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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Utter crap in Yorkhill

Today’s hatchet job shall concern the shambolic cycling infrastructure on Old Dumbarton Road and Bunhouse Road. It’s a car-centric classic of the genre:

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Note the strip of black reserved for pedestrians to move around this bin without coming into conflict with cyclists. It’s a Pedestrian Bin Bypass – innovative!

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As well as being a car-centric city, Glasgow is also a squalid city. A bit of effort was made to clean the place up for the Commonwealth Games, but a return to form is evident now that the circus has left town:

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It’s not fair to call this infrastructure completely useless, of course. The motorists certainly seem to be getting good use out of it. Here are two examples of Mutual Respect between pedestrians and drivers on the shared path:

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The Nice Way Code has really delivered, has it not?

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Two more pedestrians struck by drivers

One on Monday:

She was struck by a red Vauxhall Corsa in Helenvale Street near to Tollcross Road

Another on Tuesday:

The pedestrian – who has not been named – was struck as they walked on Kilmarnock Road, in Shawlands at around 7pm yesterday.

Now, Helenvale Street is a perfect example of a street that should be closed to all through motor traffic. It is a residential street. A shared path leading down to the path along the Clyde starts at the London Road end. It is paralleled by Springfield Road, mere moments away. A few strategically-placed bollards to keep rat-running drivers out would open up a world of possibilities – a subjectively safe cycle route between the Athlete’s Village and Parkhead town centre, for one. In Copenhagen they put trees, picnic tables, and children’s play equipment out in the middle of streets like this, but that’s foreigners for you. In Glasgow the car must come first, even though most people here don’t have one.

Kilmarnock Road, meanwhile, is a car-sick A-road with all the usual dangers and quack remedies. There are lengths of guardrail to prevent pedestrians from crossing the street where they need to. Instead of essential cycle tracks, half the road is wasted on lines of parked cars, through which kamikaze pedestrians emerge “out of nowhere” into the path of blameless law-abiding motorists roaring through a built-up area at 50mph . There are cycle Advanced Stop Lines, which supposedly benefit pedestrians by keeping drivers further away from crossings. There are also 1-metre cycle lanes in the door zone.

Carnage was and remains inevitable on these streets, because they’re badly designed and there’s no meaningful restrain on road danger – but don’t expect that lesson to be learned any time soon.

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“High-quality infrastructure” in the alternate universe of Sustrans

I meant to publish this post weeks ago, during the Games, when it would have been most relevant, but other things got in the way. Oh well.

Sustrans Scotland’s John Lauder is miffed.

We fully understand the need to make sure the Games are safe and secure for everyone. But we don’t understand why on the one hand people are being encouraged to cycle and walk to events, but are being discouraged from doing so with routes that are complex, fiddly and avoid high-quality infrastructure, such as the NCN

He’s talking about the closure of several National Cycle Network routes in Glasgow which occurred before, during, and after the Commonwealth Games in the name of “security”. He’s quite right to object to the closures – it’s a scandal in this would-be cycling city, European Green Capital, city of active living, etc. – but the notion that the NCN is “high-quality” is delusional. I think John needs to get out more so he can see the state of the infrastructure his organisation puts its name to.

Let’s take a look at the NCN75 today, and see what John reckons “high-quality infrastructure” for cycling looks like. This route is not only complex and fiddly, but slow, subjectively and objectively dangerous, and severely deficient in every way. In addition, far from the Games closures being a one-off, these facilities are actually obstructed quite routinely.

This is the section between the Riverside Museum and the SECC, where there’s no lighting and no natural surveillance. Desolate. Enclosed. Terrifying.

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Crap shared pavement with one of Glasgow City Council’s giant propaganda boards obnoxiously plonked right in the middle of it:

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Just beyond this is the degraded crossing point created in connection with Fastlink that I wrote about the other week. It’s reasonably plain sailing from there to the Tradeston bridge – apart from the bit in front of the flats at Lancefield Quay, which is too narrow and well over capacity – but after that you’ve got 2 options, both astonishingly poor in their own ways.

The first option is to continue cycling beside the river, where you’ll find the effective width of the path massively reduced by these big black things. I don’t know exactly what these are – they’re for tying boats to or something, right? Well, newsflash: Glasgow isn’t the world’s major centre of heavy industry any more. There are no ships this far up the Clyde these days. Rip ‘em up.

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If you enjoy blind corners, sharp on-the-spot turns, overgrown vegetation, and being crowded into ludicrously narrow spaces, you can then take this ramp up to street level:

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The second option is to leave the riverside path and ride along the shared-use pavement that runs along parallel Broomielaw. It is far too narrow and there are not even any dropped kerbs where it gives way to a bingo hall car park. Careful, now!

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Both of these options lead you to a toucan crossing of King George V Bridge and underneath Central Station bridge with more shared-use:

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On, to an under-bridge of Glasgow Bridge, which is too dark and not wide enough:

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Note the “courtesy signs”, urging pedestrians and cyclists to “be considerate” to one another, installed as a feeble substitute for effective infrastructure:

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If you want to leave NCN75 and head towards St Enoch, you can do so with this innovative “one-at-a-time” ramp:

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If you carry on along NCN75 you’ll come to the shared path on Clyde Street, which was obstructed for weeks on end by contractors working on a railway bridge. The conflict this caused is immortalised in the latest Google Street View images. The council could have created a temporary cycle track here, by placing concrete barriers in the road, but chose not to – preferring to prioritise the motorist and leave pedestrians and cyclists fighting over the remaining scrap of path instead. I don’t recall a peep of dissent from Sustrans then.

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Conclusion: Sustrans and their “high-quality infrastructure” are impediments to a civilised Glasgow.

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“Road safety” vultures circle city schools

“Kids to get awards for road safety”

Glasgow Lord Provost Sadie Docherty launched the scheme and awards which will be presented to city schools which deliver road safety education and training

Mrs Docherty said: “Teaching road safety skills to our pupils is vital to ensure children learn pedestrian skills from an early age to prepare them for independent travel later on in their school life.

Trying to train children to adjust their behaviour to the threat posed by drivers is the most ineffective and immoral of all “road safety” tactics. Head teachers who want to participate in this hokum are urged to sign up at www.gosafeglasgow.com. I’ve had a look at the site and, predictably, there’s barely a word about pedestrian issues. That’s no surprise – most local authorities are completely indifferent to pedestrians, who are among the most oppressed groups in British society.

There is quite a lot about cycling. Here again, trying to make children behave by the rules of a car-centric city is the main thrust, with Bikeability training featuring prominently – though so feeble is the council’s commitment even to this futile measure that Level 3, the most advanced level, is not offered.

Cycle training is a waste of time. Pretty much anybody can cycle – it’s not exactly difficult. All you need to know is the meaning of basic road signs and laws, how to look about, and how to stick your left and right arms out to signal your intentions, which you can pick up with common sense and a flick through the Highway Code. You could train a monkey to do it. If there’s a perception that more knowledge than this is necessary, that’s how you know that you live in a cycle-unfriendly city with crap cycling infrastructure and a high level of road danger. Like Glasgow.

“Go Safe Glasgow” is crammed full of pictures of children dressed in “safety” gear, which implicitly absolves dangerous drivers of their responsibility to LOOK and places the blame on kids instead. Just take a look. It’s revolting. And if you think this will stop with cyclists, you’re wrong – I now see groups of primary school kids, presumably on school trips, dressed up in high-vis jackets while walking on a very frequent basis. It’s a step backwards for civilisation, a surrender to traffic violence.

Go Safe Glasgow peddles free cycle helmets “to pupils who do not have one” – though there’s nothing about motorist helmets. This assumes that cycle helmets are a good thing, but it may well be that parents who don’t buy their kids cycle helmets have made an informed choice not to – and good on them.

There’s another page with some wisdom on cycling “accidents” from the police:

The vast majority of cycling accidents occur in the city centre and main routes to and from the south and west of the city

The main profile of the injured cyclist is a male in his thirties commuting to and from work during peak times

That’s because south and west Glasgow are the places where cycling is most popular. That there are fewer cycling casualties in the north and east of the city doesn’t prove that these places are safe – on the contrary, it shows that they are more dangerous. Cycling is virtually extinct in much of north and east Glasgow because the conditions are extremely poor. As for the profile of the typical injured cyclist, it’s a similar story – males in their thirties are more likely to be injured because they’re the type of people who cycle. Children do not cycle in Glasgow, and nor do many other kinds of people, because the prospect of injury is terrifyingly obvious. You can’t be injured while cycling if you don’t cycle.

We do learn that

The accidents mostly involve cars with the highest causation being drivers failing to look properly at a junction.

So the police reckon drivers are the biggest cause of “accidents”, but we have all this crap about educating children? What’s that about? Glasgow City Council is clueless about road danger and how to reduce it.

If you want to know more about the “road safety” deception, you could do worse than read this book:

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This is my copy, but it’s been made available for free online. It’s over 20 years old but it could have been written yesterday. Highly recommended.

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Why cycling in Glasgow is going nowhere, reason #629

On the face of it, this sounds quite progressive:

NEW rules mean drivers will be fined for parking in cycle lanes [on a section of the Colleges Cycle Route]

At present there are problems with van drivers and motorists parking on marked cycle lanes forcing cyclists to veer out into traffic.

In a bid to solve the problem, the city council has drawn up a traffic order which means it can fine anyone who parks in cycle lanes.

It also plans to improve safety by widening the lanes from 1m to 1.5m and by introducing new bike lanes in Jordanhill.

In Clarence Drive, parking spaces will be removed to allow cycle lanes to be created and along the cycle route there will be restrictions banning waiting and loading.

Of course, it’s only news because Glasgow is the most backward city in Europe. There should be a universal ban on parking in all cycle lanes. I see no reason why this could or should not be enforced by automatic cameras, as bus lane infringements are. As things stand this is a cosmetic exercise – parking restrictions in Glasgow are barely enforced, so the cycle lanes will continue to be parked in as now.

As for the cycle lanes themselves – there’s no hint of segregation, which is a reflection of the council’s refusal to spend any real money on cycling and their total lack of understanding of the importance of subjective safety. The proposed width of 1.5 metres is completely inadequate – though it does comply with the guidelines found in “Cycling by Design”, a document crammed so full of useless, failed, outdated examples that it belongs in a museum. We’re also left wondering about the precise details of the design, which are so very important. I remember the last time the council “upgraded” a section of the Colleges Cycle Route – with typical Labour Party doublespeak we were promised that the cycle lanes on Highburgh Road would be cleared of obstruction by parked cars, and what we ended up with was the creation of formal car parking bays and 1-metre cycle lanes in the door zone. You have to be very wary of this nasty Labour council.

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