Promising Glasgow cycling strategy crippled by refusal to accept past failings

I’m going to keep this under 1000 words so we don’t all fall asleep. Expect lots of pictures. I’m also going to try and focus on the positives—for an (equally valid) negative view see Car Sick Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council released a draft cycling strategy which is open for feedback until 04 September 2015. From the cover page:

Our vision for Glasgow is to create a vibrant Cycling City where cycling is accessible, safe and attractive to all.
Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2015 – 2025

You can view a copy here, and provide feedback here. Please do! There are some suggestions at the end of this article.

I’m Glasgow city, and I have a problem with cyclists

I said I’d be positive, but there’s a stonkingly big elephant in this room I have to deal with first:

Glasgow City Council wrongly believes cyclists are getting a good deal in Glasgow, and this hugely damages the credibility of this paper.

Let me back that up. GCC claims the Glasgow cycle network is 305km long. Here’s a map:

Styalised map of the network

Those in the south side will find this map odd, as there is nothing cycle-friendly connecting the city centre to Queens Park. The answer is buried in the text:

The Glasgow cycle network … includes the National Cycle Network and other strategic routes, commuter routes, signed routes in parks and open spaces, signed ‘quiet ways’ and local routes, etc.
Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2015 – 2025, pg 16

Ingeniously; if a route is used by lots of commuting cyclists, it becomes park of the 305km cycle network, even if it has no infrastructure. Including Pollokshaws Road:

Victoria Road southbound
Four lanes of traffic, not a sniff of anything for cyclists. Still part of the cycle network.

and the five lanes of King George V Bridge:

King George V Bridge
See that strip of paint on the left of lane 1? You need to be in lanes 3,4 or 5 to go straight on into the City Centre. Good luck doing that whilst climbing the incline. But it’s ok. You’re on the network.

Both of those were shown on the map above as cycle routes and on my way home. There are many other good examples of four and five lane gyratories with no provision at all for cyclists being counted as part of the 305km total.

Talking of which…

"Glasgow cycle network increased by over 160% since 2006"

GlasgowCycleMan has done an excellent job picking apart the stats and discovered a document from 2013 that breaks down the total. Not only have GCC only added 4km of route in the last two years, only 3.3km of that total is pukka segregated “gold-standard” cycle route. 80km are shared use footpaths; every single footpath within a park adds another 70km, 85km are our bus lanes, and the rest is either on-road paint, a “quiet street”, or a normal road that happens to have a lot of bikes on it.

Also very dodgy is this claim:

Research from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health shows that cycling levels in Glasgow grew by 69% between 2001 and 2011, well above the national average of 11%. Glasgow was the top performing Council in Scotland for growth in cycling to work or study during 2001 to 2011.
Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2015 – 2025, pg 8

Normally councils use the Scottish Household Survey to determine modal share of transport, but across Scotland the cycling level grew from 0.7% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2011. That’s an 86% increase (increases in tiny percentages always sound impressive), but if GCC are only claiming a national 11% increase they must be using some other data set. They don’t share their working…

GCC need to realise that the people campaigning for better cycling conditions in Glasgow are out there on the streets every day. If you lie about your achievements, we’re going to call bullshit. Loudly.

Anyway, I’ve only got 400 words left, and there is some good stuff I want to call out too.

The Caps target is acknowledged

At a national level, the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland has a target of achieving 10% of all journeys to be made by bike by 2020. Glasgow has a part to play in achieving this target.

One might even say that Glasgow’s part to play is ensuring 10% of all journeys in Glasgow by 2020 are by bike… We are an urban area after all.

Measurable(ish) targets are set

And they are (with my comments):

  1. Continue to spend above the Scottish national average per head of population on cycling. (A figure in GBP would be good, but we can still measure against this)
  2. Increase in cycling to/from the city centre from 7,636 per day (2012-2014 average) to 15,000 per day by 2025. (will miss Caps target of 10% by 2020)
  3.  Increase in number of children cycling to primary school from 3.5% to 7% by 2025. (will miss Caps target of 10% by 2020)
  4. Increase Bikeability participation to 100% of primary schools by 2025.
  5. Increase the overall length of the Glasgow cycle network from 310km in 2015 to 400km in 2025. (Needs commitment to quality, not just length)
  6. 100% of city schools to have cycle parking by 2025. (How much of it? Caps again would suggest enough parking for 10% of pupils by 2020)
  7. Increase the number of riders in national cycle sport programmes from 6 (2014/15) to 10 (2015/16).
  8. Increase the number of clubs with junior sections from 19 (2014/15) to 22 (2015/16).
  9. Increase the number of volunteers working with clubs from 57 (2014/15) to 70 (2015/16).
  10. Increase the number of riders attending events from 4535 (2014/15) to 4800 (2015/16).

Commitment to high quality corridors on key routes

We will work towards creating a network of high quality cycle corridors on key routes to the city centre from the north, south, east and west.

City Ways will include off-road paths, segregated cycle tracks, buffer zones to protect cyclists if the removal of parking is not possible, and early starts for cyclists at signalised junctions.

These need to be good enough to handle high volume (cycle) traffic. 10% of all trips by bike, remember…

This is of little use without the detail of where the routes will be, but the idea is valid.
This is of little use without the detail of where the routes will be, but the idea is valid.

Lots of other commitments

There’s a whole page of them, but plucking out the best:

– We will improve our cycle network to ensure that it is accessible to all cyclists.
– We will continue to implement 20mph zones.
– We will continue to increase and improve cycle parking.
– We will consider the needs of cyclists when junctions are being improved.

Slightly less good is the reference to the outdated Cycling by Design as a “minimum standard”, but until the Scottish Government adopt a new standard nationally there’s no chance of any council being proactive.

In conclusion, here’s what feedback I’ll be giving.

  •  The strategy is generally solid and will complement the City Centre Transport strategy (which I talked about here). However, action is needed to back up the good intent. That Transport strategy promised a blanket 20mph across the city, and we’ve seen nothing more about that…
  • GCC need to acknowledge that advertising 30mph five line gyratories with no cycle infrastructure as a cycle route will get someone killed. Glasgow does not have a 305km cycle network.
  • The targets are OK, although need to be realigned to support the 10% by 2020 target GCC has been set. However, if it looks like the numbers are being fiddled (as they have been in this strategy paper), expect some blunt Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • The commitments are OK, although Cycling by Design is widely discredited as a standard.
  • The suggested governance arrangements are weak, and suggest that Land & Environmental Services (particularly the roads section of that department) are not involved in this. Has the head of LES (Brian Devlin) accepted the commitments on behalf of his department?

Please provide your own feedback! Let GCC know this is important to you.

Here’s the survey link again.

OK, that’s nearer 1250 words, but I included a few jokes, so hopefully you don’t feel too hard done by.

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