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.
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