Wednesday 25 June 2014

My Letter to the Glasgow Council Leader

I have sent the following letter to the leader of Glasgow City Council Cllr Gordon Matheson following comments he made on a Reporting Scotland evening news report (25/06/2014). In the report Mr Matheson suggested that the council was investing significantly in making Glasgow safe for cycling.

Dear Gordon Matheson,
I would like to start this e-mail by saying that I am very pleased to see that Glasgow has finally installed a cycle hire scheme in the city centre. It is encouraging to see that the council understands that cycling is a viable mode of transport and is encouraging residents and visitors to cycle within the cities boundary. As someone who has used the Boris Bikes in London to get around when visiting on business, I understand how useful such a scheme can be. The current Glasgow scheme, whilst limited in its geographical spread, is at least a step in the right direction.

However, I was concerned when watching the report on Reporting Scotland yesterday (25th June 2014) about the scheme when I heard you  say that the council was investing significantly in making cycling safer in the city. This is not my, and many other people experience as is demonstrated by many of the comments that have been left on this ongoing petition ( Therefore, can I ask, how much of the councils own transport budget was spent on cycling infrastructure in the last five years? Of that, how much was spent on quality cycle infrastructure, that at the very least meets the minimum requirements of 'Cycling by Design' (a document that is itself in need of improvement)?

I would also like to ask you to look at this video ( Are you happy with the standard of this new facility? Do you think that this facility improves the safety of cyclists, and do you think this is money well spent? Also, can you tell me how much money the council is investing out of its transport budget in the facilities that are being put in place around the new Southern General Hospital?

In more general terms I am interested to know your, and the council's view on segregated infrastructure. Whilst segregated infrastructure is certainly not required everywhere, do you agree that it would be a preferred way of keeping cyclists safe on roads where there is potential conflict with motor vehicles? Do you agree that in general, some space needs to be taken from the motor vehicle to not only improve the safety of cyclists in Glasgow, but also to improve the city centre environment?

I would be grateful to receive replies to the above questions directly and would prefer if you don't refer to previously published vision statements. Unfortunately, I find vision statements do not generally contain targets or milestones and so are easily ignored when it comes to implementation on the ground.

Your sincerely,

David Brennan

Monday 23 June 2014

Is it reasonable of me?

You're cycling along a country road, one that has a 30mph limit. It's a road that you've had hassle on before with close passes.

A bus overtakes you and gives you plenty of room.


A car overtakes you and gives you a reasonable amount of room.....but it does so with a car coming the other way. It's a bit close and the oncoming car has to slow a bit to allow the overtake. Not the worst by any means, but certainly not the best. I certainly wouldn't have contemplated that overtake. So you shake your head. Nothing more. It would never make it into a video, otherwise you'd be posting 5 or 6 videos a day.

Then, out of the corner of your eye you catch something very close to you on the right. At first you can't be sure what it is, but it is no more that 50 cm from you. It's passing at a reasonable rate. You crap yourself.

It turns out that the object coming into view is another cyclist.

This happened to me a while back and the video can be seen here.

Why bring it up now as I posted this video a while back?

It's because I came across a discussion about it on the rider's cycling club Facebook page, one where I take quite a considerable amount of abuse, some of which suggests that members of the club would like to use violence against me. In fact the rider in the video specifically suggests that he'd like to make things....a little uncomfortable for me. So I thought I'd clear matters up a little.

I was not on a club ride.

That's right. I was not on a club ride. I also wasn't on a sportive, something that I do from time to time and somewhere where I am quite happy to pass by and to be passed by other cyclists at close proximity. Just to be clear, I also wasn't racing. I'm too old (and have a very gammy knee)  and not enough time to train for it. In fact, I have actually considered joining a club before but I just don't have enough time.

The cyclist was going faster than me. Yes I think I am reasonably fit, but I also know the limits of my fitness on a bike, and that there are many club cyclists who, could quite simply, whip my ar$e. Mind you, I did have a heavy rucksack on and the cyclist did have a slingshot from behind the bus.....but I digress.....

I mention all of the above because I want to point out that close passing, when out on a club ride etc is expected and part of the normal etiquette. Close passing another cyclist, without warning when you don't know the cyclist, and when it is pretty obvious that they don't know you are there, and when it is pretty obvious that the cyclist is just cycling home, in my opinion isn't. Quite simply I wouldn't do it to other cyclists when out on the road and I know most other cyclists wouldn't either.

Is this not reasonable? Does this make me a 'Gringo' or a bellend? Why does it get one of the staff from the local bike shop 'ready to burst'? Should it result in me getting a camera stuffed up my ar$e?

Is it not reasonable to expect another cyclist to give me a bit more room on a pass? Or perhaps to give a little bit of a warning? What do you guys think, especially club cyclists from other clubs?

Instead I get a whole load of abuse, which is a nice advert for the club.

Another thing that I am often accused of comes up again as well. The fact that I 'over-react' or get annoyed at 'nothing'. This is seen as a problem. Is it though? Not everyone has the same threshold for incidents on the road, and not everyone is willing to just put up with things the way they are. In fact, I am probably about average  when it comes to how I react to bad driving.

Average?! Seriously?!?!

Yes, I think I am. Some cyclists keep their heads down. They don't mind cars passing within a foot, or sitting 0.5 seconds from their back wheel and they don't like other cyclists making a fuss. Then there are those who either don't cycle at all because they feel too scared by what they see on the roads, or they give up (and I know many who have unfortunately) because they just don't feel safe enough.

I reckon I am probably about half way between these two groups.

Who is right? Who knows. I suspect that those who keep their heads down, ignore some of the risks, and those who don't ride, overestimate the risks. That certainly doesn't mean I am always right, but I suspect that there are a lot of cyclists like me out there who love cycling but feel the roads need to be a lot friendlier, as the signatures on the cycle friendly Glasgow petition would suggest.

So Scott, more than happy to meet up if you if you want to chat about it. Probably best I don't bring my cameras though, for my safety.....apparently.

(I did consider posting on the Facebook page itself, however, I would have had to join the group to post. For obvious reasons, I'm not too keen to join).

Friday 6 June 2014

Making Glasgow Cycle Friendly

Sometimes you have to stop complaining and start doing something...

As readers of this blog will no doubt have surmised, I'm getting a tired of picking holes in Glasgow City Council's cycling policy. Each time a new announcement is made of a new 'cycling infrastructure scheme' I feel a darkness descend over me. I know, with almost 100% certainty that it will be of very poor quality. It's generally quite depressing.

Luckily I'm actually a glass half full kind of guy, and whilst I do feel depressed looking at these schemes (read here, here and here for some examples), I always brighten my mood by thinking of things that could be done to improve things. Yes, there are many people who say, 'och, why bother....nothing will ever change'. Yes if we take that approach they are right. Nothing ever will. I'm a great believe that things will change if we all try to make them change.

What could be done though?

Well, I'm always full of hair-brained ideas, and there are plenty more of them to come, but one idea floated to the top. With the Commonwealth Games coming, and there being false promises of a lasting legacy for Glasgow, with little evidence of it, perhaps it's time to give the politicians a wake up call.

A petition is born.

A petition? What? That's not going to change anything! 

Well, I actually disagree. POP started with a petition for example and POP is now a strong grass roots movement which is powerful enough to force Transport Ministers to take heed.

A petition is an excellent way to draw a line in the sand. It sets out a position, one that isn't coming from just one or two cycle campaigners, but one that is back by people. When someone signs a petition they are saying, 'yes, I agree with this'. A petition is an excellent place to start. So a petition has been started.

At the time of writing this the petition is already standing at 696. That's impressive in such a short space of time. Not only that but it has gained the official support of Go-Bike, Strathclyde's cycle campaign and CTC Scotland (the Scottish arm of CTC). I am hoping that other organisations will lend support to.

That though, is not the most impressive thing about it. I've heard politicians dismissing online petitions in the past, as they are just too easy to sign. In fact Glasgow has an official route for petitions, one that requires actual signatures and actual writing (so 20th century!!). It's a system that has official recognition but keeps the numbers down unless you have lots of people who have lots of time to stand in the street asking for signatures. I'm sorry, the times have moved on.

More importantly though, is that having the petition online actually allows people to engage much more than the councils paper petition. People have the option (it is not required), to add some comments. So rather than being easier, it becomes a little less easy. I have to say, I have been impressed with some of the comments, especially the amount that have been coming from people who don't currently cycle but would like to. So, I'll stop writing now, and I'll let you read about some of the comments that have been made so far.

I'd like to be able to safely cycle to work, and for my ten year old daughter to cycle to school. It's simply too hazardous as things stand.
I don't currently cycle in Glasgow because there isn't a properly connected cycle infrastructure in Glasgow. I would cycle if there was one - simple!
I cycle every day, often with kids on my bike and accompanied by a child on a bike. It is often dangerous and we always have to go a ridiculously long way to school to avoid potential accidents.
I cycle every day into Glasgow using the Fastlink route which has been a nightmare during construction. The plans for the finished route seem to have no consideration for cyclists leaving a poorer facility than we currently have. I would not, in any way, encourage others to take up cycling in Glasgow. I've been doing it for years so know what to expect and still find cycling an uncomfortable experience when commuting.
After years of struggling to obtain incremental improvements for cycling in Glasgow, I think now there needs to be radical change in the Council's approach to cycling provision. What the Council builds in the name of cycling has to be vastly better than what has been seen to date.
Moved away from Glasgow because the roads are so bad for commuting by bike or for recreational use. This is a long time coming and I would welcome it being initiated.

Please help make Glasgow a cycle freindly city by telling the council what you want for Glasgow. Sign the petition and leave a comment. It is possible with your help.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Chalk and Cheese

Nothing for ages and then two buses come along at once.

The same appears to be true of cycling infrastructure plans. Nothing for ages and then today I am sent plans for two different cycle infrastructure schemes. One in Glasgow and one in East Dunbartonshire. 

When two buses come along they often turn out to be going to the same place. When two lots of cycle infrastructure plans come along it turns out they are very different beasts.

First, lets look at East Dunbartonshire.

I have a very personal interest in this scheme due to the fact that it encompasses a chunk of my commute. It is an infrastructure scheme for cycle infrastructure down the A81. For anyone who knows the area it is located between the Burnbrae Roundabout (the one where I suffered my infamous oil tanker incident) and Maryhill Road. The work is going to be phased and East Dunbartonshire have just released some information on the proposed first phase, with plans to start work later this year.

The web page is here, with three sets of plans available to download, here, here and here.

What ED think the infrastructure might look like.

I'll discuss these plans in more detail in a later blog, but effectively it consists of a short section of shared use path (yes I know...), and two sections of two way, segregated cycle lanes. The two sections are on opposite sides of the road and you need to transfer from one side to the other using a Toucan crossing. There are also semi-floating bus stops (the lane goes in from of the shelter, but behind where the bus stops).

Yes, they aren't perfect, but they are a big step in the right direction. Most importantly though, the council are interested to hear your views, that is, it's a consultation and I do think they are listening. So I'd really appreciate if people with experience in cycle lane design could have a look and let me (and the council) know how it could be improved.

Perhaps with your help, East Dunbartonshire Council could actually put in a good, and badly needed section of cycle infrastructure.

Then there is Glasgow.

My last blog looked at some new cycle infrastructure that I spotted near where I work at the Southern General Hospital. It looked pants. Utter pants. Well, that is now confirmed as I've been passed the plans. You can see the plans here and here.

Hmm. How do I summarise word. Paint.

What the infrastructure in Glasgow actually looks like.

That is the same old crap that the that councils have been providing for years. Please have a look for yourselves. Maybe I've looked at it wrong. Maybe I've completely missed something, but to my eyes it is not only a waste of cycle infrastructure money, it is a general waste of tax payers money.

All of this is part of the governments spanking New Southern General Hospital project. A new mullti million pound hospital of the future. A hospital which will be one of the biggest in Europe where parking is in incredibly short supply.


So whilst East Dunbartonshire is making a good attempt, Glasgow the city who talks a good game, that is supposed to be benefiting from a Commonwealth Games legacy, and is desperately in need of a shot in the arm to get its population more active, doesn't give a toss.

This isn't a mistake, this as far as I am concerned is a scandal.