Commentary

Website by Andy Preece

This is an occasional commentary on cycling and unrelated issues - 'blog' if you must - and will be updated from time to time.


Posted 11 December 2013:
I had cause to visit the South Side of Glasgow last night. It so happened that the (fairly) new Tradeston Bridge was on my route so I decided to go that way rather than risk going via busier roads to use other bridges. However, the Stobcross Bridge (across the Clydeside Expressway) is presently shut so I needed to make a short detour via the new Connect2 centrepiece, the Anderston Bridge. I've been across both the Anderston and Tradeston Bridges a number of times now, but this was my first time approaching the Tradeston Bridge from the north (through the City Centre and Financial District) rather than approaching it already on the riverside.

So once across the Anderston Bridge I looked to turn right off of the Waterloo Street Connect2 cycle track to head down to the riverside. The first available turn is into Blythswood Street, and after waiting for about 5 car drivers running a red light on their way to the motorway, I turned onto Blythswood Street, to find that it still has a one-way section in the opposite direction to the rest of the street for one block, thus preventing its use as a through road. But Glasgow City Council has plans to provide a contraflow cycle lane on it, except the bridge opened in 2009 and the contraflow still hasn't been implemented.

So once across Argyle Street, I continued down towards the river on James Watt Street, which has been cobbled. At the end, I crossed over Broomielaw and had to stop to bump up a kerb and down another into the still unused Fastlink busway. From there I turned and headed towards a dropped kerb on the far side of the busway, but this was beyond the start of a planted area so had to slowly twist and turn to get around that. Four and a half years into the bridge's existance and it is still needlessly tricky to get to this bridge from the north by bike!

After crossing the bridge, I avoided a couple of flattened bollards lying across the path, and then joined West Street. When this bridge was first proposed (and I remember being told about it by a now retired council officer over 10 years ago) there was to be a cycle route along the length of the somewhat busy West Street, linking it with streets on the South Side including Victoria Road (where, due to various bus gates, traffic is lighter than on other nearby arterial roads). However, still no cycle route, and since the end of West Street is one-way, it meant detouring via part-cobbled Tradeston Street. Once back onto West Street, I nearly flew off a high kerb at the Scotland Street junction, since the dropped kerbs for bikes at the road closure no longer match up on each side of the closure, and in the dark I didn't notice this until the last moment!

So what of Glasgow's commitment to cycling? If this bridge cannot be linked by cycle routes on either the north or south sides into its theoretical hinterland, what is the point in building it? It is only linked with the riverside path and this path passes other bridges to either side. If Glasgow is to 'get' cycling, then it must do more that provide the occasional showpiece. A connected network of cycle routes is needed, and not token gestures to kid the people on that something is being done. Let's see if next year's bike hire scheme does any better than Nottingham's!


Posted 22 November 2013:
It's that time of the year again - when motorists whinge about how many cyclists they've seen without lights on! But they saw them, even the ones that were dressed all in black. And every other motorist present will chip in about ones they've seen too.

So why do motorists not seem to see me when I've got two front lights (one regular-sized flashing, one bright enough to see with on unlit paths), particularly at roundabouts? There's a couple of roundabouts that I frequent where I regularly prepare to stop if I think a motorist driving towards the roundabout has not seen me. And sometimes I do stop on the roundabout, in preference to putting myself in front of the on-coming vehicle just for the sake of claiming my priority for already being on the roundabout. One roundabout is a medium-sized roundabout between a dual carriageway and a side road, the other a small one between minor roads, and all of the roads are lit. Nothing like the horrendously hazardous Bow Roundabout in London. But then I was nearly killed on a mini-roundabout in Govan in broad daylight by a motorist not even thinking about stopping. Had I not stopped then, right in the middle of the mini-roundabout, I would have been hit by the car. Yet these motorists are so good at seeing cyclists without lights in the dark!

On my way home tonight I saw a car being driven along a road in the dark without rear lights, until the brake lights came on and the driver executed a three-point-turn, revealing two illuminated front lights (not the main ones, just bumper-level lights) and drove back in the other direction. Once I got onto the unlit path I use, I passed another cyclist who, like me, had two front lights.


Posted 10 November 2013:
A few months ago I was contacted by a couple of recent secondees to a council, asking for me to take them on a cycle tour of their new area to help familiarise themselves with the cycle routes there and to look at some of the issues on those cycle routes, with a view to getting them sorted out. This trip had to be done on a weekday, so I arranged a day off work, and we spent the morning cycling about, mostly on designated cycle routes, looking at what there was to be found. I had hoped that this exercise would lead to some of the more minor issues being sorted out within a few weeks. Bigger problems would take longer, but removing barriers that obstructed the path and replacing them with bollards or barriers that complied with design standards should be a relativelty simple item that could be dealt with quickly. Similarly, installing a dropped kerb at a path access should be a small item that could be programmed whenever the roads crew were next out doing similar work. Yet nothing has changed. I haven't seen a single item of work happen as a result of that trip.

We were talking about doing similar tours on a quarterly basis, covering different routes within the local authority's area each time, leading to a gradual improvement in the quality of the cycle routes across the area. After all, it is often the small attention-to-detail items that ruin a potentially quite adequate cycle route. Eliminating the problems one by one would slowly bring up the standard of the cycle route, benefiting all users, whether they be on bikes or not. A water leak running across the path here, a tripping hazard there, as each is fixed local people would benefit. However, they haven't been back in touch to ask for the next tour, nor to explain the lack of action from the first. Was this project too ambitious for the local authority bosses? Do they have any budget to spend? What is the reason they have been seconded to the council if they cannot achieve small-ticket items like this? I did have an idea for a second route we could explore, complete with a number of issues that need looked into, but if nothing has happened from the first tour, what is the point of doing subsequent tours? While I would like to see cycle provision in the area transformed, if removing a few barriers is asking too much, what chance of anything bigger?

Yet this local authority was one judged by Cycling Scotland (a quango) to "have greatly improved their approach to cycle use". Yeah, right!


Website by Andy Preece