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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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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