Pedalling towards an eco-friendly future

31 March 2019

Photograph: Xianzi Chen

As Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow outperforms others when it comes to the number of its inhabitants making attempts to adopt “green” transportation methods. The city’s ability to support alternative means of transport, however, remains a work in progress.

A 2018 report published by Sustrans revealed that of the 2,657 miles that make up Scotland’s National Cycle Network, 57% of roads were rated “very poor,” while only 39% were classified as “good.”

According to Calum Cook, committee member of GoBike, Glasgow’s roads are a hostile environment for cyclists. He said: “The combination of busy roads with lots of fast-moving motor traffic and the poor quality of much of the cycling infrastructure means that cycling is currently too scary for all but a very committed minority of people to consider. People who do cycle frequently have unpleasant experiences.”

This sentiment was reflected in the 2017 Scottish Transport Statistics, which reported that more bicycles than motorcycles were involved in accidents in 2015, 2016, and 2017.

In terms of its cycling infrastructure, Glasgow could learn a lot from cities in other European countries, such as the Netherlands. Around 50 regional cycle networks exist in Holland alone, all of which are connected. Cook agrees with this, saying: “Many cities in the Netherlands have 40% of journeys being made by bike – sometimes even higher.”

The committee member cites lack of government investment as one of the key reasons for Glasgow’s insufficient cycling infrastructure: “Only 3% of the Scottish Government’s transport budget is invested in active travel. We are calling for 10% of the transport budget to be invested in active travel, so that every part of our country can benefit from high-quality segregated cycling infrastructure.”

Photograph: Xianzi Chen

While the lack of an adequate cycling framework is a major factor in Glasgow’s limited “green” transportation growth, it is just one piece of the puzzle. Another issue is the unwillingness of some drivers to share the road with cyclists. Cycling Scotland policy officer Jennifer Fingland said: “Among some people who drive, there is a lack of awareness about sharing roads with people cycling. One of the main safety issues is people driving passing people cycling too closely on the road.”

She added: “Cycling Scotland has run the Give Everyone Cycle Space campaign for the last decade to raise awareness among drivers of giving people cyclists space when passing them on the road. We are currently developing a new campaign, due to launch on 7 May. We also support Police Scotland on Operation Close Pass; an initiative to educate drivers about how much space to leave when passing someone cycling on the road.”

Photograph: Xianzi Chen

In recent years, numerous attempts have been made to better facilitate cycling as an alternative to driving in Glasgow. Although there’s still considerable work to be done, improvements are being made, and the future looks promising. Research by Understanding Glasgow shows that there was a 111% increase in cycling trips in and out of the city between 2009 and 2018. The Cordon Survey of 2018 also recorded 11,000 trips in and out of the city by bike per day.

Photograph: Xianzi Chen

Fingland reported that work is currently underway in Glasgow to improve its cycling infrastructure. She said: “The Avenues Project of Sauchiehall Street, which is currently under construction, is adding an integrated network of continuous pedestrian and cycling priority routes.”

The Avenues Project is expected to greatly improve Glasgow’s facilitation of eco-friendly travel, much like the City Ways programme. Nearing completion, the policy officer stated that the City Ways cycle network “will provide safe, more comfortable and more coherent cycle routes.”

Valentin Jeanjean, Development Officer of Cycling Scotland, said: “The creation of these segregated routes has largely contributed to making my commute more convenient and feel safer. It always puts a smile on my face when I see lots of commuters on those routes at rush hour.”

Once completed, The Avenues Project and City Ways cycle networks will contribute greatly to Glasgow’s existing 293.3km of dedicated cycling routes.

With improvements in the works, a steady increase in cyclists and a winning bid which means the city will host the inaugural UCI Cycling World Championships in 2023, Glasgow’s drive to become a cycle-friendly city may well be met with success.

For more updates on events, policies, and cycling communities in Glasgow and beyond, visit @GoBikeGlasgow and @CyclingScotland.

Video: Xianzi Chen

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