Did you spot our GoBike Board of Shame out on the South West City Way this week? For it’s first outing we wanted to highlight the repair and maintenance issues that have been causing hazards to people on bikes since the lanes opened. Flooding and leaves are difficult enough to deal with, but when mixed with cold weather, the whole width of the cycle track becomes hazardous and impassable. Our members have been reporting the problems to the council since they began and we had had no response as to what is planned for its repair, if any. We had known of at least one injury having occurred at this site and there will be many more if this issue continues to be ignored, so we decided to take action.
The sign read:
DANGER! ROLL UP ROLL UP! For the third year running and despite countless reports Glasgow City Council bring you the South West City Way ICE RINK. Bring your ice skates! Bring your festive cheer! Bicycles probably not suitable! For more injury opportunities look out for the unmaintained pile of leaves up ahead! MIND HOW YOU GO! GoBike Cycle Campaign gobike.org
The South West City Way is one of only two short completed segregated cycle ways that people on bikes have for getting around the city. Segregated cycle lanes provide a safe refuge from faster moving traffic, and are far more efficient and preferable to the shared use pavements that we have dotted around the cities. Despite the distinct lack of provision we currently have for cycling, the few spaces we do have tend not to be maintained to a suitable condition. We think it is time for the council to step up and show a real commitment to active travel by taking the maintenance and repair of our cycle routes seriously. It is unacceptable that the safety of people using bikes to get around is such a low priority.
Following the stunt, the sign was shared and retweeted far and wide, and we even got a mention in the Evening Times. The disturbingly large numbers of reported serious accidents and spills around the city that day led to a wider conversation with the Active Travel Forum, from which we have had the following assurances from Cllr Anna Richardson in response to our points:
Repair and Maintenance
Gritting aside, our SWCW sign stunt related specifically to the repair of the flooding on the SWCW that our members have been reporting to the council since November 2016. Added to this, leaves, rather than being removed from the cycle tracks, are being swept into them. Freezing conditions make the SWCW treacherous and neither issue will be fixed with gritting. Requests for repair and maintenance at the site, via fill that hole, email and twitter, have garnered no action for two years. End of year budget spending spates on road repairs suggest to us that resource and budget are not the issue here.
We have now had an agreement that it is unacceptable that these issues have not been resolved, and assurance that the issues will be raised within the council as a matter of urgency.
On gritting, we have had a member point out to us that the current gritting on the SWCW isn’t actually fit for purpose. The mini tractor drops the grit rather than spreading it, and as it only makes one pass, it drops it in the centre of the track rather than running once up one side and once up the other, resulting in little effect. In this case perhaps it is gritting procedure and equipment that needs looked at.
We have had assurance that the council are now looking into alternative types of grit better suited to cycle lanes, which due to less tyre traffic forcing the salt into the ice, is a greater risk from being washed off by rain.
We have also had assurance that the council are now investigating more specialised equipment better suited to cycle routes.
After we had made a great deal of noise about winter maintenance in winter 2017, we were glad to see the upgrading of the priority for the two city ways announced in November, however, this only covers a very small proportion of places where people cycle. It is a start, but not enough – upgrading the priority of only one cycle route per year will still lead to tens of injuries per day per winter on the untreated routes. We need strategic routes to all corners of the city to be usable all year round. And we don’t believe the suggestion of “It’s ok to stop” on the GCC website is helpful. If the priority were shifted to prioritise active travel over motorised transport, choosing the roads and/or choosing to not choose active travel shouldn’t have to be the only options. When resources are low, correct prioritisation as per the Transport Hierarchy should come to the fore.
We have had assurance that other suggested routes for prioritisation have been heard. Hope was expressed that we will now be in a better position in future years to roll out to more routes, faster. Comment was made that this year already sees a big change, as this is the first year that cycle routes have been explicitly prioritised in a winter maintenance plan.
The council were at pains to point out that the weather on Tuesday had been particularly difficult – grit that was deployed overnight washed away before it could work, and rain then froze causing black ice. Difficulties were pointed out in responding to unforecasted conditions as it takes 4-5 hours hours for a gritter to make a pass.
We had spotted almost a week previous from a basic weather app that Tuesday morning would be the night for our stunt, so perhaps us campaigners should take up gritting weather forecasting instead?
We have thanked Cllr Richardson for her quick action in bringing all of this up in council and have asked to be kept posted on developments. We will be keeping a close eye and keep the pressure up. We are keenly aware that the winter has only just begun and there is a whole season of potential injuries ahead of us. So please stay safe out there.
**UPDATE Tuesday 11th Dec**!! We now have a clear SWCW and a drained flood! Big thanks to Cllr Anna Richardson!! Let’s work on making this route clear and safe permanently.
Look out in the future for more appearances from the GoBike Board of Shame. If you have any suggestions for issues you think the Board could tackle please let us know.