Letter to Glasgow City Council about cycle-paths

Dear Sir/Madam,

On monday morning, the 6th of June, while cycling along the cycle-path along the clyde, from Victoria Bridge to the George IV Bridge, I noticed a significant amount of glass near the Victoria Bridge end – no doubt from weekend drinking. The shards were large, and I warned cyclists coming in the opposite direction. Unfortunately, I did not report it to the council myself – I naively presumed someone else would have and/or that the council would clean the cycle path daily. This morning, Tuesday the 6th, the glass at that location had been mashed into finer pieces and spread everywhere (no doubt in part by unfortunate cyclists). My rear tyre was punctured by this glass, and I know at least 2 other cyclists received punctures. This is the 2nd time I’ve had a puncture on that stretch of cycle-path, in only a few months of cycling it (2/3 of all my punctures).

I would ask that you clean this cycle path today. Generally, I would ask you to clean it and all others preferably daily, or failing that on at least the same schedule as the main roads, or failing that to at least on Monday mornings clear the path of the debris from weekend drinkers. Additionally, I intend to recover from you the costs of a new inner tube (£5), tyre (£29) and the labour to have them fitted.

Another maintenance issue is that one of the poles at the entrance of the side-street alongside the Broomielaw, by the Gala Riverboat car-park, has a piece of metal sticking out at the top of it which is likely one of these days to catch and injure a cyclist trying to enter that side-street.

Also, I have some general comments to make about cycle paths in Glasgow City on their design and maintenance.

* It can be very hard to distinguish which paths are dual-use and which are not, due to poor signage and/or very poor cycle-path design.

E.g. the toucan crossing at George IV bridge going west to the Gala Riverboat appears to lead cyclists onto a foot-path – at least it has a raised kerb to the entrance to the car-park which seems to clearly suggest that path is not intended for cycling. However, if it is not meant to be a cycle-path, then the toucan crossing to that path is encouraging cyclists to proceed down it and so commit an offence. On the other hand, if it is still a cycle-path, then why are there raised kerbs along it? Clear signage here, either way, would be useful. Removing the kerbs and making this cycle path continuous would be an idea, if it is a cycle-path. If the kerbs are intended to make cyclists give way to the car-path traffic, I would suggest reversing things and raising the cycle-path so it is level and giving cars a gradient to traverse and give way to a clearly marked cycle/footpath (there are few cars using this car-park in the morning).

If a cycle path is not easy to distinguish, then some cyclists will stick to the general road – to ensure they do not commit the offence of cycling on the pavement. If a cycle path is inconvenient, they will similarly stick to the road.

* Cycle paths away from the road need to be cleaned frequently.

E.g. the path along the Clyde mentioned above is regularly filled with broken glass from beer and Buckfast bottles. It’s particularly bad underneath the foot-bridge over the clyde – drinkers presumably congregate under there for shelter.  It needs frequent cleaning in order to be useful as a cycle-path. If the means do not exist for the council to do this, then the council should installs signs directing cyclists along Clyde St road instead and create a cycle lane on Clyde St road. It should be noted this same cycle-path (National Cycle Route 75) is also terribly glass-filled along many sections further up-river, such as around Dalmarnock and Carmyle. Parts of the cycle lane on Alderman St are quite debris filled, particularly in those parts where there are dividers between the general road and the cycle lane.

If cycle-paths are full of glass, but the roads are not (cars have a cleaning effect & roads seem to be cleaned more regularly), then clearly cyclists will be encouraged to favour roads over cycle-paths.

* Cycle lanes need to have their surface maintained equally as well as the general road surface.

There are many places in Glasgow where the condition of the surface of on-road cycle lanes is terribly poor. Incredibly, in some cases the general road has clearly had some resurfacing work done to it while the cycle lane has NOT – as the road surface is quite different between them (e.g. parts of Kelso St).

Poor cycle lane surfaces cause cyclists to have to cycle out on the general road surface for their comfort, to make progress and for their safety.

* Cycle lanes should be designed to be convenient, without arbitrary sharp turns or deliberately rough surfaces.

Taking just the NCR 75 in the city as an example, there are several places where the cyclist must make sharp turns. E.g. to rejoin it just after Victoria Bridge, the cyclist must make a sharp turn and go over cobble – the gate that would allow the cyclist to avoid the cobbles is always closed. Next, at the relatively modern underpass for the Glasgow Bridge at Bridge St, there is a very sharp turn at each end and a ridiculous requirement for cyclists to dismount. This section could easily have been designed with a progressive bend on and off the underpass, and the underpass could have been made wider. Further along, where it goes under the M8, there are again sharp turns.

Having to scrub hard-gained momentum because of poorly designed facilities is incredibly frustrating for cyclists. The roads alongside NCR75 seem to manage to stay fairly straight along the same course, increasing the attractiveness of the road to some cyclists.

In summary: Capital expenditure on cycling infrastructure can be wasted, if that infrastructure is not maintained at least as well as the roads, discouraging cyclists from using them. Such capital expenditure is further wasted if its very design incorporates inconveniences to the cyclist (be it deliberately, in order to artificially force cyclists to give way to cars, or unintentionally because the designer simply is not a cyclist). Such issues may cause cyclists to ignore the infrastructure and use the general road instead – risking the wrath of the occasional motor-vehicle driver who considers the road to be solely theirs.

I would ask you to continue to invest further in cycling infrastructure, to encourage Glaswegians to take more to their bikes. The benefits of cycling to public health & traffic congestion would make such investment cheap in the long-run.

5 Comments »

  1. Paul Jakma said

    Actually, the more I look at the road surfaces now, the more I see that it seems to be standard practice in Glasgow to only re-surface the main car lanes, and not the entire width of the road, and so NOT resurface cycle lanes. Cycles lanes as a consequence tend to have a rougher surface, which is slower for cyclists, and tend to have a lot more bumps and potholes.

  2. Paul Jakma said

    Have a reply from GCC:

    Dear Mr Jakma,

    I refer to your email dated 07 June 2011 and apologise for the delay in
    replying.

    Thank you for pointing out the difficulties that you have experienced using the cycle route network, in particular, maintenance along National Cycle Route 75.

    At the Broomielaw, National Cycle Route 75 is located on the north side of the Casino, using a shared use pedestrian/ cycle track. Drivers exiting the Clydeport car park have poor sightlines, hence the kerbs nearest the wall on the cycle track have not been dropped, thus encouraging cyclists to stay away from this area, where they are harder to see.

    The Council is aware of the problems along the riverside cycle track at Clyde Street and has cleared much of the vegetation to improve visibility. Whilst this has helped, the high walls next to the suspension bridge, still hid some of the anti-social behaviour, so proposals to upgrade this area are being advanced.

    Should you encounter any road defects whilst using cycle lanes in Glasgow, please report these to the Council’s Roads and Lighting Faults (RALF) facility, so that a repair can be arranged. RALF can be contacted by telephoning 0800 37 36 35 or on the internet:
    http://www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Residents/GettingAround/RALF/.

    Where possible, sharp bends in cycle routes are avoided. The walkway under Glasgow Bridge was installed prior to it being designated as a cycle route. The signing advising cyclists to dismount is due to the head-height restriction and this also restricts the width of the path at this location. Further along, consideration is being given to replacing the gate with bollards, hopefully making the turn easier for cyclists.

    Thank you for your support regarding the need to continue to fund
    sustainable transport facilities.

  3. […] I sent a letter to GCC with some complaints about NCR75. To their credit, they appear to have acted on at least some of that letter  (they seem to clean […]

  4. […] I sent a letter to GCC with some complaints about NCR75. To their credit, they appear to have acted on at least some of that letter  (they seem to clean […]

  5. […] City Council have acted on my previous complaint to them, on the part about a bollard with a strange bit of jagged, rusty metal on top at the access to the […]

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