Glasgow needs to get cycle routes just right
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.