (actually it would have been very useful this summer!). Unfortunately, the zip presented me with the first issue...

Yes! I do know how to use a zip, but unfortunately this zip was a little stiffer than I was used to. I found that moving the zip with one hand just wasn't possible. Two hands is fine if you are stopped (or a better rider than me), but for me that meant waiting until I had stopped to adjust it as required. That wasn't the only 'zip issue'. I found that pulling the zip to the top resulted in some of the jersey material getting caught in the zip making it even more difficult to unzip. I've since learned not to zip it all the way up, which for a top selling at about £56 is a little frustrating.

The jersey itself felt fine on, if a little thin for my linking (don't wear black bib shorts underneath as they will show through!), though it would probably be perfect for summer riding (but perhaps not in Scotland!). There are three pockets on the rear of the jersey for your jelly babies, but the pockets were a bit shallow for my liking, not many jelly babies and my mini-pump wouldn't fit.

After a few wears and washes (always at 30C of course!) I noticed that some of the stitching close to the bottom of the zip looked a bit suspect. Overall, I can't say I'd be 100% happy if I had paid for the top.

Those dodgy stitches

The perfect summer (not in Scotland) riding top? Well, the design is certainly a winner, and so long as you don't zip it all the way up and you don't mind the odd dodgy stitch and you don't want to overdose on jelly babies, then this is the top for you!

The really sad, don't I look in this jersey, selfie!



Monday 27 October 2014

Continuing to Turn Anger into Action

So I've replied to my MSP's last reply. Below you will find the reply. As I've made some of this public, I should probably keep it that way. It's an interesting journey into the mind of a government MSP.

I have to say I was very surprised by your reply to my initial e-mail. I'll try and explain in this e-mail why.

You didn't address the justice issue I was referring to in my original e-mail, that is the undercharging of drivers in cyclist death and serious injury cases. This is not just a police issue, but is also an issue with the Procurator Fiscal. I know for a fact that the case I sent you information on is not the only case for concern,  I personally know of one family who feel aggrieved by their treatment within the court system. There are many more.

I would be very keen to look at the evidence that you have access to that suggests that training is the 'way towards safer cycling'. All of the evidence that I have come across suggests that infrastructure improvement is the way to make cycling safer, unless you are happy to keep cycling exclusive to those brave enough to cycle in the current climate (which includes me, but not my wife and children). I am more than happy to bring you along on my cycle commute to work one day to explain, as we cycle along, why that is the case.  I'd also be interested to know if you could provide any examples of industrialised countries where modal share of cycling has increased from 1% to10% or beyond  through training. This is particularly relevant considering the 2020  target of 10% of cycling modal share set by your government.

I know some of the members of the ED's cycle co-op team quite well, and I know for a fact that they agree that whilst training can help to a small extent, mass cycling will not occur without significant infrastructure investment. This is needed in East Dunbartonshire just as much as anywhere else in Scotland.

I was though, most surprised by your last paragraph. I fail to see what relevance the governments overall budget has in this discussion. Yes, if the Scottish Government had unlimited funds, I'm sure it would invest in cycling infrastructure. However, budgets will always be limited. What matters are the priorities set within those budgets. As things stand cycling and active travel are very far down the priority list and thus receive a tiny, completely insufficient budget.

The truth is that your government has full control over cycling spend (and most of transport) and you choose how to spend your capital. The lack of spending on active travel is purely a political decision. You and the Scottish Government are spending huge sums on roads. Transform Scotland estimates you have a £9bn programme of major road projects, including £3bn A96 and £3bn A9, in and to your traditional heartlands.

Trunk road spending also rises in this year's draft budget (from £639m to £695m) whilst your cycling investment, though still confused, looks set to fall (a reasonable estimate being from £39m in 14/15 to £36m in 15/16) and the proportion of that going to infrastructure also looks set to fall as Spoke have detailed ( It would seem that despite the consequence of a NO vote, that transport spending can increase, just not for active travel.

If you have any information that refutes these figures and thus backs your assertion that government funding for cycling continues to increase, I would be grateful if you could pass it on to me.

I will leave you with one comment I received in relation to the blog I wrote about our ongoing conversation ( This comment was left for me on Facebook. It was from a mother I know from Bishopbriggs who I know is keen for her children to be as active as possible. Her comment was:

Yes I completely agree that the East Dunbartonshire Cycle Coop is a fabulous project.  My youngest is to do a long distance ride with them this Friday. Does this mean that I'm more likely to allow her to ride the open roads of Bishopbriggs - eh absolutely naw!!!! Karen and her team can teach my child all the skills she can but the roads and car driver behaviour allow me no confidence in the option of this as a means for my child to get to school.

This lady is not part of any minority. She represents the majority view of parents, including myself, who fear sending our children out on the roads with training as their only protection. If you and your government truly wish Scotland to be a healthier, less polluted, less congested, more socially inclusive (less than 50% of households in Glasgow have access to a car) country, then perhaps it is time to look once again at your government's priorities within current budgetary constraints. Training of vulnerable  road users should not be one of your priorities.

Yours sincerely,

David Brennan

Sunday 26 October 2014

The Anger/Action Never Ending Cycle

My previous blog details a letter I sent to my local SNP MSP, Fiona McLeod. Today I received a reply and....well....I was pretty taken aback by it. First I'll let you see the reply and then I'll comment on it. First though, please read my original letter.

Fiona's reply was:

Dear Dr Brennan,
I understand that Police Scotland have recently announced a focus on driver behaviour.
Government funding for cycling continues to increase and I am persuaded by the arguments and evidence for training as a way towards safer cycling. We have a significant example here in my constituency with the work being done by ED's Cycle Coop especially in Bishopbriggs where they have already exceeded the 20% target for cycling to school.
One of the consequences of the NO vote in the referendum is that the Scottish Government will continue to have their budget squeezed.
Yours sincerely
Fiona McLeod MSP
Strathkelvin & Bearsden

Ok. Let's work through it.

Fiona has completely side-stepped my points and questions on justice. I was directly asking for her to contact Kenny MacAskill with regards to the police and PF undercharging dangerous drivers. She makes absolutely no reference to that what so ever, and instead tells about police Scotland focusing on driver behaviour.

Then Fiona goes on to suggest that she has seen evidence that training is the way forward for safer cycling.

What!?!? WHAT?!? Seriously?!?

I will be asking for Fiona to send me this evidence that she is persuaded by. I am genuinely intrigued. I'm also intrigued to find out if she has looked at the huge, overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests that safer cycling can only be brought about by safer infrastructure. I'll also be asking her if she can point to any industrialised country in the world that has brought about mass cycling (greater than 10% of modal share for example) by using the 'training' approach.

Yes, Bishopbriggs has brought about very localised changes in cycling to School in Bishopbriggs. I also know that I very, very rarely see anyone cycling through Bishopbriggs any time I drive through it, except for the odd Lycra clad cyclist heading off on a training ride to the Campsie hills. I also know some of the people involved in ED's Cycle Coop very well, and I know for a fact that they are as frustrated as I am about the lack of investment in infrastructure.

As for the final paragraph, that makes me the angriest of all.

One of the consequences of the NO vote in the referendum is that the Scottish Government will continue to have their budget squeezed.
What utter, utter, UTTER rubbish. Spending in cycling is not falling due to budget squeeze, it is falling due to political decisions by the Scottish government.

The truth is that the Scottish Government has full control over cycling spend (and most of transport) and they choose how to spend their capital.  They are spending huge sums on roads (Transform Scotland estimates they have a £9bn programme of major road projects, including £3bn A96 and £3bn A9, in and to their traditional heartlands).

Trunk road spending also rises in this year's draft budget (from £639m to £695m) whilst government cycling investment, though still confused, looks set to fall (a reasonable estimate being from £39m in 14/15 to £36m in 15/16) and the proportion of that going to infrastructure also looks set to fall as Spokes have detailed this and as I pointed out to Fiona in the  letter I sent her.

Spending on cycling does NOT continue to increase!!!

My previous e-mail to Fiona was written as a result of anger. I took action because of that. Now I am even angrier at being patronised in this letter, full of avoidance, dubious evidence, and the fact that it implies that the Scottish government doesn't have control over cycling spend.

Rather than just staying angry, I will do the right thing and continue to question robustly our politicians, including Fiona. I urge you all to do the same. I will be writing back to Fiona. Please feel free to write to Fiona and your own MSPs asking the same questions I have asked. Feel free to use my original letter as a template.

We need to start making MSPs answer the hard questions. Only then, and after they are challenged on their terrible answers, will they see that they must change their policies towards cycling and active travel and that we won't stand for evasion and half truths (I am being generous here).

It's up to you to help me do it.

Thursday 23 October 2014

My Anger to Action Letter

Following on from my blog yesterday, I have turned my anger into action. The letter I sent is below. Please send a letter to your MSP. It does make a difference.

Dear Fiona McLeod,

Unfortunately I am writing to in an angry state of mind. The reasons I am angry are two-fold. Firstly I was shocked to hear yesterday about the following case (, of a lady who was knocked off her bike and killed. Only recently has this case came to court. The driver has been found guilty of death by careless driving. As I describe here in my latest blog ( this is terrible outcome.

It is absolutely preposterous that a driver who hits a cyclist, who is cycling entirely legitimately,  on a straight road, in good conditions, who was visible for at least 250m isn't charged with death by dangerous driving. How can driving like this only be designated to 'fall below' and not to 'fall far below.....what would be expected of a competent and careful driver'?

I understand that this particular case is outside your own constituency and that you cannot interfere with due process, however, with many, similar cases occurring every year, where the procurator fiscal decides to only prosecute on the lower charge, this is an issue that I think the Scottish government needs to look at with some urgency. As a cyclist myself who on a regular basis faces bad and often dangerous driving, I worry that the law offers scant protection for myself and other vulnerable road users. I urge you to write to the Kenny MacAskill to investigate this issue as soon as possible.

The second issue that has made me angry is the issue of funding for active travel and cycling infrastructure. As part of the recent budget announcement John Swinney stood up at parliament and told us that an extra £10m had be found for active travel for the next financial year. Whilst any announcement of new money is usually to be welcomed, that is only the case if it improves our position from where we are now. Unfortunately it does not. In fact as Spokes of Edinburgh have discovered ( £5m of the newly announced funding was not new at all and will be spent on 'behavioural changes' and the other £5m is Financial Transaction money and so, once again, cannot be spent on infrastructure. This compounds the overall situation such that in financial year 15-16 active travel will see a £4m actual drop in funding from 14-15.

At the start of the independence campaign I was quite a firm 'No' supporter. In the end I voted 'Yes'. I, like many other Scots who voted 'Yes', did so because of our belief in social justice, and in a better and different future for Scotland, one that could be healthier, less polluted, less congested and at the same time wealthier. However, with the recent budget demonstrating a drop in active travel funding at the same time as the trunk road budget is increasing from £639m to £695m, I have serious doubts about whether such a future is a possibility under its current governance. I know many people who have joined the membership ranks of the SNP recently who will feel the same.

Spending small amounts of money on campaigns asking us all to be nice to each other, does not make a difference and will not encourage me or anyone else to take their children cycling on the roads. Roads should be for everyone, not just everyone who drives a car.

Please can I ask you to lobby your fellow ministers to not only look at the issue with the justice system, but to also look at a significant step change in active travel funding. Without it, there is absolutely no chance of you reaching your governments 10% cycling modal share target (aspiration?) by 2020. Absolutely no chance.

Best regards

David Brennan

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Turning Anger to Action

I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. Unfortunately my moment of happiness has passed and once again I am angry. very angry.

Why am I angry? Ignoring the fact that I've met a number of poor drivers on the roads recently who value their convenience  (and we are talking seconds here) over my safety, I have two issues that make me particularly angry.

This news article made me particularly angry. 

A driver (who is called elderly, though I wouldn't class 72 as elderly) ran into the back of a cyclist and killed them. He did this on a day with good visibility (according to the local article he would have seen her for 250m). He suggests that he saw the cyclist well before he hit them. He claimed that he was travelling at 15-20mph and yet after the cyclist hit the windscreen the cyclist was thrown 90 feet from the car. The car was in fact travelling at 33-46mph.

The driver had this to say in court:

I saw the cyclist in front of me so I was slowly coming up to avoid her and out of the blue I felt the impact. I stopped and saw it was a cyclist I had hit. I thought I had left enough space between her and my car.

No. You had not left enough room. You had not left any. You didn't even just clip her with your wing-mirror, you hit her square on and she bounced off your windscreen.

I'm angry.

This, though is not the worst part. The worst part is that the driver was found guilty of........death by careless driving.

What the f*ck!!?! What the actual f*ck?!

Careless? Seriously?!? This is not careless. How in any sense of the word, or indeed the law, could this be defined as careless. This was downright dangerous!!

Let's in fact look at the law. This section from the CPS (England but my understanding is that the definitions are the same in Scotland) is relevant:

(Death by careless driving).... stipulates that a person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he or she drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. 
The clear difference between this offence and an offence of causing death by dangerous driving is the standard of driving. For causing death by dangerous driving, the standard of driving must fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver; whereas for this offence the standard of driving must merely fall below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

So let me get the above case the driving standard fell below what would be expected of a competent driver, but not well below? The driving was just a wee bit crap, not totally shite? So not seeing someone directly in front of you on the road, when visibility is good, on a straight piece of road, without taking any necessary evasive action, and underestimating your speed significantly, and hitting them square on and sending them flying 90 feet and to their just a wee bit crap?!?!

It beggars belief!

If there are any of my readers who work for the judiciary who could explain this one to me, I'd really be grateful! I'd love to know if you think this is justice, or that this shows that the judicial system is actually all.

Protecting the vulnerable? No. Protecting the rights of the driver to travel unhindered. Yes.

As I suggested above, though, this is not the only other reason I am angry.

News of the above court outcome comes on the day when it is revealed by Spokes that the recent announcement of £10m extra for active travel and cycling by the Scottish Government is...well....anything but. £5m had already been announced and it would appear that the other £5m can't be spent on infrastructure.

Another education campaign anyone? Nicewaycode???

So today it has felt like cycling in Scotland has been kicked from two different angles. The judiciary and the government.


So let's just sit back and accept that it won't get any better?

Hell no! Please, PLEASE, PLEASE.....write to your MSP. Tell them that that something needs to change with the judiciary and that if they really are in any way at all, serious about making Scotland a better, fitter, less polluted, healthier and more vibrant place, that that they must start investing in cycling properly and NOW.

It's really easy to contact your MSP, just click this link, enter your postcode and away you go. Remember it is your MSP that matters, not your MP.

Everyone in Scotland was so engaged over the independence referendum. Why not transfer that engagement to somewhere where you can make a difference. Please write to your MSP and perhaps, just perhaps we can persuade them to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Moments of Magic

I looked out of the house this morning and for the first morning in a long time, it looked wet outside. We've been unusually lucky in Glasgow with the weather recently. It looked like it would be the first wet cycle to work in a while.

It's often on mornings like this when, the unexpected happens. No, I'm not talking about bad driving, unfortunately that is to be expected! No, something a little......magical. It doesn't happen often and it is often a fleeting moment, but as you ride your bike along, something happens that just catches you out, and makes all the cycling you do worth while.

The rain happened to stop not long before I was out, so whilst the ground was wet, it wasn't raining. The darkness was starting to lift, but it was still dimly lit, and there was wind. Not a huge amount, but enough to call it a bit windy. So I set off and as I was on time, I took the longer quieter roads to work. It was as I rode along these roads that .... it happened.

It's difficult to describe to those that don't really cycle, but I'll try my best. You are riding along, and pretty quickly you realise that you have a tailwind. That in itself is brilliant. Instead of having to push hard along undulating country lanes, you seem to glide. I think the ground being a bit damp seems to help as well. You can hear the wind blowing by your ears, something that you have nearly all the time riding a bike. Then as you head around a bend in the road.... it happens. Suddenly it goes quiet. Really, really quiet. Not complete silence, you can still hear the whirr of your chain, the slight rumble of your tyres on wet tarmac, and your breathing, but something has stopped.

The wind.

It's that fleeting few moments when you are cruising along with the tailwind and you reach perfect, 'tailwind velocity'. You are riding along in perfect tune with the wind, and for those fleeting seconds it feels like you perfectly in tune with the wind. You've silenced it. The only sound is you and the bike. You just have to stop breathing.....

And then it passes. The wind changes speed or direction, you change speed or direction slightly and the noise returns.

That to me is what cycling is all about. It might sound cheesy, but even in the city, even surrounded by traffic and chaos, occasionally something happens that just takes you somewhere far away, somewhere unconnected. Sometimes it's 'tailwind velocity'. Sometimes it's feeling the first heat from a glorious sunrise. Sometimes it's cycling down into a shallow and feeling a sudden change in air temperature. Sometimes it's a child smiling and waving from a passing car.

This blog is unfortunately dominated by issues, problems and difficulties. That's a reflection of conditions for cycling in and around Glasgow. That's not going to change any time soon, I'm afraid. But, in amongst all downsides there are still many moments that make cycling to work every day an absolute joy. And so it was today. Whilst I did later experience some bad driving once I hit the streets of Glasgow,  my over-riding memory of today's ride was that short, fleeting moment of magic.

Now if only I could share this magic with everyone. If only our roads felt safe enough for everyone to experience the magic of cycling.

Friday 3 October 2014

I May Be Wrong About Glasgow...

You'll have no doubt read my two previous blogs (here and here) on the very disappointing approach to cycling that Glasgow council has. In a nutshell, they will not commit to future spending on cycling. I will soon post a more detailed blog on the meeting we had, as there is more to tell. However, in the mean time, GCC and Frank have released details of a new cycling initiative in the city.

What?!? They are actually doing something positive for cycling.....


You can read about this 'initiative' here.

Oh dear. It's a wee online thingy where you get to play the part of a road user (you can chose to be a bus, you get to watch some videos and you have to answer some multiple choice questions about what a good driver/cyclist, like yourself of course, would do.

Yes, you've guessed it, I'm not entirely enamoured with this idea. In fact, I'd go as far to describe it by its correct technical utterly useless piece of fluff. Yes, this is a total and utter waste of time. However, I'm a scientist by trade, so I thought I'd do a wee experiment. I thought I'd give it a go. You can try it for yourself here.

Go, it's fun!

Well,'s not. The reality is it is mind numbingly boring, and after two or three scenarios you really do start to get irritated with the narrators slightly condescending tone. However, I persevered and managed to play the part of a cyclist, a HGV driver and a bus driver. I gave up after that. I just couldn't take any more.

I should probably state for the record that I got all the questions right...that was until I started getting bored and I started beeping my horn at those highly florescent cyclists!! Grrr...

So what did I learn? Well, umm, err, nothing really. OK I suppose that being a cycle safety campaigner, I should be expected to know all this stuff (I'm not perfect of course!). However, I'd be really surprised if anyone would learn anything. Yes you do get told that beeping your horn at cyclists to tell them to get out your way is wrong, but if we are all honest, we all know that, including the people who do it. They generally know it is wrong, but that doesn't stop them. They do it anyway because it makes them feel a bit better.

That showed that dam cyclist!!! Ooh, maybe I shouldn't have done it.....tee hee.

So I'd like to hazard a guess that this 'initiative'  (I'm using inverted commas because there was no initiative shown in developing this), will have absolutely zero effect on my, or any other cyclists road safety. I say this with authority because:

  1. Very few people will do it (unless forced).
  2. Even fewer people will make it to the end (again unless forced, probably with threat of a right good scalding).
  3. Those who do are incredibly unlikely to be the sort of people who actually drive like lunatics (lunatics would opt for the scalding)
  4. Lunatics will fit into number 1 (unless they knew there was a chance of a scalding from the outset)
  5. For anyone who makes it to the end (most likely cycle campaigners who are unfortunately used to getting a scalding) will quickly forget the experience the next time they are late for their 1pm hair appointment.
  6. Some of the advice is downright dangerous!

Hold the bus! Some of the advice is downright dangerous?!?!

Yes. One particular situation aimed at HGV drivers and bus drivers is totally wrong. Have a look at scenario 4 in both the bus and HGV section.

You're on a tight twisty country road, a cyclist is a ahead. What do you do?

The 'correct' answer that the site provides is:

Slow down and wait for a sufficient gap to allow at least one arms length between you and the cyclist and then overtake.

You what!?!?

One arms length! One bloody arms length? Oh no, it's this again!


My arm (and yes I did get a ruler out) is about 68cm long. My arms are probably not the 'arms length gold standard' though. In fact, I suspect that there isn't a gold standard for arms length. The young chap above might only have arms about 50cm. Who knows. Anyway, let's assume my arms are the right length...

So this advice boils down to.....when there is enough room to pass the cyclist within touching distance, then go for it matey. You'll be fine. The cyclist won't mind at all being passed that close. In fact, advanced cyclists might even grab on to your vehicle and get a well earned tow. Well done driver, you're not just being nice to cyclists, you are dragging them along as well....

So not only is this thing not going to be watched by anyone that matters, in the slight off chance that a bus or HGV driver does watch it, he will feel justified in passing me less than the 3ft absolute minimum that just about everyone else in the entire universe accepts is....the absolute minimum!!

Ooh, I could nit pick a few other wee bits and bobs as well, including the fact that it mentions 'right of way' a few times......perhaps they meant priority.....the fact that the HGVs and buses are often far too close to the cyclists in front, that the video suggests that cycling on the path endangers pedestrians (and yet Glasgow insists on giving us shared use paths), that in one video a car runs a red light (it stops about 2 metres past the stop line), that the only cycle infrastructure seen are ASLs which are crap (and the video in a few places points this out, i.e. don't use them) or painted cycle lanes (far too narrow and very poor surface) and that an HGV is driving in a bus lane.......

....and breath.....


So the bottom line is that Glasgow will not commit to doing anything that WILL actually make cyclists lives safer, by investing in properly designed, properly connect and properly funded cycle infrastructure as confirmed at my meeting earlier this week, but they will invest money into fluff, that is not only fluff, but that contains some dangerous information?

Well done Glasgow. Well done.

....but....there's more...

Not only have Glasgow released this fluff, they have actually won an award. Not just any award but.....and this is worth the wait, reading to the end of this blog....

Glasgow City Council has won its second award in four months for its achievements in cycling and sustainable transport.

Yup! Glasgow has been awarded for excellence in developing cycle infrastructure!

Head, meet desk. Desk, meet head.

Ok, so they won the award for a scheme in which they didn't actually invest any money, but don't let that spoil the party. It's official. Glasgow is Miles Better when it comes to cycling.

So long as they can spend someone else's money of course.........


Wednesday 1 October 2014

A Frank Letter

As a follow up to the meeting with Cllrs McAveety and Watson yesterday in Glasgow I sent the following e-mail to them both today.

Whilst I am very grateful that we had a chance to meet yesterday and to discuss our issues, I was disappointed with the overall outcome of the meeting. I know you will go away and investigate policy, talk to others etc, but the flat refusal to even consider future budgets for active travel (or to indicate who within the council had the power or influence to drive such changes forward) was really quite depressing. I also find it hard to imagine how the planning process can be improved with the short time scales that that council officers have to deliver the projects, given the piecemeal approach to funding (almost exclusively from external sources).

The lack of targets for cycling participation and any detailed plan to reach those targets is also of great concern.

This comes at a time when Edinburgh is reporting back on its spending on active travel for 2013-14 which was at 6% of its transport budget over the last year ( rising to 7% in the next financial year. Edinburgh also has targets set for participation in cycling (10% of all trips by 2020).

Edinburgh also has a clear plan and is following it up with reviews of progress. (

I am certainly not suggesting that everything in the Edinburgh plan is perfect (dual networks is not a good way forward), however they are making progress and widening gulf between the two cities. Edinburgh demonstrates that setting targets (including spending targets), providing detailed planning, and allowing for proper public consultation are actually possible despite what we heard at the meeting yesterday.

Yes, progress is hard, and convincing politicians within the council that this is the way to go will be difficult, but not doing so will be harder. Not harder on you, the politicians, but harder on the people of Glasgow who have to continue to face the consequences of pollution, congestion, poor health and transport deprivation.

Whilst I live just outside the boundaries of the City of Glasgow itself, having been born there, having lived there and as I currently work there, I feel proud to call myself a Glaswegian. Yet, I am increasingly finding myself feeling envious of our friends in Edinburgh and in the many, many cities worldwide who are also rediscovering the many benefits of active travel for the improvement of their cities. My pride is tinged with a touch of embarrassment at how poorly the city treats anyone who isn't travelling on our roads by car.

As the current Glasgow slogan suggests: People Make Glasgow. Perhaps its time we start to make Glasgow for the people and not just for people with a car.


Tuesday 30 September 2014

A Cycle Friendly Glasgow? Any Time Soon?

Today I took the afternoon off work to attend a meeting at Glasgow city council. This meeting was a follow up to the Cycle Friendly Glasgow Petition. It's taken a while to organise (the referendum got in the way a tad), but today myself, representatives from Go-Bike, Freewheel North, and grass roots cyclists (representing signatories) met with Cllr Frank McAveety (cycling Czar), and Cllr Alistair Watson (closest thing GCC has to a head of transport) and a few of the cycling council officers.

I'm going to write this meeting up in full at some point in the future, but there were a few specific things said at the meeting that I felt I should share now.

Alistair Watson said, that he would 'not make any commitments to future spending on active travel.' Not now, and not ever.

To be fair, Alistair said that he didn't have the power to do that, and despite us asking several times who did, we never got a clear answer. Therefore, we remain at a complete loss about whether there is actually anyone, or any specific group who has the power to agree this, or if it will ever be a realistic prospect.

There will be no commitment from Glasgow City Council on spending on active travel any time soon I'm afraid. 

When we pointed out that Glasgow currently has no actual targets (or even any aspirations!) for levels of cycling (there is an aspiration for more cycling, but no numbers attached to it) the only answer we received was that, '...we are serious about making targets', though there was no target given for the date by which they would set the targets. How can we measure progress if there is no targets by which to measure progress, or lack of?!?

They are serious about making targets though....

Finally, the lack of public consultation was, according to the cycling officers, due to the short time scales that they have to work on planning and implementing infrastructure. The time scales were short due to the fact that there is no consistent money and no overall planning. What money there is tends to come, when it comes, and not through design (i.e. Sustrans money etc). There just 'wasn't time for public consultation'. When we suggested to the councillors that if they planned long term, and they were willing to commit council funds over a longer term, then this would allow for proper consultation. This in turn would mean there would be a greater chance that the projects would actually be what were actually needed......At this point they once again pointed out that they couldn't commit to future funding.

Edinburgh council can. Why can't Glasgow?

There is more, but....its been a long day and a slightly depressing meeting. The rest will come later and perhaps after I get a promised official response to the petition and today's meeting.

I am grateful that the councillors and the cycling officers gave up their time to talk to us. They let me give a presentation and they listened to what we had to say. Unfortunately, as I often say to my kids, there is a big difference between hearing and listening.......

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Unintentional Experiments

Sorry. It's been a while, but we've all been a little busy up here in Scotlandshire recently. Normal service resuming.....

Glasgow city council has been running an experiment, an experiment in traffic flow. Interestingly, I don't think Glasgow has even realised that it has been running it. In fact, it's not actually called an experiment, it's called:

Bridge Work Repairs.

Yes, there are bridge repairs ongoing on my commute to work which have resulted in a section of road where 4 lanes have been reduced to two. The roadworks are here

You can see that there are two railway bridges and it just so happens that a decision was made to repair them both at the same time, which is an unusually good idea. What didn't seem like such a good idea was that the work was to begin just after the Commonwealth Games and just as the schools were returning. Oh dear.

Anyone who recognises this road from my videos will know that it is very often choca-block with cars.

At rush hour it is not unusual to see a mile of tailback traffic leading up to this area which can when things are particularly bad (often for no obvious reason) tailback about 3 miles. So when I learned that this work was starting, and when I learned that the work would be carried out over 18 weeks, one thought came to mind.....


I predicted that I would be filtering through 3 or possibly 4 miles of traffic for 18 weeks. Joy.

After the first day of the road works when the traffic was indeed heavy I posted the following tweet:

In fact, another local Tweeter replied agreeing with me:
We were both completely wrong. We couldn't have been more wrong.

Yes, on that first day traffic was heavy. Not exceptionally heavy, but that wasn't surprising as the schools weren't back yet. However, after that, and it is still the case with the roadworks ongoing, I had never seen the traffic flow more freely. Not only did 'Carmageddon' not come to pass, but the standard tailbacks disappeared. At worst the traffic has only tailed back as far as Anniesland Cross, and even there it flows.


It's true, and I'm not the only one to notice it. My wife who regularly drives down that road (a little earlier than I cycle it) says she has never seen the traffic flow so freely. Others that I know who travel down this road say exactly the same.

So what is going on?!

How can a road lose two lanes and flow more freely?

Now I'm no traffic engineer or urban planner, but I've been making  a few observations and this is what I've noticed.

The works haven't just closed off two lanes on Crow Road, they have also closed the junction at traffic light controlled junction at Southbrae Drive (you can see it in the map above just north of the two railway bridges. There has also been a slight change in the light phases at the junction Abbey Drive/Crow Road (to the south).

The junction closure and the phase changes have effectively allowed traffic to pass through an area that usually acts as a bottleneck. Traffic rather than being stopped every so often, flowing through without serious interruption. Yes, there is an overall reduction in flow rate, when the traffic is flowing, but it is following at the slower rate for longer.

Of course, there are possibly other factors affecting the volume of traffic. It is entirely possible that drivers know the roadworks are there and are taking alternative routes, although I've not noticed or heard of any knock on congestion (even where the junction closure has forced alternate routes). It is also possible that some drivers are taking alternative forms of transport.....God forbid...perhaps even cycling! Of course if they are, then this is a benefit.

Perhaps traffic is generally quieter due to other factors. The weather perhaps (it's been quiet on very wet days as well). Maybe lots of people have moved out of the area at once, though I suspect this is a tad unlikely!

Perhaps though, and surprisingly I think this is the most likely, the closed junction and the changed traffic lights priorities demonstrate that this road could be re-engineered to reduce the number of car lanes without having devastating effects on travel times.

OK! I'll admit this is a simplistic analysis. It's a bit different converting 3 miles of dual carriageway to single carriageway, compared to just reducing a small section to single carriageway. There would be other knock on effects. What this experiment does demonstrate though is that with a bit of thought, a bit of planning and a bit of give and take, more space can be found even on the busiest of roads for.........yes you've guessed it...... cycling.


Imagine just taking one lane away from the four on this road. Imaging putting in a segregated route all the way along this route. Imagine if the traffic was managed in such a way to keep it flowing. Imagine the amount of people on this route that, seeing a safe and easy to use cycle lane, might actually decide.....hmm.....  I might just take the bike today.

On this occasion, the road closures were forced upon us. Yet, the predicted chaos never materialised. Imagine if the politicians had the vision to try it for real and to make the roads safer for alternative forms of transport at the same time. Perhaps it would start a revolution.....

Tuesday 2 September 2014


....well, actually, it wasn't quite as much ouch as it could have been.

Yes, after nine years riding my bike in Glasgow, having had a few close calls and having witnessed some very poor  driving (and yes, having fallen off occasionally of my own accord...), I have been knocked off my bike.

Fear not (or sorry to disappoint, depending on what your view of Magnatom is), I came away from the incident with very minor scratches. The bike....well, it wasn't so lucky. I'm waiting to hear about the damage.

Here is the video

It could have been a lot worse of course, and I was fortunate that the driver accepted his mistake.

What is interesting though, is how some people react to this. Most folk are sympathetic and hope that 'you are ok'. Some though, really really don't like me, and can still find fault in what I do. I should have been 'cycling on the divider lines' for instance (not a chance!), was one suggestion. However, another suggestion that I've had thrown at me is more substantial.....

Why do you take that route at all? There is an alternative route so you must be looking for trouble.

Well, I decided to answer that question in the place it was asked (doesn't matter where it is). However, I've also decided to copy the answer here, so that I could refer to it in the future. My answer also covers some of the criticism of some who don't either think campaigning for better infrastructure is worth it, or are actually scared by what they see as 'segregationism'.

Anyway, here is my answer.

I think I have seen you indirectly asking me quite a few times why I don't use the canal. You've not asked me directly, but I'll assume you actually want an answer.

I need to be at work for 9am. Actually, I ideally need to be at work before 9am. Unfortunately (actually I think it's fortunate, but hey ho) I have 3 kids, and as I work, and my wife works that means that we need to get the kids to the child-minders. Now for reasons that I don't feel the need to share, it works out better if I take the kids to the child minder. Unfortunately, the child minders only starts at 8am. Therefore, as much as I would love to leave earlier, I can't. The roads are far, far quicker than the canal, especially if you ride taking other canal users into account. In fact I rode on the canal the other day and, to be honest with you, it's in a poor state in many places. That was on a dry day. I'd have to buy a different bike to ride on it.

Interestingly though, despite suggestions that I look for trouble, the vast majority of my commutes to work are not along Balmore Road. If you look at my videos you will see quite a few where I take a quiet route via Baldernock. This does take a little longer, but is still quicker, and far more pleasant than the canal. Some days though, I am running late and that isn't an option.

Coming home, I must admit I only rarely take my Baldernock route. I am often later than I would like and, crazy I know, I want to get home to see my kids before it is time to get them ready for bed.

Then of course is the fact that, having kids, and not having a lot of spare time (I'm busy writing a blog, seeing the rest of my family, working out of hours trying to spin out a biotech company, talking to my wife etc....), I don't have time to go to the gym. My commute is also my exercise. My father died at 51 from a heart attack, and I am determined not to do the same, so by cycling on the roads, and yes the hilly back roads especially, I keep fit. I am nowhere near the fittest cyclist....far from it....but in relation to the general population my cycling keeps me very fit.

So you see, whilst it might fit some people's world view that I cycle down road X because I must be looking for trouble, it just isn't the case, no matter how much you want it to be.

As for changes to the roads and needing to build cycle ways in the sky....Have a look at at an aerial view of Canniesburn roundabout. There is a huge amount of wasted space that could be put to good use. There are many options to make that roundabout safe. For those who suggest we should just leave it as it is, and that the roads are fine, let me ask you many children have you seen riding that roundabout, or in that area in general? In my years of riding it I have seen none. Not one. So, if you think the roads are fine, you are excluding children, along with the many other people who do not feel safe from riding there. Yes, you might feel safe and generally I do, but we are a small percentage of people who are willing to put up with current conditions.

I'm sorry, but I do not think that cycling should be the reserve of a brave and fortunate few. I think everyone should have the opportunity and I will continue to to fight for that, not in your name of course, but in my own name, and in the name of the many others that have signed petitions, come to demonstrations and will do so in the future. Of course, I do not assume that my views are shared by all, but I know they are shared by many.

As for change never coming, well, change is already coming.....,_complaints_and/consultation_and_engagement/current_consultation_activity/bears_way.aspx

They do have future plans for Canniesburn Toll as well......

Thursday 21 August 2014


My previous blog provided a stark comparison between the two council areas I cycle in and how they approach cycle infrastructure consultation. There was no surprise that East Dunbartonshire won the battle with Glasgow. It wasn't even a fair contest.

East Dunbartonshire is not content with it's initial victory though, and it felt the need for one last 'punch' to finish Glasgow off. The upper hook has been delivered East Dunbartonshire in the form of a FAQ relating to the consultation.

What?! A FAQ?!?!

East Dunbartonshire are actually attempting to not only answer frequently answer questions about the consultation, but to answer them honestly!!?!

Apparently so.

At this point I do feel the need to apologise though. I apologise if you have already clicked my above link to the FAQ and have started looking at the document...... does use Comic Sans! (No I will not use Comic Sans to illustrate!!).

What were they thinking!

OK. Please ignore that fact and read on. It's actually quite an interesting read. It explains why they are doing what they are doing.  

The funds need to be spent within the current financial year....they can't do floating bus stops everywhere as there isn't space, but they are looking into moving the bus stops.....they can't do the area most in need due to other ongoing works.....etc.

You know what.....I really appreciate this approach. I really appreciate it it a lot! Ok, truth be told I don't entirely agree with everything they have said, especially the part that talks about a dual network (WE DON'T WANT OR NEED DUAL NETWORKS!!!!). Oh and a the road sweeper will be needed significantly more than they suggest!! However, I can at least understand their reasoning.

Most importantly they discuss.....phase 2. Yep, you read me correctly....this is the start of something bigger. They will look at the possibility of getting rid of the side switch and perhaps end up having nice wide lanes on both sides. It'll just take a bit of time. They will look to extend it, and to fill in any gaps.

So this is the start of the journey.

Perhaps we should help make it a wee bit easier for them. If you live in East Dunbartonshire (OK, most of my followers don't....), then why not write to your councillor and let them know that you appreciate the approach that the council is taking. You appreciate that, whilst it isn't perfect that they are listening. At the same time you can gently remind them that doing it wrong will be a waste of money, but doing it right could make the area the envy of the rest of Scotland.

 I'll be writing shortly.

I for one am quick to lambaste councils when I think they deserve it. Here I think it's time for a little congratulations.So well done East Dunbartonshire. Keep up the good work.