Friday 30 January 2015

A Clockwork Letter

I seem to be sending lots of letters at the moment! Here is my latest, to Clockwork

Dear Sir/madam,

Unfortunately I am writing to you about a driving incident that occurred on the morning of the 27th January with one of your drivers.

I cycle to work most morning and cycle south on Milngavie Road as part of my journey. This particular road has a cycle lane, which I use for certain sections. In other sections I chose not to use it. There are number of reasons that I don't use it which include, the fact that it is poorly designed, poorly maintained, often filled with debris, etc. As I am fully entitled to use the road as I see fit, I do so. Despite this in the section where the incident occurred, I am still towards the left of the lane.

As I was approaching Hillfoot a Clockwork HGV registration number (BV57KFD) started overtaking me. This was not a problem at first as the driver appeared to be giving me lots of room, and there were no issues with oncoming traffic. However, as the overtake progressed the driver appeared to swing his trailer towards me and came close to side-swiping me with the very rear of the trailer. There was no justification for this. Due to the proximity of the trailer I felt the need to swerve out of the way.

As is often the case, I caught up with the HGV and the driver later on. I asked the driver why he had driven so close to me. He did not deny that he had done so, and when I pressed further he aggressively asked me why I had not been in the cycle lane. I asked him if he felt this mattered or not.

I film my commutes on camera for safety reasons, thus you can view the footage of the incident and the following discussion, here (

In my opinion the driver's reaction suggests that he was annoyed with my road position and felt the need to make a point with his HGV. This is totally unacceptable. Even if this wasn't the case, there is no excuse for the the HGV coming as close as it did. A driver of an HGV should leave plenty of room for vulnerable road users and only overtake when it is safe to do so.

I would be grateful if you could investigate the matter, and I would be interested to hear the drivers side of the story. Please could you also ensure that all of your drivers are reminded of the importance of driving safely around cyclists, as we do not have a a protective cage.

Many thanks for your help in this matter.

Best regards

Dr David Brennan

Wednesday 28 January 2015

No Answer From A Taxi Driver

It would appear that I won't be getting an answer from the taxi driver, at least not from Glasgow who licences him. They don't think they have any responsibility for drivers they licence.
Dear Dr Brennan

Complaint re Glasgow Licence vehicle

I refer to the above and would advise you of our findings in this matter.

Instructions from our Legal Department advise that this is a road traffic offence & is out with our remit. This offence should be reported to your local community Police office.

The powers available to the Enforcement Unit in complaints investigation are restricted to addressing incidents where a licence holder has contravened a condition or conditions attached to their licence or where a licence holder fails to meet the requirements of the legislation that governs his/her licence.

This concludes our part in this unfortunate incident.

So, what exactly is the point of the licencing organisation if not to ensure that a driver is competent  to undertake the job that they are licencing them to do?

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Questions For A Taxi Driver

The following is a letter I have sent to Glasgow City Councils taxi licencing board.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Whilst I was cycling to my place of work on Friday 23rd January at approximately 8:20am along Auchenhowie Road I was passed by taxi number 884 (X856 SOJ). Auchenhowie Road is quite a narrow road and thus when there is oncoming traffic it is not safe to pass a cyclist such as myself. As a result I take a strong position to discourage drivers from squeezing past me when it isn't safe. Unfortunately the driver of cab number 884 decided to overtake anyway forcing me to take evasive action.

Due to the high mileage that I cycle each week (over 100 miles) from time to time I experience bad driving. Thus some time ago I decided to start wearing a camera on my helmet and a rear camera on my bike. These cameras provide evidence of the incidents that I face. Thus, I have footage of the incident which can be viewed here (

As you can see, as well as the close pass itself I caught up with the driver and asked him why he chose to drive so close to me. As the driver points out himself, due to my road position there was not enough room to pass safely. Despite acknowledging this he still decided to pass me anyway. The driver then goes on to display his ignorance by suggesting that the road we were traveling on was 'not a cycle's a motorway'. The driver is clearly questioning my right to be there, to take the road position that I did, and felt justified in demonstrating this by driving close to me, even when he himself suggested that I was too far out.

I am sure I do not have to point out to you that not only do I have the right to cycle on that road, but I also have the right to take up as much of the lane as I feel necessary for my safety. The only criticism of my position would be that I was not out far enough, allowing the taxi to creep through. I will try to adjust my road position accordingly in the future.

I would be grateful if you could investigate this matter. I would also be grateful if you could show the driver this footage. I would be interested to know why he felt justified in his comments. Does he really think he has more rights on the road than I do when I'm on my bike (I drive as well)? Can he explain why, if he felt I was too far out, did he continue to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic? Surely he realised that this would be a risk to me. And does he agree that a cyclist, not having a protective cage around them, should be afforded greater care when he is driving in their vicinity?

Thank you for your time in this matter. I look forward to your reply.

Best regards

Dr David Brennan

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Glasgow Winter Cycling Policy

As you may have seen recently I had a wee adventure in the snow last Friday. It snowed thick and fast which resulted in me abandoning my cycle commute home. It was only through the generosity of others that I made it home safely and in a timely manner.

There really isn't anyone to blame for the chaos on Friday. As my video demonstrates the snow came down pretty fast, so there wasn't time for the council to react. Yes, perhaps the roads could have been better gritted before-hand, but the weather is often unpredictable in this part of the world. Let's give them the benefit of doubt. knew that was coming didn't's what has happened, or not happened since, that is of concern.

This is a typical tweet from the council at the moment and suggests that priority routes will be treated first, then footways and bridges. So roads first and then paths....or at least some paths, certainly not all.  More interestingly there is no mention of cycle paths.

OK, let's be fair, this could just be because they could only fit 140 characters into a tweet, right?! The will of course grit cycle paths, right?




Ok, so it would seem that cycle paths are not looked after at all. Even award winning ones, or ones with counters on them.

But surely things have improved now that it is FIVE days since the snow fell. Surely by now for instance the entrance and exit to the Clyde Tunnel cycle/pedestrian path, one of the main active travel routes for getting people north and south of the city, will be clear?!

Umm, no. This is from today.

To be fair, it isn't just cyclists that have issues.

That's on a hill.

So, if you are a cyclist and you cycle through the winter months, and if there is a hint of ice around, Glasgow City Councils policy, and this is policy as it is their policy not to grit these routes, is that you must cycle on the road. Cycling facilities, limited as they are, are off bounds.

To be fair, no-one in their right mind would ever want to cycle in the winter when it's cold......would they?

So, it would seem that not only does it snow in countries where cycling rates are high, not only do people keep cycling in poor conditions, but that the authorities in these countries understand that cycle and walking infrastructure should be included in the priority routes.

How many cycle routes are specified in Glasgow's priority list? Well according to this document cycle routes are treated as 'priority 2'. That is, a relatively low priority. Actually, it's worse than that. It is priority 2 for paths. That is the roads come first, then priority 1 paths and then, if they can be bothered, cycle lanes and other paths.

Glasgow will rarely provide decent cycle lanes. Unfortunately these rare cycle paths will very rarely be cleared of ice or snow in the winter. It would seem that a decent, clear cycle lane is a very rare thing indeed.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Community Spirit


There are lots of things I think we have lost over the years. We've lost our connection with nature by living in cities, we've lost the understanding that, you can get from one place to the other without the need of a combustion engine, and we've lost sense of what a cities design should really be's people.

One thing that I think we've also lost is our community spirit. I love hearing stories about how people never used to have to lock doors, how neighbours used to look out for and look after their fellow neighbours and that when times got tough, people pulled together to make things right.

Are these stories just urban legend? I don't think so. I just think we have lost connections with those around us and the car, a transport mechanism that locks us in a box with only a radio to keep us company, has fueled the process.However, it doesn't take much to bring community spirit back.

Have you ever been on a train where the power has gone for a short period of time? Suddenly people start chatting and joking, where before they would stare into space/phone/newspaper/adverts. Our pampered lives keep us apart, but throw in a little disruption or a little risk, and people start to communicate again.

I experienced this very phenomenon last Friday night. What started off as a very typical, cold and slightly wet/snowy commute home on my bike, fast became an adventure. Oh OK, not really an adventure, but something a little out of the ordinary. A little adventure. With snow.

The snow started falling as I cycled through Jordanhill, and after a short space of time and the short ride to Anniesland, the driving and riding conditions had deteriorated significantly. As I was still 7 miles from home on my bike I pondered.... what was I to do? Should I keep riding and hope that conditions improve? Should I stop and call my wife for a lift? Or should I just start walking?

I decided to stop. There was no way I was going to ask my wife to collect me, as the driving conditions fast became pretty poor. But I didn't have to walk home. Why? Well, community spirit, that thing that eludes us for most of our daily lives, popped up to the surface, and people with no other connection that just being in the same place at the same time started pulling together.

Rather than describe the details I'll leave you to watch the video. Yes, it's a long video, but I think it's worth a watch.

It all worked out in the end.

So what? Am I suggesting that we need more peril in our lives to bring back a bit of community spirit?

No, but we need more connectivity. We all suffer from a box mentality when we are driving our cars. We all look out of the windows and see a world full of, not people, but cars. We rarely see or connect with the person or people inside. Our transport choices dehumanise us.

I've discovered when riding my bike is that cycling is incredibly sociable. Not only do I nod, acknowledge, and talk to other cyclists, but I find I interact more with pedestrians as well. In the summer when the car windows are more likely to be open, I've also found myself having nice chats with drivers.

Cycle campaigning often focuses on safety statistics, on health indicators and on economic benefits. I think we've forgotten the other benefits of active travel. When we walk or cycle we are far more likely to interact with others and see others as humans and not defined by their mode of transport. Cycling can certainly cure a lot of the nations phyical ills however, I also think it can also help us reconnect with each other that little bit more and help us to see each other, not as rivals or irritations, but people who will wave a cheery hello back. 

(Special thanks to the owners of Skyform who were the ones who gave me a lift home. Much appreciated!)

Tuesday 6 January 2015

A Message from our New Transport Minister

Our new Scottish Parliament Transport Minister, Derek Mackay would like to make the following announcement. This announcement was made here (S4M-11980).

That the Parliament recognises the success of active travel programmes in enabling more people to be active more often, with record levels of investment in active travel; celebrates the 20th anniversary of the National Cycle Network; welcomes the publication of the second Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and the first National Walking Strategy; acknowledges the cross-party commitment to promoting active travel and progress made by the Scottish Government since 1999, alongside external partners, in laying the foundations for a more active and healthier nation, and commits to working together to realise the active travel vision, which outlines how Scotland will look in 2030 if more people are walking and cycling.
Supported by: Keith Brown*

I will now respond in kind.....


What, you would like a more detailed response?  Oh, OK then. here goes....

What successes? Seriously?! How can Derek (and his boss Keith Brown who is supporting the parliamentary motion) suggest that there has been any success in the governments approach to active travel when they have not made any measurable progress towards the 2020 target vision aspiration pondering of having 10% modal share of cycling? Success?

Yes, let's also celebrate the 20th anniversary of some off road cycle paths that are often not fit for purpose. Let's welcome yet another CAPS which once again does not actually set out actual plan....or set an deadlines, or have any actual funding associated with it. Let's acknowledge the cross party commitment to.....umm, errr....wait a'll come to me.....I'm sure it will.....tell you what I'll get back to you on that one..... And let us rejoice that none of this non-action will now not actually happen by 2020 (and yes, I'm getting muddle up with double negative here, but this is politics so double speak is the norm....). It will now not actually happen by 2030.

So yes, I think you'll agree that my initial reaction pretty succinctly sums it up.

When this vision for 2030 document came out I mentioned to a few people at other organisations that I suspected this was the beginning of the goalpost relocation. They thought I was wrong. Yet, here we are, and the removal firm has been hired and they have started wrapping up the ornaments. But wait, before the ornaments are placed in their boxes we should all revel in how sparkly the ornaments are. OK, they are pretty ugly ornaments, but the idea of what we would like the ornaments to look like is grand, so......let's revel all the same, and at teh same time, give your new boss a great big pat on the back.

I got my hopes up a wee bit when I heard that there was to be an active travel debate at Holyrood on the 7th January. We have a new transport minister and perhaps, just perhaps he would bring about change.


It looks like we are in for more of the same.

So, make sure you ask your MSP if they will be going along to the debate tomorrow. Perhaps with time being short a tweet might be in order. Ask them, will they be pushing for change, or will they join in the back-slapping ornament worshipping.