GoBike co-convenor Iona has recently returned from a beautiful trip to sunny Seville – a city that has been crowned by some, as the fourth most bicycle friendly city in the world. And what she found was a cycle network, a not always perfect network, but a fully linked up, joined up and functional… network.
Two weeks ago at Pedal on Parliamentin Edinburgh, cycle campaigner extraordinaire Sally Hinchcliffe shouted from the grassy knoll in front of the parliament building with a challenge for us all. Find one thing she said, one thing that makes it harder to cycle, something that you’d like to change in your local streets. And fight for it. See if you can change that one thing. And if we can all do that, she said, we can all make a big difference together.
That’s what we at GoBike aspire to. We are a collective of hundreds of members who all want to do something to change things for the better. Here is one of our members Steph, on what brought her to trying to make a difference.
“I started cycling on roads for commuting when I was in my mid-to-late teens in Singapore – then a city of over 3 million people. I must have had the nerve and ignorance and blind faith of the very young and naive, because I don’t remember feeling especially nervous of the traffic whizzing around me, even though when I think about it now, I was sometimes in really busy traffic with NO cycling infrastructure whatsoever.
I then didn’t cycle again for around twenty-five years, believing it to be too dangerous to do so on UK roads, until I took up cycling to and from work in around 2012. I was on a low wage and super-motivated to make cycling for commuting work for me, even though it was often pretty scary. Since 2016 I have cycled to work as much as possible, and due to a running injury I now also see it as my sport.
More recently I have become involved in cycle campaigning for a number of reasons:
1) I am passionate about the global imperative to reduce carbon emissions
2) I am passionate about contributing in whatever small way I can to improving air quality globally
3) I love cycling as a physical activity, and because of the opportunities it offers to explore the natural world around me
I’d love to encourage more people to cycle so that they can also experience the thrill of it themselves. Previously, I’d simply complained inwardly about the inadequate cycling infrastructure around me, but had not actually done anything about it. I would say that coming across Sally Hinchcliffe’s blogwas definitely seminal in my decision to start “putting my money where my mouth is” and actually try to constructively influence cycling policy. So I started getting more involved in cycle campaigning. I joined GoBike and also got involved by marshalling at the Pedal on Parliament campaigns, at my first ever one in Glasgow last year, and again this year, in Edinburgh.
I really enjoyed feeling useful as a marshall at this year’s PoP. I was impressed, moved and especially inspired by the high numbers of young families there, because these will be the cyclists and (hopefully) cycle campaigners of the future. I was especially stirred by Sally Hinchcliffe’s closing speech and Lesley Riddoch eulogising about the joy of cycling. I loved the atmosphere on the day, and being a part of it with my role made that all the better.”
Thank you Steph – already you’ve made a difference. So what else can we do? One of the most effective ways that you can make a change is to engage with your local councillors. Go to visit them, email them, respond to consultations, let them know about the things you see in your area that you know should be better. You’d be amazed at how directly your councillors can effect your suggested changes.
Talk positively about cycling to the people around you – help people to see that cycling can be a normal mode of transport for everyone. If you’re outraged about something, write a letter to the press. Write a blog. Join in on the terrible comments threads on social media to educate the naysayers, but do remember that action is bigger than the bubble of social media. Write to your MSPs. Join your community council. Use your local bike shop.
And like Steph, get involved. If you haven’t already joined GoBike, please do so – the more members we have, the more powerful our voice will be. Join one of our events and have your head counted as a supporter of active travel. Drop us an emailto ask to join Slack – that’s where all the action happens. Help us out with our action and plans and consultations. Help us make all the small things we do, work together to make a really really big difference.
As the Strathclyde Cycle Campaign, GoBike has long been frustrated by substandard provision for active travel across our region. Despite campaigning for years against certain designs, we are continuing to see them used across road improvements and in newly funded projects
In the third of three blogs, our co-convenor Dave looks at non-segregated cycle lanes on the carriageway, and the dangers they create for people on bikes of all ages and abilities.
A large percentage of those who currently cycle will have read the top four words and will have cringed. Cycle lanes demarcated only by paint, different paving, or colour, are not particularly well loved among those who cycle regularly.
Are they unfairly maligned? Should we be thankful when the council paints some space for us on the road? Surely designating some space for cycling on the carriageway is better than not designating space at all?
Well no. Unfortunately not. And here are some of the many reasons why.
It has been shown that if you paint a lane on the road, and people on bikes use it, that drivers tend to drive past you more closely . I myself have previously written about ‘compartment effect’ and the ‘negotiation effect’ of painted cycle lanes .
The compartment effect is where a driver sees a person on a bike in their ‘box’ and so feels a unjustified sense of security because everyone is in the correct compartment. So long as the driver stays within his box, and the person on a bike remains within their box, surely everyone will be happy? Unfortunately those boxes are only separated by a couple of centimetres of paint, which as many of us will be acutely aware, isn’t in any way protective.
Once in the lane and you are in the ‘correct’ box, you need to negotiate to get back out of it, a negotiation which would not be required had the lane not been there at all. Many drivers would be confused that you might want to get out of the lane. Why would you want to ‘leave the safety of the painted lane’?!
That is all of course assuming that the cycle lane doesn’t have a car or six parked in it, meaning that the cycle lane is effectively a very narrow parking space and not a cycle lane at all!
Perhaps you are lucky today though and the lane ahead of you doesn’t have cars parked in it. Unfortunately it has cars parked right next to it. Often so close that if a door opened, which is what they are designed to do after all, it will fill up the whole cycle lane!
Even when there are no cars parked in it or cars parked right next to it, it is often poorly maintained. The problem is that the cycle lane, having decided to position itself at the very edge of the road, the very place where water is encouraged to flow towards the gutters, is usually full of mud, leaves, loose stones, broken glass, and as a result, punctured bike wheels.
It is the most neglected part of the carriageway because it is viewed by authorities as……not actually being part of the carriageway.
So if cycle lanes can cause problems, can they ever be the right option? Yes they can, but not on busy roads. The example below  demonstrates that painted lanes can work, but only on quiet roads, where the car is ‘the guest’ rather than the norm.
Surely there must be times when a painted, on carriageway cycle lane can work on a busy urban road!? I always find that situations like this benefit from a little thought experiment. Just open your mind….
Let’s imagine we have three people. One is an experienced cyclist, one is a novice cyclist and one is a potential cyclist. Now let’s imagine a busy road. Lots or vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Let’s also imagine parking down both sides of this road. What would each of the above cyclists do in this situation if they came across a painted cycle lane ‘taking up space’ in the carriageway of this road?
Here is the thought process for the experienced cyclist.
Now the novice cyclist.
And now the potential cyclist.
Looking through it all logically, it doesn’t take much for an experienced cyclist to ignore a painted lane, for a novice cyclist to feel disenfranchised by a painted lane, and for the potential cyclist, to remain a potential cyclist and just forget about lanes all together.
Taking the logic to its conclusion, on the vast majority of urban roads, there is no longer a place for the painted lane. It is time for Scotland to embrace the lessons that have already been learned elsewhere and to build proper cycle infrastructure, which on busy urban roads means segregated cycle lanes, with protection from the surrounding motor traffic. Until then, the revolution will be limited.
A very happy International Women’s Day to you all! On this most excellent day and also the centenary of the Women’s Suffrage Act being passed, we would like to share some facts on women and cycling with you to celebrate.
Did you know that the bicycle is considered instrumental to the emancipation of women? Not only did the transportation and independence it provides give immense freedom to women at the turn of the century, but it was also central to many of the campaigns run by the suffrage movements. The Cycling Scouts division, for instance, was formed in 1907 to help spread the message of suffrage wider afield to urban areas.
Thanks to the bicycle the ‘Rational Dress Society’ was formed in the 1881. Their aim was to tackle the restrictive clothing that women were expected to wear, corsets and such, that made cycling er… somewhat difficult. As a result of this society, bloomers were born, allowing for more comfortable riding for women. Saying that, it was expected that these be covered by long dresses or coats to preserve one’s dignity – a long way was still to go before lycra was to become acceptable!
Reaction to the freedom that the bike was clearly affording women was not initially positive, in fact it could be characterised as somewhat panicked. Some medics around the turn of the century warned about an ailment they termed ‘Bicycle Face’. The symptoms included bulging eyes and tightened mandibles, an increased libido and higher risk of TB. All of this resulting from the “continued strain to keep the device balanced while being ridden”.
Don’t appear to be up on ‘records’ and ‘record smashing’. That is sporty.
Don’t attempt a ‘century’.
This women author for one, is certainly guilty of most of those, although probably OK on the bloomers point. How far we have now come… and yet still not far enough. Women now cycle only half as much as men, and this report from Sustrans out this week investigates some of the reasons why that might be. Similarly, although so many of our cycle campaigns are headed up by awesome women, female membership levels remain low. To help, great new communities like the Women’s Cycle Forum are springing up, and here at GoBike we would also really like to try to redress this imbalance. It is my dream to reach this years AGM at the end of the summer and see many more women’s voices represented in the room than before. One thing we know is that there are loads of women (and men!) out there who want to cycle but choose not to, for so many reasons, but not least because the infrastructure is just not there to allow them to make that choice. If you are one of these people, or know others in this boat, please come and join us and help us build the voice for women and all folk ‘Who Want To But Don’t Cycle’. And remember ladies… ‘Don’t scream if you meet a cow. If she sees you first, she will run!’
I’d like to thank a wonderful group of women at the Glasgow Women’s Library for bringing a lot of this history to my attention via their annual Women’s Heritage Bike Ride.Their next one is on the 12th of May and I would highly recommend it.
As cycle campaigners, it is often the bad and dangerous, or more often than not, the lack of cycling infrastructure that we shout about. However, there is also some infrastructure around that we actually really do like, and would love to see more of.
To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain updated their Insert Loved One Here image creator, to enable people to show their love for genuinely good cycling infrastructure. Here in Glasgow, we decided to take make this physical, and had some stencils created with a love heart and the #iloh hashtag. An intrepid group of GoBike volunteers took to the rather chilly streets on the evening of the 13th of February, so that Glasgow could wake up the next morning to find a little bit of cycling infrastructure love. Here, we show you the bits we chose and why.
St Andrews Street
We are suckers for a good bit of contra flow cycling infrastructure, and St Andrews Street is a good illustration, providing a very pleasant back drop for a photo. It is a part of the East City Way, and a legacy from the Commonwealth Games. There are issues at either end, but overall this is a good, short piece of protected cycling infrastructure, deserving of some love and replication across the city.
This relatively new section of cycle path along Clyde Street provides a more direct route when crossing at the Victoria Bridge. It has removed a pinch point along the shared use pavement, which had been narrowed due to traffic lights. A welcome addition to the NCN7.
Not loved by all, this received its heart for two reasons:
1. What could be, if it was extended in both directions
2. A peaceful refuge after Jamaica Street and before Eglington Street
Clyde Place Advanced Start Light (ASL)
We are not big fans of Advance Stop Lines, as these very often bring cyclists into conflict with motor vehicles. However, we really do like the Advance Start Light at Clyde Place which helps to reduce this conflict. Our photo doesn’t fully do this justice – a video would have shown this in all its glory – but it is a lovely sight to behold when at the head of a towering line of motor traffic. We look forward to seeing more of these in the future.
South City Way
The chalk paint we used is pretty resilient, and so anyone who cycled along here on Valentines Day, or during the following couple of weeks, would have seen that the South City Way got a lot of love from us. The route itself is generally well designed, although as always, there could be improvements, particularly on the maintenance front. The lanes also demonstrate some great features that can be replicated all over the city:
South City Way – Clyde Place
A text book bi-directional protected cycle lane, that enables contra flow cycling along Clyde Place. Part of the beauty of this is that rather than take away from the wide path or landscaping along Clyde Place, a section of the road has been given over to the cycle lane. Much love and much use from a number of our GoBike committee members in their every day trips.
South City Way – West Street
Two of our favourite pieces of South City Way infrastructure, the hand rail/foot rest and the diagonal crossing. The hand rails along the route, seen widely in Copenhagen, are a work of genius, as not only do they allow you to keep your feet on the pedals, but they also put you in the correct place for the sensor to pick you up, causing the light to turn green.
The cycle only diagonal crossing has its own traffic light phase. Rather than having to cross two arms of the junction, this direct route gets cyclists to the West Street junction much quicker.
South City Way – A8
This stretch, which takes you all the way to the Quayside, is a good example of linking different cultural and entertainment centres within Glasgow, reducing the need for cars to take people on short journeys. This is key to a people-centric transport network. If only this continued along Paisley Road West!
North Street under Kingston Bridge
Those who came to the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’s AGM in Glasgow last October, were taken on an Infrastructure Safari. During this, a new piece of infrastructure was christened the “Glasgow Kerb”. These are found where a dropped kerb has not been dropped enough to sit flush with the tarmac it leads to, and in most places are still raised from it by around an 2.5cm (an inch in old money). These are uncomfortable to cycle over, and to other users such as parents with prams, or those in wheel chairs, they can be difficult to ramp up. We highlighted this area under the Kingston Bridge because old “Glasgow Kerbs” found here have now been improved to be made flush with the road crossing. A small but very important infrastructure change.
West City Way – Bridge to Nowhere Entrance
This almost didn’t get the love, as we are in February, and leaves have still not been cleared properly from here – really Glasgow City Council? However, as an important junction, and with the cycle counter in the background, a debate was won to persuade us to give it one heart.
Bridge to Nowhere
There is something really satisfying about cycling over this bridge at rush hour, with all the cars at a stand still below, although we would recommend doing this when there is a reasonable breeze to dissipate all the fumes.
This is a fitting end to our evening of love. Although there has been a general focus on some of the big cycle infrastructure projects, when we say big, they are still minuscule in comparison to road infrastructure projects. It is often the small things that can make a difference to every day cycling.
The new dropped kerbs on Reidvale Street will now enable permeability along the street for cyclists, providing a quieter route from Duke Street to Bellgrove Train Station. These little things can mean a lot to many of the people who use these routes.
Our evening of tagging has hopefully shown our councils what quality cycling infrastructure should look like, and that it can be delivered. We hope to see many more examples of this in the future, and look forward to undertaking a similar exercise on Sauchiehall Street and Victoria Road, when those new schemes are completed.
We would also hope that the examples of dangerous infrastructure in the last blog post are upgraded to include some of the features outlined here.
So that’s all from our adventures taking Insert Loved One Here to the streets of Glasgow… for now.