Glas­gow needs to get cy­cle routes just right

Evening Times - - NEWS -

ANY cy­clist worth their salt knows of the utopia of Copen­hagen, city of the wide bike lanes, be­low av­er­age car own­er­ship and re­spect for cy­cling.

It’s quite some­thing to see first hand though.

On a day out in the Dan­ish cap­i­tal (from Malmö in Swe­den, not from Glas­gow) all the cliches were there be­fore my eyes: small chil­dren cy­cling along be­side their par­ents, par­ents push­ing even smaller chil­dren in spe­cially de­signed bas­kets, friends chat­ting away.

While cy­clists are per­fectly en­ti­tled to cy­cle two abreast, you rarely see it in the city here. The ob­jec­tive is to stay out of the way of the cars.

My ob­jec­tive while com­mut­ing to work or get­ting into the city cen­tre for leisure is to make my­self as un­ob­tru­sive as pos­si­ble so as not to at­tract the at­ten­tion of our more shouty, ag­gres­sive driv­ers.

I do al­ways make a point of say­ing hello to fel­low cy­clists. Some­times this goes well – a cheery hello back.

Other times a sus­pi­cious stare. The most high risk is say­ing hello at the lights. Ei­ther you make a new, brief friend­ship... or you then catch up to one an­other at the next set of lights and are forced then to make small talk, the “Hello” op­tion al­ready hav­ing been used up. If you keep meet­ing up at se­quen­tial sets of lights it can make for a long and awk­ward com­mute.

By con­trast, cy­cling in Copen­hagen seemed a so­cia­ble pur­suit, rather than a solo pur­suit. And a safer pur­suit.

Go Bike – the Strath­clyde Cy­cle Cam­paign – held its AGM last week and dis­cussed the South City Way, hailed as an ex­em­plary cy­cle route model for Glas­gow.

It runs from the gates of Queen’s Park, down Vic­to­ria Road, through Eglin­ton Toll and will, when fin­ished, carry on down to Stock­well Street.

Al­ready the changes have worked to slow traf­fic on what is one of the South Side’s ma­jor thor­ough­fares and when it is fin­ished, the South City Way will be a real boon both to the ef­fec­tive­ness of trans­port links in the area and to the aes­thet­ics of the street, which has seen its downs and is now, hope­fully, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a real up.

It’s a bold, am­bi­tious de­sign and it has the ideal of prop­erly seg­re­gated cy­cle paths, not just painted cy­cle paths.

There’s a but com­ing I’m afraid. At points along the route changes have been made to the orig­i­nal pro­posed de­signs and these have the po­ten­tial to cause ac­ci­dents.

Some of the side junc­tions are flared, which makes it eas­ier for cars to take cor­ners too quickly and, in my ex­pe­ri­ence, they both turn the cor­ners – such as at Tur­rif and Devon streets – too fast and with­out look­ing for cy­clists.

At But­ter­big­gins Road the junc­tion was ini­tially pro­tected, as pointed out by Go Bike, with a ta­ble but this fea­ture has been re­moved.

A re­sponse to queries about this says: “Un­like most of the re­main­ing pri­or­ity junc­tions where ta­bles are be­ing in­stalled, But­ter­big­gins Road is prone to use by higher lev­els of heavy ve­hi­cles such as buses, which are on route back to the Cath­cart Road de­pot.” So, pri­or­ity has been given to buses over cy­clists – the op­po­site of what should be hap­pen­ing.

An­other is­sue is the fact car park­ing spa­ces have been cre­ated next to the cy­cle lane. I ex­pe­ri­enced the down­side of this the other week when a pas­sen­ger in a van threw open the door right into my path.

It was an emer­gency stop for me and jelly legs for the rest of the com­mute. It might be too con­tro­ver­sial to sug­gest get­ting rid of park­ing spa­ces along the South City Way route but some kind of safe solution to this will have to be found.

There also still needs to be better sig­nage and better in­for­ma­tion for pedes­tri­ans. Much of the cy­cle lane looks just like the pave­ment so pedes­tri­ans still step out from be­hind float­ing bus stops with­out look­ing (and yes, they have right of way and yes, cy­clists need to slow down near bus stops, but it helps if ev­ery­one is look­ing) and peo­ple still wan­der about in the cy­cle lane.

There’s also an an­tipa­thy among some lo­cal res­i­dents who see the South City Way as hav­ing prob­lem­at­i­cally slowed down traf­fic, rather than re­al­is­ing that traf­fic calm­ing is a ma­jor point of the de­sign.

In Copen­hagen Queen Louise’s Bridge – one of the busiest cy­cle routes in the world – copes with 48,400 bikes cross­ing each day. We can’t even imag­ine such num­bers.

While be­ing more like Den­mark is a goal, not turn­ing into Steve­nage should also be a city aim. The post-war New Town was hailed in the 1960s as a glow­ing ex­am­ple of cy­cle in­fra­struc­ture that would get ev­ery­one cy­cling.

It has a 23-mile cy­cle net­work of largely Dutch-style seg­re­gated routes... and they are al­most un­used by res­i­dents.

Glas­gow City Coun­cil does seem deter­mined to get our cy­cle routes just right.

Let’s hope so – it will make the city better for ev­ery­one.

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