Quick win 1: Protection from parked cars in Balvicar St

The cycle lane linking Balvicar St to Pollokshaws Rd needs protection from parked cars. I’ve asked the Southside Central councillors to investigate.

To deal with its chronic congestion, health and air quality problems Glasgow council (and SPT) need to get a grip on active transport and actually do something. Something big, bold and comprehensive. And, initially, expensive (although the return-on-investment for cycling infrastructure is stratospheric, so you’d be coining it in after a few years).

For the city centre, that bold action is implementing the City Centre Transport Strategy I wrote about here. Closing roads to cars, creating large pedestrian spaces, launching a network of linked segregated cycle routes. It’s going to require some political backbone to start digging up tarmac (even though the strategy has already been approved), so I expect most cycle campaigning heat will be pointed in that direction over the next few years.

However, the focus on big change within the hub doesn’t mean the spokes can sit back, hiding behind a lack of funds. There’s a bunch of stuff that could be done right now with small change, but with disproportionately large effects. Quick wins, in business-speak.

I’m going to try and find that stuff and raise it with the relevant councillors. The council assures us they want more people to walk and cycle, so I can’t see there being any problems, eh?

First up; the councillors of Southside Central. The Quick Win? Parking protection for the cut-through between Balvicar Street and Pollokshaws Road.

A map of the area surrounding Balvicar St
North is up. Queen’s Park is the big green thing. The cut-through in question is lovingly circled.

What’s the problem?

There’s a cycle lane that joins Balvicar Street to the southbound bus lane on Pollokshaws Road (technically you could also turn northbound, but you’re unlikely to find a gap in the four lanes of traffic). It’s about five metres long and marked with green tarmac, cycle lane signs and dropped curbs where it joins the roads.

Car blocking the cycle lane
Sometimes people pick the most perfect number plates.

The problem is there’s no protection from parked cars on Balvicar Street, so the entry to the lane is permanently blocked. Parked vehicles normally run down both sides of the street as well, so you can’t easily bump up an adjacent curb either.

If you’re on a non-normal bike (like my recumbent, one of the few box-bikes around here carrying kids, or delivering Locavore’s veg bags via bike trailer), this dodgy parking completely seals off the route.

What needs to be done?

A car’s width of double-yellows to protect the dropped curb would be the absolute minimum. To do a good job, you’d also add a pair of bollards to really drive the point home and extend the cyclelane paint.

The single central bollard also needs to go—it’s dodgy enough cycling in Glasgow without bonus unlit obstructions at wheel height.

If you don’t go for the “good job” that physically blocks illegal parking, you’ll need a warden to swing by a few times to drive the point home. The revenue raised would probably pay for the trips.

That’s it.

Two options for dealing with the problem, and the current layout.

Why is this a big deal?

This cut-through would be ideal for drawing people east of Queen’s Park in to Shawlands, tying in nicely with the Shawlands Town Centre action plan (see here for more on that).

At first glance this seems unlikely; Balvicar Street doesn’t feel like a major connecting link in the network. However, there a number of factors that combine to funnel those on bikes towards this blocked artery:

  • Queen’s park immediately to the south is pleasant, but not a sensible route for a lone rider in darkness. During the day it’s busy with pedestrians and dogs, neither of which are good for making progress on two wheels. The 5mph speed limit makes it impractical as a thoroughfare.
  • From the middle of the park all the way south to White Cart Water you’ve got a decent climb up to Battlefield monument. Unless you take a long loop round Tantallon Road you’ll also have to deal with the monument roundabout—a double lane job that cars spin round and cyclists approach low on speed from the ascent.
  • If you chose to join north of Balvicar Street your two options are Queen’s Drive and Calder Street; both four-lane, one-way roads full of vehicles pushing between lanes. Once you get on to Pollokshaws Road and turn south you’ve got no protection at all (not even a bus lane).

If people could reliably access the cut-through, most west-bound cyclists from Mount Florida, Crosshill, Queens Park, and Govanhill would probably route through it.

Map of the local hazards.
Hostile roads to the north and the park and a big hill to the south funnel cyclists towards Balvicar St. Pollokshaws Road is unpleasant along its entire length, but I’ve only marked the bit without a bus lane as ‘very hostile’.

Looking ahead to the coordinated plan for cycle infrastructure in Glasgow, this would be a sensible link between two arteries into the city centre; Pollokshaws and Victoria Roads. The former in particular is crying out for a segregated dual-way cycle lane on the eastern side (the subject of a future post…), so this would tie in nicely with that.

Who’s been told?

I mentioned this in September (via a CityCyclingGlasgow retweet) to the two Southside Central councillors who use Twitter. Mhairi said she’d raise it with Land & Environmental Services, and I’ve heard nothing since.

LES aren’t reknowned for their speedy reactions, so I’m not in any way suggesting Mhairi didn’t do as she said. However, good intentions mean nothing when the route is still blocked.

So, clean slate; I’ve emailed all four councillors this evening: Jahangir Hanif, Mhairi Hunter, James Scanlon, and Soryia Siddique.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Dear Jahangir, Mhairi, James and Soryia

Could you encourage Land & Environmental Services to complete the cycle lane connecting Pollokshaws Road and Balvicar St?

What would be a useful route connecting people east and west of Queen’s Park is permanently blocked by parked cars in Balvicar St. All that is needed to finish the job is two metres of double-yellows to protect the dropped kerb. Ideally the central bollard would also be removed, and two additional bollards added to physically block parking in the space.

I’ve written more about this here, along with a photo of the problem and the reason why this connection is more important than it at first seems. I’d be happy to drop by your surgeries to provide further information if that would be helpful.

Thanks for your help


PS: If you’ve got suggestions for other quick wins, let me know in the comments (or by Twitter or email)


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Totally behind you on this – I use this route frequently when heading to Shawlands and it’s exceptionally frustrating to have to contend with the parked car (note that there’s not huge pressure for parking on that street – you will often find empty bays a little further up!)

Playing devil’s advocate for a moment, there is an alternative route which is slightly more palatable than Queens Drive and Calder Street – namely the contra-flow on Torrisdale Street. I wrote about this bit of infra on my blog. Although it’s mainly aimed at people going between Queens Park and Pollokshields via Nithsdale Road, it does potentially provide safe(r), convenient access to Pollokshaws Road (if you consider immediately arriving at a Toucan as safe and convenient).

I’d skipped Torrisdale street because if you’re heading south it brings you out above the (very slight) protection of the bus lane. I know every cyclist in Glasgow is well used to having no infrastructure at all, but still…

Might get the video camera out for a pootle around those streets.

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