University Avenue to remain unsafe for cycling

Both the University of Glasgow and Glasgow City Council are continuing to cast aside GoBike requests that University Avenue is made safer for people cycling in plans to redevelop the street.

Since our human bike lane protest, we have had one meeting with the university during which they maintained that narrow painted lanes on only the up hill sections of the road, which offer no physical protection, do nothing to deter parking, and also throw people cycling out into the stream of traffic at the top of the hills, will make conditions safer for cycling. They have also continued to maintain this in subsequent statements and videos.

Glasgow City Council are also refusing to acknowledge their failing on University Avenue, citing space to be an issue. They appear to have forgotten that University Avenue is a part of their much internally celebrated ‘Colleges Cycle Route’. The commuters resulting from the roads direct passage between areas of the west end, and the staff and students of the university, are a key population for uptake of active travel if the conditions are made safe. Not only that but University Avenue is a key link to other planned place making schemes with active travel at their heart, such as Connecting Woodside, Queen Margaret Drive, Byres Road and the Yorkhill and Kelvingrove Cycling Village. In an email to us, when challenged on the transport hierarchy, Glasgow City Council officers explained that:

These documents “apply a user hierarchy to the design process with pedestrians at the top which means considering the needs of pedestrians first when considering the design of any road layout” and I can therefore confirm that Council Officers are fully aware of the user hierarchy and the implications of its examination in proximity of new development on design and layout proposals.

Now, we fully agree that people walking deserve the highest priority, however what the council don’t seem to understand is that people cycling come next in that tree, with the private car far below both cycling and public transport.

We are not the only people who have been communicating their fear and disappointment about the plans with the university. We know that several MSPs, councillors, staff, students and the public have also been challenging the plans. In several of these communications the university have told others re: GoBike, that:

“my team are reviewing their proposals and will actively seek to work with them”

This was news to us. So we sent them in a proposal that shows exactly how there is enough space on University Avenue to accommodate all users in accordance with the transport hierarchy.

  • Make University Avenue one-way for motor vehicles. Reducing through traffic should be key to the changes if you truly want to create a safer and less polluted environment for your 35,000 students and staff (as well as for all of the other users of the road).
  • Create a bus gate for University Avenue. Outwith bus gate times, vehicular traffic must wait behind bus drop offs. This will help to further discourage through traffic in the safer environment the University strives to create.
  • Consider using Kelvin Way for waiting coaches.
  • Reduce the carriageway to 3 meters (as per the single lane width planned for Byres Road).
  • Create two stepped unidirectional segregated cycle tracks (2 ms plus 0.5 m buffer) on both sides of the road. As well as creating proven safe space for cycling, the separation from traffic and open spaced environment this approach will create, will also improve the pedestrian experience as per the aspirations of the University.
  • Widen the pavements even wider than currently planned. With this approach an additional 0.5 meters can be added to the extra pavement width already gained in the current plans, giving people on foot on University Avenue the highest level of priority they deserve.

Despite nudging them several times now for both a review of this proposal, and evidence that they are actively seeking to work with us, we’ve received nothing of that nature.

Others have also been told by the university that retrofitting is being looked at:

“the University is currently exploring the option to introduce light segregation which would afford protection to cyclists from vehicles but this will initially be on a trial basis to ensure there will be no detrimental impact on pedestrian safety i.e. represent a trip hazard.”

The University have been telling others that:

“we have recently become aware of the campaign group ‘Go Bike'”

Although the lack of consultation with us could have been rectified by a simple “glasgow cycle campaign” web search, as the university are now aware of us, we’ve asked to be consulted on the talk of light segregation and retrofitting. The expertise we have among our members would have plenty of suggestions that would help solve trip hazard issues. We’ve heard nothing back.

Our members have been gathering evidence to show why anything less than segregated infrastructure will not solve the systemic problems which exist (thanks to our hard working member Iain McLarty for putting this together). We have sent this in to the university with the explanation that:

Since the middle of February, various people have been tweeting photos from University Avenue when they see vehicles stopped in these lanes. These are attached. To be clear, in all of these photos the vehicles are already breaking the law by stopping on double yellow lines. The sheer number of occasions and variety of times when this is happening at the exact time when someone happens to be cycling along this street suggests that illegal stopping in cycle lanes is an issue which can only be solved by structural solutions (ie. segregated infrastructure) rather than any attempts at behavioural change (such as increased enforcement) which would inevitably lapse back towards the current situation over time.

For this clear lack of consideration for people cycling or a joined up active travel network to happen on the street adjoining Byres Road, where we have fought for years to finally have safe cycling considered in the plans, is not only frustrating, but incredibly worrying. Glasgow City Council has a very very long way to go before it can proclaim itself as active travel friendly. Officers have stated to us that:

“I can confirm the integration and tie in of University Avenue with Byres Road new cycling infrastructure was carefully considered and reviewed by GCC Officers who were satisfied with the proposal.”

We have now asked that the evidence above from University Avenue is reviewed as a matter of urgency and that the university are held to account on their continued statements that the new proposals will be safe for cycling. Their conduct in failing to respond to questions, proposals and requests for consultation should also be challenged.

If you also want to voice your concern please write to these councillors;

Cllr Anna Richardson (City Convenor for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction)

Cllr Martha Wardrop (Councillor for Hillhead)

Cllr Ken Andrew (Councillor for Hillhead)

Cllr Hanzala Malik (Councillor for Hillhead)

Patrick Grady MP (MP for Glasgow North)

Sandra Whyte MSP (MSP for Kelvin)

Patrick Harvie MSP (MSP for Glasgow)