Green Games?

Sustainability and effects on the environment are considerations which, thankfully, are beginning to be taken seriously by the organisers of any large event. ‘Green credentials’ are often mentioned these days, and the XX Commonwealth Games held here in Glasgow are no exception.

Glasgow City Council set out an impressive list of environmentally friendly promises in 2010, such as the establishment of low emission zones and the use of a fleet of low emission vehicles for the duration of the Games. “Sustainability remains at the core of our decisions and we continue to work collaboratively through the Glasgow 2014 Environment Forum,” said a Glasgow 2014 spokeswoman. “The Forum has been satisfied that our approach across a range of key areas, including the reduction of emissions, is appropriate.”

Air pollution in Glasgow is amongst the worst in Europe, resulting in the deaths of over 300 people a year, according to Health Protection Scotland. As such, the commitment to improving the cleanliness of Glasgow’s air was both admirable and necessary. The proposals would be complemented by encouraging cycling and walking during the Games as a genuine alternative to motorised transport, coinciding with the introduction of the NextBike hire scheme and better parking for bikes at venues.

The NextBike scheme’s continuing roll-out appears to have been quite successful so far and credit is due to the Council for completing the infamous ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ over the motorway. It has also been pleasantly surprising to find historically ‘rugged’ roads properly resurfaced, improving the use of the city’s roads for everyone. Green Games poster

As a regular and enthusiastic cyclist in Glasgow, I’m reasonably familiar with a variety of routes in and out of the centre. On the road, there are a variety of routes to choose from, but for those who prefer quieter, less hectic routes, there are areas such as Glasgow Green and the Broomielaw/SECC path. In fact, both of these areas are connected via National Cycle Route 7, which runs alongside the Clyde all the way out to Loch Lomond. These areas provide segregated routes where cyclists can cross the Clyde from east and west, and are the easiest way of getting in and out of the city centre whilst avoiding traffic. Such routes are important for less confident cyclists, those unfamiliar with our road systems, and those travelling with children.

Given the relative popularity of these routes, and the strong encouragement given to cycling by the games organisers, it seems quite bizarre for these routes to have been essentially dismantled.

For example, Glasgow Green appears to be a no-go zone for cyclists, with several entrances and exits shut to anyone without Games accreditation. Kelvin Way is also shut to the public, which means getting access to Kelvingrove Park and Glasgow University now requires a longer journey on much busier roads.

In the west of the city, the SECC area has several key routes for cyclists – a shared use tunnel which crosses the express-way, a riverside route which leads further west, and two shared-use bridges over the Clyde. All of them are now shut for the duration of the games, forcing both pedestrians and cyclists to find a different route and for the latter, forcing them to mix with traffic. For those who are not happy or confident mixing with motorised traffic, as well as visitors looking to get around in Glasgow, these closures are extremely inconvenient. As a by-product of these closures, several NextBike stations are now inaccessible to the public.

The Games have already caused huge congestion throughout the city with strain on the public transport system evident. This, in itself, is not particularly surprising. This is a problem that all major events suffer from. The surprising part is that the Council and the games organisers have failed to take sufficient action to mitigate these issues. Encouraging people away from cars, trains and buses and onto bicycles would tick off several key boxes – clean & sustainable travel, a reduction in congestion & pollution, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. It appeared that the council understood this, looking at their ostensible promotion of cycling and walking before the games. But, there is an unfortunate gulf between their words and their actions, with the closure of key cycling routes and resulting increased pollution and congestion levels.

Like many international events before them, the organisers of the games speak of a ‘legacy’ for the citizens of Glasgow. Certainly, with the development of some world class facilities, and the general ‘facelift’ around Glasgow, the city has noticeably improved, in places. But given the emphasis on an eco-friendly games that the original bid was based on, it seems as if any true ‘green’ legacy has been simply swept to the side.

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