Glasgow’s cycling infrastructure developments.
In the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games, it seems as if there have been a couple of positive developments regarding cycling here in Glasgow.
First, Glasgow City Council has announced the development of new cycling infrastructure in Tradeston. I cycle in this area reasonably often and agree that it could certainly do with a makeover. Some sections of the plan involve building segregated, bi-directional cycling tracks, much like those found on London Road and Berkeley Street. You can see an image for the full plan here. (credit to @suicyclist for stitching that together)
Whilst the construction of segregated cycling lanes is laudable, the council come up somewhat short in their planned execution. First of all, the tracks are bi-directional, instead of one-way and on either side of the street. This does not conform to best practice standards set and followed by countries that have decades of experience of enabling mass cycling. It doesn’t allow for sizeable volumes of cyclists, and it can make getting in and out of the lane potentially hazardous, especially at junctions. Some might wonder ‘why build infrastructure for large volumes of cyclists when there aren’t that many around?’ To me, that’s like asking ‘why build a bridge when so many people are swimming across the river?’
In addition, the segregated tracks are also not continuous, which opens up the potential for the lanes to be obstructed by parked vehicles, as well as introducing zones for conflict where cyclists are forced to merge back in to traffic and avoid door zones. There are also shared use paths which create conflict between cyclists and pedestrians. One of the biggest issues with this sort of infrastructure is that many cyclists will opt to continue using the roads, which in turn leads to some motorists wondering why they are not using the infrastructure that has been built. I quite often witness this when a painted cycle lane directs me in to the door zone. Having seen the damage being ‘doored’ can do, I steer well clear of these lanes, but often receive toots and shouts, admonishing me for cycling on the road when there is a lane just for me. Proper infrastructure should remove this sort of conflict between road users, not encourage it.
The Tradeston cycle route is far from perfect, but it does at least demonstrate that the council is willing to spend money on infrastructure for cyclists. Let’s hope they listened to the public response during the consultation period, and that the funds are put to good use.
Another more recent development focusses on the ‘Colleges Cycle Route’ which runs from Hyndland road across to Broomhill. You can see the official plans here and here. The council will issue fines for any motorist who parks on the existing cycle routes, which should mean that the painted lanes are not interrupted. In turn, cyclists won’t have to swerve in and out of traffic. In addition, the lanes are to be widened to 1.5m and cark parking is to be removed in certain areas. Unfortunately, 1.5m falls below the 2m width recommended by DfT and Sustrans, which leaves sparse room for manoeuvring around debris, slippy drains, and potholes.
As a cyclist, I feel a bit conflicted about all of this. On one hand, it’s nice that my chosen method of transport, and some of the problems that I often face, are finally being recognised by the council. Cycling gets very little by way of investment, so it’s great to see money finally being spent. On the other hand, I can’t help but worry that the proposals don’t go far enough.
It’s a tempting thought to just say ‘well, it’s better than nothing’. The main problem with that line of thought is that cycling only ever gets limited levels of funding. Funding cycling to a meaningful degree is politically brave, because whilst it’s a sustainable mode of transport with a plethora of benefits to society, most people still prefer to take the car. This means that investment in cycling is always going to be limited, and choosing to use this investment to build infrastructure that is anything less than the best seems like a very inefficient or even wasteful appropriation of funds. The Dutch and Danish models are admired and agreed upon by just about everyone. These are countries that have made the bold decisions on infrastructure (and on strict liability!) and these decisions have paid off. They have found what works best, set a strong example, and all we need to do is follow it. But our politicians, whilst paying lip service to our continental counterparts, often fail to choose the right path.
Let’s hope that the feedback from the public has been persuasive enough to push the council in the right direction. There is money to spend, and it seems like the will is there, so let’s just hope it gets spent in the right way.