Monday, 14 July 2014

Glasgow City Council Responds

If you follow this blog (sorry about the lack of updates recently, I've been on my holidays!), you'll have noticed I wrote a letter to the leader of Glasgow City Council recently asking an important question.

What has Glasgow City Council been doing for cyclists?

I asked a number of very specific questions:

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?

I also asked about the city councils approach to segregated infrastructure:

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?

Whilst I was on holiday I received a reply. Here it is:




Dear Mr Brennan
I refer to your undernoted email to Councillor Matheson with regard to the above matter and can advise as follows:
Sustainable Transport Expenditure
The table below shows the capital funding for Glasgow’s Sustainable Transport (Cycling & Walking) Projects for the last 5 years. These figures are not specifically broken down into cycling schemes as much of the expenditure relates to infrastructure which is used by both cyclists and pedestrians.

2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14
£3 m £2.6 m £3.3 m £1.3m £3.5m
It should be noted that the above table indicates the budget allocated in each year and not necessarily exactly when it was spent.

Langlands Road

The Langlands Road route to the new South Glasgow Hospital is still under construction and a traffic regulation order covering the cycle route and controlled parking in the area has still to be promoted, which will hopefully address most of your concerns.
New South Glasgow Hospital
As part of the approval of the planning application for the Southern General Hospital a Section 75 Agreement was entered into with the Council to improve pedestrian / cycling routes servicing the hospital site and surrounding area.  The NHS board committed to making a walking / cycling contribution of £750,000.
The Council in partnership with Renfrewshire Council has committed £130,000 for cross boundary cycle improvements to the New South Glasgow Hospital.  A further £200,000 has also been provided from Sustrans via their community links programme.
Segregated Cycle Routes
Where possible, infrastructure is being developed in accordance with Cycling by Design and utilises the expertise of the council’s experienced designers and stakeholder groups. The Council also ensures that all it’s design staff attend a Cycling by Design training course run by Cycling Scotland. However, it should also be recognised that much of what we aspire to provide must be retrofitted to an already extensively developed urban environment, which allied to budget constraints, mean that some compromise must occasionally be made.
The Council has already allocated road space over to segregated cycle routes on London Road and on the Coonect2 Kelvingrove to City Centre project.  In addition, we will shortly be consulting on the Tradeston Cycle Route which will be a fully segregated route linking Pollokshields to the Tradeston Footbridge.
Glasgow City Council is fully supportive of trying to make our roads safer and encourage more people to cycle. The Council’s Local Transport Strategy, a copy of which can be viewed by visiting  ( states that “Glasgow is committed to increasing the level of cycling in the city and providing and promoting a high quality cycle network”

I'm not going to pick apart the letter in detail. I will though pick up on a few critical points.

My original letter was addressed to a politician, but a council officer replied. Now that isn't entirely unusual, however, I think it is important for me to point out that I don't think the issue is with the cycling officers. Far from it. I think they work in difficult conditions with little political support or funding. Therefore I was disappointed that there was no reply from the councillor himself.

I'll be very interested to see how 'promotion' of the parking restrictions on Langlands Road (I couldn't see many when I cycled it) will make a difference, though I'll certainly revisit the area in the near future to see how that pans out.

The partnership money that is mentioned is Renfrewshire's money, as far as I can make out. It isn't Glasgow's money. I am also pretty sure that this is for infrastructure outside of the Glasgow boundary. Happy to be corrected about that if I am wrong, but I am 99% sure I'm not.

With regards to infrastructure, the use of the words 'where possible' say it all. Cycling by Design is a document that sets out minimum standards. In fact even these standards are way out of date, so in effect GCC are admitting that they install infrastructure that doesn't even meet out of date minimum standards. Fantastic.

Finally, with regards to funding, my question has not been answered at all. They list total money allocated for cycling and walking. So some of this money will not be on cycling (though spending on walking is good of course). It would also appear to contain money from outside sources, i.e. Sustrans money, Cycling, Walking & Safer Streets (CWSS), and spends that occurred as part of national level infrastructure projects (and possibly some other sources).

I'd asked how much of their transport budget they had spent in the last 5 years.

Thus we don't actually have an answer. However, we can get a hint at the answer thanks to the good work of Spokes. Each year they carry out a survey of Scotland's councils to get a handle on cycling spend. You can find this information here in the last bulletin of every year. It's worth a look.

The figures are complicated, but there is one headline figure that stands out. In the years 10/11, 11/12, 12/13, Edinburgh council spent £2.23m of their own transport funding on cycling. The yearly figure has actually been rising despite the actual transport total falling. Glasgow has spent approximately £0 of its transport budget on cycling.

Yes, that's right, diddly squat.

OK, so it would be remiss of me not to look beyond that headline figure, and yes Glasgow has spent some other of its own money on cycling over these three years. However, this has been part of big ticket projects such as the East End Regeneration Route (EERR) project where some money HAD to be spent on active travel. These projects were happening anyway and cycling only, pardon the pun, came along for the ride.

Looking at the figures alone, and this is the real headline, it is obvious that Edinburgh is planning. It is setting aside a budget and increasing it over time. Glasgow is spending what it has to on the back of big road projects (oh yes, we'd better put something in for the cyclists) or what it can cobble together from other sources.

Glasgow is the city where approximately 50% of households don't have access to a car. Glasgow is the city with the incredibly poor health record. Glasgow is the city with severe pollution problems. Glasgow is the city where the lead councillor claims to be 'investing in making cycling safer'.


It's time we let the politicians know what we think of Glasgow's approach to cycling. It's time we called for a minimum of 5% of the transport budget to be spent on cycling infrastructure. It's time to sign this petition (as many of you have already) and let the leaders of the council know that now is the time to invest in the future of what could be a happy, health and environmentally friendly city.


  1. The response had 'we haven't spent a penny' beautifully woven through it. You have to admire their balls, their gall.

  2. Well Glasgow District Council did spend over £113 million on its Veledrome cycling arena-which is serviced by the £85 million east end regeneration route from Shawfield to the Forge.This road,the newest road in Glasgow,has no segregated cycling.
    Better to observe what they do-not what they say.

    1. It's hardly an extravagance to have one indoor velodrome in the entire country.

    2. There is some 'segregated' cycling infrastructure in the area round the velodrome and in nearby London Road. It's not great, and on London Rd it's a fairly short section and it's not connected to anything else. Perhaps the council's design staff could actually spend some time out on the road on bikes to better understand what they have been taught on these courses. Or perhaps they could look at the changes that Eastwood Council made to the A77 from Eastwood Toll to see how effective changes can be made simply and cheaply - though it did take away space from cars.

    3. ....and that segregated infrastructure near the velodrome again underlines the fact that, what little we are given is poorly designed, totally unconnected and completely undrefunded. That needs to change.