Cycling: still going nowhere

Minitrue:

Cycling journeys into Glasgow increase by over 200%

The number of cycle journeys being made into and from Glasgow city centre has increased from 3,012 to 9,255 per day – a rise of 207% – since 2007.

This indicates a flow of … 1,851,000 cycle journeys undertaken annually to and from the city centre.

I’m no mathematician, but it’s very easy to work out that if there are 1.8 million cycle journeys to or from the city centre per year then that’s an average of about 5000 per day – so the 9255 “per day” figure is most likely a high point, not an average.

Indeed

A total of 35 sites form a cordon around the centre of the city and are monitored between 6:00 am and 8:00 pm over two successive days each September.

Scaling the figures provides an estimate of the number of walking and cycling trips undertaken in Glasgow annually.

September is a good time to count lots of cyclists because the students have returned and the weather is still okay, but this tells us nothing about levels of cycling at other times of the year. It would be far better to install automatic counters at all the entry points to the city centre and have them running all year round. There would then be no need to mess around with “scaling” and “estimates”.

If the counts really were taken in September each year then it would at least be possible to identify year-on-year trends. But according to the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (download PDF, see footnote on p8), the 2007 and 2008 counts were taken in June. “Annual” data collected at completely different times of the year is academically worthless, yet here it is being presented as hard evidence.

Undeterred by such trifling questions of statistical rigour, Gordon Matheson claims credit for the alleged rise and asserts that the fabulous pro-cycling policies of Glasgow City Council are behind it:

“The upward trend in journeys undertaken by cycling and walking in the city can be attributed to a number of factors. The Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, improvements to cycle paths and parking, the completion of the Bridge to Nowhere and the launch of Glasgow’s cycle hire scheme have all played major roles.”

And did you know that

The council has earned widespread praise for its work in delivering the Connect2 scheme at the Anderston Footbridge – the completion of the landmark Bridge to Nowhere.

Not from this blog, it hasn’t.

The council was praised for the significant benefits its sustainable transport strategy has delivered. The completed ‘Bridge to Nowhere’, the increased number of people cycling and reduced cycle casualties were areas highlighted for Glasgow’s success.

The £1.3M initiative was recognised by the judges as an important link in Glasgow’s £3.5M Connect2 scheme. The bridge now connects Kelvingrove Park with Central Station using a mainly Copenhagen style two way segregated cycle and walk way.

This route links the residential Anderston community with local schools and leisure facilities and is designed to accommodate all levels of cyclists as well as providing a new commuter route from the West End into the city centre.

Reading that, you’d never guess that usage of this multi-award-winning facility could be in decline. Yet thanks to the new public bike counter, this is what we can now deduce. Back in August I posted this picture and worked out that bike traffic on the bridge was around 400 per day:

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I took this photo last week:

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I’m sorry to say that the average daily bike traffic between the 6th of August and the 20th of October was just over 200 per day. Obviously the weather plays a role, but I think there’s more to it than that. During the summer, both myself and STV News reporter Michael MacLeod fell off our bikes on the western ramp of the bridge, which was covered in slippery leaves. These painful incidents were a direct consequence of Glasgow City Council’s systematic neglect of the maintenance of cycle facilities, which can be observed all over the city – and, as I noted yesterday, such neglect has particularly deleterious effects on the cycling experience in the autumn. If people can reasonably expect to get hurt while cycling, then they won’t cycle. That’s what’s happening here. Cycling is being suppressed, not facilitated.

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It’s Autumn!

With summer well behind us, Glasgow City Council’s naked hostility to walking and cycling has entered an exciting new phase. Behold this lazy shower’s total failure to clear the now-enormous leaf fall that’s clogging up seemingly every pavement and cycle lane in the city.

Clarence Drive:

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Clarence Drive again:

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Hyndland Road:

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Highburgh Road:

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Kelvin Way:

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Old Dumbarton Road:

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The shared path between Anderston and the Clyde:

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If you think, as I do, that scenes like this are an insult and a joke, why not try badgering your local Labour councillor? These complacent car-supremacists clearly need a fire lit under their arses.

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Tory MSP Alex Johnstone, friend of the drunk driver

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill recently brought us the news that

A lower drink-drive limit is to be introduced on Scotland’s roads in time for Christmas.

Mr MacAskill added: “Getting behind the wheel after drinking can have fatal consequences. The advice is simple: if you have had any alcoholic drink whatsoever, don’t drive.

which strikes me as more than a little equivocal and insincere – if no level of blood alcohol is acceptable while driving, why won’t the new limit be zero?

But even this tiny step forward is too much for Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone, who reckons the new limit

“risks creating criminals of people who are perfectly law-abiding, hardworking individuals, while reducing the spotlight on those who are truly dangerous drivers.”

The idea that such people might deserve to be criminalised has apparently never entered the mind of this poisonous Tory. But then, Johnstone also regards speeding fines as evidence of “the anti-motorist agenda”. It’s a reminder that we can always rely on the Conservatives to make the transport policies of nasty Labour or SNP regimes look positively enlightened.

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Glasgow builders: out of control

Among the many indignities experienced by Glasgow’s long-suffering pedestrians and cyclists is the persistent obstruction of walking and cycling facilities by builders. Let me focus today on the new housing development in Anderston, with reference to this cutesy, whitewashed, and blatantly false image peddled by the construction industry:

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Visit that website and you’ll find the “Code of Considerate Practice”. I quote relevant parts below:

  • Informing, respecting and showing courtesy to those affected by the work

  • Minimising the impact of deliveries, parking and work on the public highway

  • Working to create a positive and enduring impression

  • Having systems that care for the safety of the public, visitors and the workforce

All I have to say about this Code is that it is horseshit. But don’t take my word for it – have a look at the pictures below and consider how these requirementsaspirational supporting statements” have been applied.

The average builder is an able-bodied van-driving male with precious few miles on foot, bicycle, or wheelchair under his belt. Expecting such people to have a deep understanding of those modes of transport is optimistic. Add an indolent and thoroughly car-centric council with no standards (and which itself spends every working day devising new ways to oppress the non-motorised peons of Glasgow) into the mix, and the stage is set for scenes like this:

 

 

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What should have happened here is, to my mind, perfectly obvious. The cycle track should have been dedicated to pedestrians, and the carriageway dedicated to cyclists, for the duration of the works. There’s another way into this estate by car. The Motorists could manage. But the whole point of this blog is to highlight the fact that pedestrians and cyclists are persistently – institutionally – inconvenienced and put at risk to avoid any compromise of motorist amenity. That’s what’s happened here and it is no great surprise.

The consistent failure to properly provide for pedestrians and cyclists through building sites is just one more reason that walking and cycling is going nowhere in Glasgow. Nobody in their right mind is going to put up with crap like this when they can feel all prioritised and important in their car. Anybody who thinks differently has lost the plot, and probably works for Sustrans.

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The Mincer

Cyclists entering the city centre from the north-west have the exciting opportunity to try out what I like to call The Mincer. Thrill-seekers should simply emerge from the grotty Cowcaddens underpass system (designed to keep those pesky humans out of the way of the all-important car) onto Cambridge Street and cross to the central traffic island. Good law-abiding Cyclists should dismount beforehand, because so sloppy was the implementation of this scheme that nobody could even be bothered to convert the crossing to a toucan – as such, it cannot lawfully be cycled over.

When you eventually manage to maroon yourself on the island, it’s time to grit your teeth, say a prayer, and launch yourself into The Mincer:

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The cycle lane steadily narrows until the junction with Renfrew Street, where it looks like this:

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I am pessimistic about the future of cycling in Glasgow for as long as it remains in the hands of people who think that ASLs, 1-metre painted cycle lanes in the door zone, and 1-metre painted cycle lanes in the middle of the road (sandwiched between motor vehicles moving at high speeds in opposite directions) are good ideas.  All non-segregated cycling infrastructure is inherently worthless, but this is one of the worst examples I’ve ever seen. It would be very easy to replace it with a fully segregated cycle track – and extending such a track one block south, to Sauchiehall Street, is a no-brainer. But things that are obvious to you and me are, ah, challenging for Glasgow City Council, which is staffed by some of the stupidest people on the planet.

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It’s time for some sackings at Glasgow City Council

There isn’t much appetite at Glasgow City Council for listening to public opinion. You’d think that a collection of people so bereft of vision and basic competence as this one would be desperate and deeply grateful for someone – anyone – to help them do their jobs, but so complacent are they that the possibility of ordinary people having something valuable to contribute is never seriously entertained. Thanks to Andy Preece on Twitter, however, I’ve got a hold of some plans for a cycle route between Silverburn Shopping Centre and Newlands. And they shall be subjected to my critique.

Let’s take a look at this thing. This is the western half of it:

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It runs along Barrhead Road then loops around past Silverburn, along Boydstone Road, and back to Barrhead Road. Just the kind of roads that need off-road provision for cycling. It’s all shared-use paths, but there aren’t many pedestrians here so that’s fine. The problem, as ever, lies in the details of the design. Take a look at what Brian Devlin of Land and Environmental Services regards as an appropriate solution for one of the monster road junctions outside the shopping centre:

 

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That’s right – it’s our old friend, the four-stage toucan crossing. Using this “facility” will undoubtedly be a thoroughly degrading, humiliating, frustrating, and inconvenient experience. Expect long delays, difficult manoeuvres, cattle-pens, and conflict between pedestrians and cyclists. Expect the same at the two-stage toucan crossing a little to the south. As ever in Glasgow, pedestrians and cyclists must pay the price here for the Motorist’s expectation of direct routes, slip lanes, high speeds, and Smooth Traffic Flow.

The treatment of the minor junctions is also abysmal. Entirely different designs, all stunningly crap in their own way, have been employed for identical situations, which makes it clear that the clowns at LES have no idea what they’re doing and have simply decided to try a bit of everything. Everything except something that might actually work, that is.

Here’s the treatment that’s most familiar to British cyclists: the Give Way To The Private Access:

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If they were all done like this, I could at least understand that the designers were on car-centric autopilot and stuck to what they know. But no – they’ve attempted to “innovate”, and I predict disastrous consequences.

One junction has no indication at all of who has priority:

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Another gives cyclists priority:

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These half-arsed efforts are incredibly dangerous. The second one is very similar to a junction on Elderslie Street that I’ve already written about, where driver compliance with the give way markings is virtually zero. Now, I’m perfectly capable of ranting and raving about reckless drivers, but I think it’s important to get beyond this impulse and recognise that, like pretty much everything else wrong with cycling in Glasgow, this is really all the council’s fault. There’s a lot to be said for road design taking into account the habits, expectations, and mistakes of the users – for Sustainable Safety, in other words – and the reality is that drivers are used to zooming right up to the mouth of the junction and don’t expect cyclists to ride off the pavement into their path. There are not even speed tables here. It’s lethal crap. I’ll give an example of how it ought to be done a little later.

This is the eastern half of the route:

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Rather than spend any real money or risk upsetting the Motorist by building a proper cycle track along the obvious and direct Nether Auldhouse Road, the council has chosen to cobble together a route through an assortment of back streets, lanes, and shared-use paths (marked in red). Fail.

Here’s how the council expects you to cycle between Holeburn Road and Greenbank Park:

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Either you can take your chances on the direct route (green) across a busy road, or you can make a massive detour on the council-approved route to the toucan crossing. Neither option is even remotely acceptable.

The junction of Barrhead Road and Kennishead Road is also complete mess:

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This junction currently has big sweeping corners and no crossing facility for pedestrians, so I’m glad that the paths are to be built out and a zebra crossing introduced. That said, it’s still crap. My understanding is that, while it’s legal to cycle across a zebra, cyclists do not have priority on zebras as pedestrians do. The crossing is also set too far back from the junction, so it doesn’t meet the desire line, and the paths on either side look quite narrow, which will lead to conflict if there are a lot of users.

I’m not personally familiar with this junction, so I can’t say for sure what the best design is. It could be that traffic lights with a separate phase for cyclists would be a good idea. That said, I’ve had a go at drawing the kind of thing the Dutch might come up with for a cycle-priority junction here:

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Crystal clear. Self-explaining. Obviously better. There’s probably no point in having the zebra crossing here – pedestrians could just use the cycle crossing because, as mentioned earlier, this is a shared path – but I thought I’d include it anyway because I quite enjoy doing these drawings and it shows what could be done in locations where pedestrians and cyclists are segregated.

I think it’s scandalous that, in 2014, designs as bad as Glasgow City Council’s could have been produced. Nobody who did the design work or gave the finished drawings the stamp of approval is fit to hold their position and it’s time they were shown the door. However, we must also consider the conditions under which these people work. The design parameters of walking and cycling schemes are determined by what’s politically acceptable to the fanatically car-supremacist Labour Party, which is determined to enforce car dependency and stamp out walking and cycling once and for all. These people are not our friends and they won’t improve our lot in life out of the goodness of their hearts. A new regime at the City Chambers might shake things up.

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How not to design a new housing development if you want the residents to cycle

Last week:

Glasgow City Council’s Executive Committee has today (25 September, 2014) approved the next steps required to deliver the £250million regeneration of the Sighthill area of the city.

Before I pour scorn on the council’s latest attempt to “regenerate” the city, let me take you back to June 2013. That was when a number of Scottish politicians, including Transport Minister Keith Brown and Glasgow “cycling czar” Frank McAveety, went on a junket to the Netherlands to learn about cycling. Keith reckoned he could “discuss and share ideas” with the Dutch, which is laughable – the cycle path to enlightenment is one-way. But it wasn’t all bad, because our man Frank was on our side! When he got back he was coming out with stuff like this:

We need to raise our aspirations. In places like Houten people cycle and never see a car. Toddlers cycle, pensioners cycle, the environment’s safe. The main form of transport is cycling.

Frank had the idea that the transport network in Sighthill should be designed along Dutch principles. Archie Graham was also thinking big thoughts. Needless to say, this was all music to my ears. Finally, I thought, somebody with a bit of vision!

Continual disappointment is an occupational hazard of living in Glasgow, and it wasn’t long before the dream came crashing down. When the planning application (the source of all the drawings and information below) for the new Sighthill was published it became quite clear that the valuable lessons from the Netherlands have had not the slightest influence on the design. In fact, the council have come up with something that’s basically the opposite of what the Dutch do. Provision for cycling is crap and cars are invited into every corner. As far as I know, the plans I’m about to discuss are the same ones that have just been approved. If anyone is aware of any changes that have been made, please feel free to leave a comment.

Now, I’ve drawn some coloured lines on this plan to highlight particular areas of interest.

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The yellow road is the existing Pinkston Road. It’s a bus route, so it obviously requires cycle tracks, but these are not proposed. The blue road is (mostly) new – it will link up to a new road bridge (replacing an existing pedestrian bridge) over the railway line. There will probably be very significant volumes of motor traffic here, especially if the stated aim of “regenerating” north Glasgow is achieved – but, for some unfathomable reason, while the bridge will have a cycle track over it the rest of the road won’t. I would also expect a fair bit of through traffic on all the other roads – there’s nothing to stop it. The cycle route masterplan appears to show many pavements designated shared use. Ridiculous.

The red route is what they’re calling the “civic spine”. It shows some promise, but ultimately falls short. It starts on the edge of the city centre with a bridge over the M8:

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It sure does look Iconic and World-Class, but WHY ARE THERE TREES ON IT? The stupidity on display here blows my mind. This will needlessly constrain the usable width and put pedestrians and cyclists into conflict.

The next bit of it is a street exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists, who will be accommodated on ample paths:

 

 

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After that there’s a road with a (presumably bidirectional) cycle track. At 2.5 metres wide this track is totally inadequate – either it should be widened to 4 metres, or it should be made unidirectional with another 2.5-metre cycle track for the other direction on the other side of the street. Or both. Or maybe this shouldn’t be a road at all, but another pedestrian-and-cycle-only zone. Remember, this is a brand new development – there can be no excuses about there being “not enough space” here. It can all be laid out however the council chooses.

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This is just nitpicking compared to what comes next.

The existing cycle tracks on Waterloo Street, Elderslie/Berkeley Streets, and London Road have priority over side roads, as will the planned cycle track through Tradeston. Whatever the other faults of these schemes, I did at least believe that the need for cycle tracks to have priority had finally been understood. It’s depressing, then, to see that cyclists on the Spine will apparently have to give way to drivers six times. This makes the route useless for utility cycling. The Spine should be what its name implies: THE main route through Sighthill. People cycling along it should have priority over every other route – both roads and paths – that crosses it.

The council have not forgotten to give pedestrians a good kick. The junction of the road leading into Sighthill with the Springburn Expressway is to be “upgraded”, with existing two-stage pedestrian crossings converted to three- and four-stage crossings – presumably to accommodate all the extra car journeys this car-centric development is going to generate.

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The smoking gun can be found in the Traffic and Transport Section of the Environmental Statement. Therein is the prediction that the completed development will generate just 22 cycling trips in the morning peak – slightly over 1% of the total. Let’s put that another way: the cycling measures are known, expected, planned to fail.

The new Sighthill is just the latest in a long line of transport catastrophes in this city. There is not going to be mass cycling in Glasgow –  the current regime at the City Chambers is incapable of delivering the necessary conditions. We are as far from a civilised urban existence as we have ever been.

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