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 this....how 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..... http://www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/content/council_and_government/consultations,_complaints_and/consultation_and_engagement/current_consultation_activity/bears_way.aspx

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