Sunday, 14 May 2017

Seville: A Dense and Consistent Cycling Network

One thing that UK towns and cities seem to focus on is routes. Whether they be branded as 'Cycle Super Highways' in London, or 'City Ways' in Glasgow, the focus is generally on moving people (often targeted at commuters) from their home to their office. Seville doesn't have individual branded routes. Instead, there's a dense network of separated cycling infrastructure, which, for the most part, follows main roads for cars.

Here we can see the the Seville cycling network. Notice the relatively high density of cycling infrastructure. What you can't see from that map is the consistency of the network. For better or worse, the vast majority of cycle lanes are to be found bi-directional on one side of the road. Unlike if I look at a map of cycle facilities in the UK, I know that the infrastructure marked green on this map will

  • be genuinely 8-80 safe
  • not require me to 'keep my wits about me' or cause me stress
  • not force me to decide whether to try to enter an ASL (there are zero ASLs for cycles here)
  • not force me to decide whether to 'take the lane' or 'hug the kerb' (since it's all separated)
  • ensure I am separated from motor vehicles by space or time at all times
All those obstacles to cycling are completely eliminated on the network, which, as you can see, covers a pretty dense grid. 

With London allowing so-called CS1 to be included in their cycle network, even by sticking to marked routes I don't know that my journey will meet the above criteria. Similarly, Edinburgh's Quality Bike Corridor meets absolutely none of those criteria.

What Seville, on the marked network, has done very successfully is provide a consistently-good network for cycling. Note that I'm not saying that it's perfect or even excellent, but consistently-good. And I think that consistency has been important to the relative success cycling enjoys here.

As always, photos say more than words, so here are a bunch taken on the network shown in the map above.

This is the second in a series of (long overdue) posts about cycling in Seville. Find the first here. Stay tuned for more! Follow me on Twitter, @justacwab

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Cycling in Seville is just so... pedestrian

Long time no blog. Sorry. You'd think that spending a lot of time in Southern Europe's poster child for safe cycling, Seville, that I'd have a lot to say. I'd be blogging furiously. But, I haven't. And I think I've figured out why.


Google gives us two definitions for 'pedestrian'. Firstly, 
(noun) a person walking rather than travelling in a vehicle.
but also,
(adjective) lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.
The Oxford Etymology Dictionary suggests these two meanings are related, with the dull or boring sense of the adjective being used to describe people walking as a contrast to those on horseback. Walking is pedestrian, going to your local supermarket to buy a bottle of Coke is pedestrian, and, in Seville, cycling is rather pedestrian. Since I've never found any great urge to blog about walking or buying Coke, cycling has fallen into that category.

Of course, that sharply contrasts to most other places, including the UK, where close-passes, dangerous junctions and high stress levels that tend to be associated with cycling are anything but pedestrian.

Out Group

It also strikes me that in the UK, even though I've never worn a helmet or donned Lycra, 'cyclist' is part of my identity. Scotland has a tiny modal share and by cycling for transport I'm at the very least a bit unusual and at most some kind of freak.

In Seville, I'm cycling more than I ever have in my life (all for transport), but it's not part of my identity. The vast majority of my colleagues (Spaniards and immigrants) cycle. My Spanish flatmates cycle. I pass countless fellow people on the street cycling every day. They cycle because it's the most convenient way to move around the city for many journeys. Sorry, but if cycling doesn't make me feel special then I'm less likely to think about spending my evening blogging about it!

How can you make cycling in your city more pedestrian?

To be clear, I don't mean pedestrian in the sense of making it slow and sharing space with people walking... quite the opposite. I mean how can you make it boring, unremarkable? How can we reach a point where 'I cycle' is as noteworthy and as much of a conversation starter as 'I eat ice-cream on warm days'? Despite having a less-than-perfect cycle network (I'll describe why over a few blogs over the next few weeks), Seville has achieved the status of making cycling quite boring. That's bad for my motivation to blog, but good for pretty much everything else.

Boring Cycling Infrastructure in Seville

This is the first in a series of (long overdue) posts about cycling in Seville. Stay tuned! Follow my on Twitter, @justacwab

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Community Links Plus in Renfrewshire

Community Links Plus

A bit of background to start us off for a post about more disappointment regarding cycling in Renfrewshire. Sustrans Scotland run a program called Community Links, which asks local authorities to bid to get funding to do things to benefit walking and cycling in their area. Although administered by Sustrans (a charity) the money comes from the Scottish Government, with local authorities matching the funds provided.

This year, Sustrans and the Scottish Government have upped the ante with 'Community Links Plus'. It's looking for projects on a bigger scale, with the website mentioning stating that they asked for proposals that would be 'game-changers for active travel in Scotland', 'big, bold and innovative ideas'. There is, inevitably, a much more limited pot of funding than one would like and of the ten shortlisted projects, only one or two will be given funding.

On learning that Renfrewshire had been shortlisted to get funding for such a scheme I was rather pleased. Seeing that it was to connect my hometown with neighbouring areas, I was delighted. "Developing a strategic cycle route to link Bishopton, Inchinnan, Erskine, Renfrew, Paisley and Glasgow airport," as the summary says, sounds fantastic. These are towns and villages not far from each other with very poor links at present - only Paisley and Bishopton have a train station, the road from Bishopton to Erskine is national speed limit with no cycle provision, the road from Inchinnan to Renfrew a 50mph busy road with no cycle provision. Renfrew and Inchinnan Business Park are (separately) linked to Glasgow Airport by very poor cycling provision involving things like shared use paths, off-road dirt tracks and on road lanes.

Unfortunately, the plan being presented is so limited in scope that I can't imagine it would achieve very much at all, were it to be implemented.

Renfrewshire's Proposal

As you can see from the proposal, the links being proposed only enable a very few trips to be made by bike. Despite the summary mentioning Renfrew and Paisley, these don't feature at all. The council may argue that Glasgow Airport is already linked to Renfrew and Paisley, so they're included by proxy, but that would be absolute nonsense since those links are so substandard.

There are three phases being proposed. Firstly, linking the edge of Bishopton to the Red Smiddy Roundabout. This is a 60mph road that barely has a usable pavement at present. It could certainly do with cycling facilities

A8 Greenock Road between Bishopton and the Red Smiddy Roundabout
The second phase takes us from the Red Smiddy eastwards, towards Inchinnan. Curiously, it gives up before reaching Inchinnan itself, stopping at the junction with Inchinnan Drive. By continuing another 1.3 miles, the segregated route would have passed Inchinnan and reached the edge of Renfrew. This is perhaps the most bizarre omission of the proposals. As it stands, the only beneficiary here would be people going to Inchinnan Business Park from Bishopton. That's a massive missed opportunity. It's also worth noting that the part that isn't in the proposal is on two frequent bus routes and, anecdotally, I'm quite sure there are currently more people cycling (mostly on the pavement) and walking on this part.

Cycle facilities are being proposed here

But further up the same road, there'll be nothing

Finally, the third phase goes south from the Red Smiddy towards Glasgow Airport and the St James' Interchange (a massive roundabout above the M8). Much of this already has a shared use path, which is quite inadequate and segregated cycling here would certainly be an upgrade.

However, dumping cyclists onto the St James Interchange would be some sort of a sick joke and the current path to the airport is little more than a dirt track - a dirt track that these plans don't appear to address.

The existing 'shared use path' to Glasgow Airport, doesn't appear set to be upgraded

The St James' Interchange. The proposed cycle infra finishes just north of this.

Linking Communities?

An inevitable retort to this blogpost is that we have to start somewhere, to which I absolutely agree. Rome wasn't built in a day, and a network of segregated cycle infrastructure accompanied by minor roads of low traffic and low speeds won't come overnight either. However, these plans would enable very few journeys to be made by bike compared to other possibilities within Renfrewshire. These proposals seem like a very odd place to start. The project is called 'Community Links', yet I don't see how any two communities will in fact be linked!

It's fair to say that journeys between Bishopton and Inchinnan Business Park would be enabled, and it's quite possible that some commuters that travel by car could be tempted onto their bikes and any current bike users made safer. It's also possible that some people living to the west of Inchinnan will be able to cycle to Bishopton train station, giving them a useful link onto the rail network (although there's already a bus link from Inchinnan to Paisley and Glasgow). People in Inchinnan wanting to cycle the few miles into Renfrew - out of luck. People in Erskine, Paisley and Renfrew wanting to go anywhere - out of luck.

Something? Yes. Game-changing? I'm sorry, but I really don't see it. Compared to some of the other plans proposed by other councils, it seems Renfrewshire has come up short.

Find an overview of the 10 proposed projects at

Renfrewshire Cycling Facebook Group

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Thursday, 5 February 2015

Glasgow's Four Types of Cycling Infrastructure

At the start of the year I joined a group of interested people to see Glasgow's Commonwealth legacy in terms of cycle infrastructure, in a ride organised by Go Bike. There was infrastructure I'd seen and used before, and plenty I hadn't. It was especially interesting to see how the infrastructure coped with a large (30+ I'd guess) group of cyclists. It was an interesting day, and good to meet some other people with similar thoughts on the council, government and attitudes towards cycling generally.

I managed to hold a camera for most of the journey, and was fairly snap-happy. The full set is on Flickr.

In this post, I'm going to try to categorise what I saw. For me, there are four categories of infrastructure.

Get out of the Way 1: Into The Gutter

There are lots of cycle lanes which serve only one purpose: getting cyclists out of the way of motor traffic. They count towards the council's number of miles of cycle lanes, but in fact provide no benefit to cyclists. They are fatally flawed in a few ways:

  • They encourage close overtakes from motorists, who see that as long as they are not encroaching on the cycle lane that they are doing nothing wrong. This is not simple anecdotal, but is backed up by evidence.
  • They can generally be parked on
  • They seem to lead to hostility from motorists when people on bikes (legally and sensibly) choose not use them
  • Absolutely useless. And look at how much space there is.
    Who benefits from this cycle lane? Box tickers.

Unusable cycle lane
Not a terrible overtake, but not pleasant either

Get out of the Way 2: Onto The Pavement

Sometimes when the council can't be bothered to even put a bit of paint on the ground, they simple put a blue sign on some lampposts. This indicates that the use is shared between pedestrians and cyclists. In reality, this works OK when there are very few pedestrians and/or a very wide path, but doesn't work at all in other situations. Unfortunately, these are used completely inappropriately in a number of places

A fairly narrow pavement in a residential area. Completely unsuitable for shared use.

A 'stacking lane' seems to be more important than the segregated lane, so it's back to shared use

Wholly unsuited to mass cycling

Segregation 1: Gives Up When You Need it Most

In the East End, the council have made some truly awful cycling lanes which give up exactly when you need them most: at junctions. Between junctions, there is a painted lane on the pavement, which is generally OK - smooth and just about wide enough. 

However, at junctions instead of separating cyclists in space and time from motor vehicles, cyclists are dumped onto the main carriageway between lanes of motor vehicles and left to fend for themselves. It's a truly disgraceful design, and the fact that I'm not aware of anyone being killed or seriously injured using it is almost certainly because few people use it.

Photo by Joel Cooney -

Joel Cooney covered this in some detail on this blog post, which is well worth a read.

Segregation 2: Nearly there

The final type of Glasgow cycling infrastructure is by far the best, even if it has its own fair share of flaws (covered by CarSickGlasgow in these blogs). A bi-directional lane is physically segregated from the road. This allows for anyone to cycle comfortably, there is priority over minor roads and separate traffic light phases to ensure cyclists and other traffic don't come into conflict. 

The Connect2 route could certainly do with some improvements, but it's the only route you're going to have a chance to see normal people (including children) riding. In Glasgow terms, it's a revelation.

Here are some photos of the good and bad of the Connect2 route.

Not perfect, but fairly clear that the cycle route has priority (not actually Connect2, but a similar design elsewhere in Glasgow)

Maintenance needs some attention

Detectors can be a bit hit-and-miss, but they've got the principal right

Segregations replaced by shared use for a short section. Neither ideal nor necessary.


The first three types of infrastructure range between useless and worse than useless. They are completely unsuitable for mass cycling, and will not help bring about the 10% modal shift that is being aimed for. It's high time the council stopped spending money on rubbish like it.

The fourth shows potential. Being physically separated from motor vehicles leads to a much better feeling of safety. But for now, it's little more than one route - we need this kind of infrastructure, and better, all over the city (and indeed all over the country). Let's stop having cycling for the brave, and have cycling for all.

Follow my posts of Twitter and join the conversation on the City Cycling Glasgow forum

Monday, 22 December 2014

Renfrewshire Council, Please Stop Building Dangerous Rubbish

Some Context

London's a really interesting place for cycling campaigners to look to. There's a large number of cyclists by British standards, especially in Central London, yet most roads remain hostile to cycling. The mayor, after a poor start, seems to finally be 'getting it' and the latest plans are genuinely ambitious. The latest guidance in the London Cycling Design Standards is very promising and cycling is a big part of the political debate at City Hall.

One thing Johnston has said is that

“I want more of the kind of cyclists you see in Holland, going at a leisurely pace on often-clunky steeds”

Making infrastructure that's compatible with leisurely paced cycling will doubtless lead to modal share increasing (getting towards targets, such as Scotland's 10% by 2020) as cycling becomes a viable mode for everyday transport by people of all ages, genders and abilities.

It's in stark contrast to the dangerous bollocks planned by car-centric Renfrewshire Council, who have designed some cycling lanes that will be unattractive to everyone, lead to conflict for the few who chose to use or ignore them (the latter may well be the more sensible choice) and do nothing to increase the pitiful modal share we have.

The Junction

The junction in question is on the A8 at Inchinnan village. From a distance, it should just be a T-junction, but it complicated by the presence of a large bus garage, several bus stops (including one which the bus company regularly use to swap drivers, which takes a good few minutes), a car park exit and a few parking spaces in front of the local Post Office. The existing junction, which I know well as a driver, car passenger, bus passenger and cyclist, is a dog's dinner. The 50mph speed limit is excessive (and of course, we know limits aren't always adhered to), the layout isn't terribly intuitive and the geometry encourages speed. CrashMap indicates that between 2005 and 2013 there were 15 incidents, two of which were serious (thankfully none fatal) at this junction. As for cycling, it's for the brave and mad (I count myself firmly in the latter category). 

Here's an annotated Google Maps snapshot to give an idea of the starting point.

The Redesign

The southern part of the 'dual carriageway' becomes a two-way road, wth the northern part remaining for Eastbound traffic only, with the part on the West being for traffic accessing Inchinnan, and the part on the East allowing for a new bus stand and also allowing buses (and cyclists, but not taxis) to bypass the new traffic lights. Two new pedestrian crossings are introduced, one of which is staggered (hurrah), but they serve no very useful purpose, only leading to a bus stop on the south of the junction that only a handful of buses service. There's also a change in speed limit on the northern half of the old dual carriageway (30mph), which seems sensible.

In redesigning the junction, there may be safety improvements for motorists (though it still looks awfully overcomplicated to me). The council have, at the same time, introduced some cycling provision. It doesn't really link to anything else, but we have to start somewhere I don't think that should stand in our way. This should be a post of joy. But sadly, the schematics show dangerous rubbish that I can't quite believe anyone has planned in this century

Let's take a journey through this mess and identify the hazards cyclists will face.

(All diagrams are taken from an original available at Renfrewshire Council's website)

A Cyclist's Trip

Travelling Westbound, nothing much changes. No cycle-specific provision, though maybe we'll get some ASLs at the new traffic lights (spoiler: waste of time). The traffic lights may make it easier to turn right into Inchinnan (which is more useful on bike than car since Inchinnan is a dead-end for drivers, but a through road into its bigger neighbour Erskine for buses, and with a small law break or push of the bike, for cyclists too) depending where in the light sequence you reach the junction, but it's basically nothing. Worth noting that of the few cyclists there are around here, many understandably opt for the pavement anyway, so this is all a bit academic.

Eastbound is where things get interesting. A cycle lane appears from nowhere as the new road layout approaches. It's advisory at first and then gets protection from what looks like a traffic island, but it's only paint that separates bikes from motor vehicles after the island. No widths on the diagrams, but I'm not optimistic. This is crap, but sadly far from unusual on Britain's roads.

This advisory lane then continues, as a new lane forms on its left. The left lane's purpose is for buses leaving and entering the bus garage (these buses include lots of double deckers, and I think they have a couple of bendy-buses too at present) as well as a (seldom-used) bus stop. Buses leaving the garage will have to cross the cycle lane to get in the outside lane, and buses coming from the West will need to cross the cycle lane to enter the garage. The latter movement is often known as a 'left hook', where traffic turning left misses a cyclist in a blind spot. Buses can have awfully large blind spots, and a reminder that this is one of the largest garages in Renfrewshire. What are they thinking? This is dangerous and unpleasant for cyclists. If you can't be arsed doing it properly, just ignore cycling completely. The brave/mad will continue to suffer having to cycle defensively, the non-mad will use the pavement or (much more likely) jump in their car. I don't see who benefits from this kind of substandard provision.

What comes next ticks off some more of the classics - a lane in the door zone and a narrow and advisory lane. It's unclear how cyclists travelling straight ahead are supposed to approach the give way, since the motor traffic on their right could well turn left into them (another 'left-hook' example). Again, experienced cyclists will likely ignore the paint (leading to frustration from ignorant motorists) and any inexperienced cyclists will be put into danger. So, who is this lane for? 

Inexplicably, two new car parking spaces on the right of the carriageway have been created, alongside a new loading bay. It doesn't affect cycling directly, but drivers would be much safer in the car park, rather than having to manoeuvre into a space and cross a road. It shows where priorities lie.

Assuming a cyclist has managed to continue straight ahead, they'll find their lane has disappeared (good luck merging back into traffic) to make way for hatching, a bus stand (where driver changes will now happen), more hatching and finally the lane re-appears (bus stop bypasses, apparently unheard of - that grass can be removed for car parking only!). Perfect for those who can break the space-time continuum, but not so much for the rest of us.

If you've made it this far, your challenge is just to merge onto the 50mph road! And your lane will, of course, disappear again immediately after you do.

Stop Building Dangerous Rubbish

If it's not fast enough for Lycra clad club cyclists, it's not good enough.
If it's not safe enough for an 8 year old, it's not good enough.
If it's not convenient enough for everyday journeys, it's not good enough.

Renfrewshire Council, if you don't have the will, the expertise or the desire to do it properly, just don't bother. Those of us who tolerate crap will continue to, and the rest won't. But please don't make any more rubbish for cycling like this. Box-ticking does nobody any favours, except those who can boast of how many boxes they've ticked.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Spot The Difference

Over the last few days I've read a blogpost about current Under-Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill's attitude towards providing for cycling. I've also read a newspaper article in Glasgow's Evening Times newspaper about the 50th anniversary of Glasgow's M8 motorway. I'd like to compare and contrast.

Firstly, from the Evening Times (emphasis mine):

The 1960s was a time when planners looked ahead and began work on a network of motorways. Car ownership was on the rise, and the planners also recognised the importance of taking traffic away from old residential neighbourhoods. 
Some parts of the old A8 were unsafe. It had three lanes, with a shared overtaking lane, and the high number of fatalities and serious accidents made it clear that something more than just upgrading the road was needed. 
What was required was a brand-new motorway along a safer route.
"In Glasgow there was a massive building programme for a good few years," Stuart said.  
"There were even plans for more motorways, which, however, were cancelled. 
"The motorways were designed for traffic flows that were 20, 30 years in the future. Flows were projected as far as 1990 or 2000, which at the time was unknown in forward planning. 
"The planners were thinking ahead, but this made it difficult to justify the new motorways. People asked them, 'Why are you building this new eight-lane motorway at Townhead?' 
"The planners said the motorways would eventually get up to 120,000 vehicles a day, but the reply would come back - 'Well, we're only getting 20,000 a day at the moment.' Needless to say, a lot of justification was needed at the time." 
The planners got their way, and Glasgow now has some 50 miles of motorway within its boundaries.

We do not place the same emphasis on segregation in the UK [as NL/DK]. Whilst alongside high speed roads we encourage it, in urban environments space is often at a premium. Providing a broad, high quality cycle route segregated from motor traffic in these circumstances might be desirable but in many cases it is not always practicable. There are also concerns about the potential for conflict between cyclists and motor vehicles where these routes cross roads, regardless of whether cyclists have priority.
In the UK, we tend not to encourage cycle priority in these situations because, given the relatively low current levels of cycling, there are concerns that motorists might fail to give way. That said, cycle priority crossings are not ruled out and local authorities are of course free to consider them if they think they might be suitable in a given situation.
If we begin to see the increases in cycling that we all wish for, it is likely we would want to reconsider our guidance in general, and specifically our position on segregated cycle routes and cycle priority at road crossings.
Spot the difference? Let me spell it out.

In the 1960s, planners justified massive capital outlay, tearing apart large parts of a city and fundamentally changing Glasgow to accommodate motor vehicles. Not the motor vehicles of the day, but those of 30-40 years in the future. They won the argument of the day. This despite private motor vehicles being expensive, polluting, leading to air pollution, obesity... need I go on? And them being in relatively low numbers at that time.

In 2014, the government refuses to invest seriously in a mode of transport that would require a modest proportion of the transport budget, would result in more liveable towns and cities and is cheap, doesn't pollute and counters obesity and air pollution. Sadly, cycle campaigners in the UK, with the exception of London to an extent, are not winning the argument of the day. This despite the Scottish government's 'vision' of 20% of journeys being by bike.

In the 1960s we predicted and provided for something that's had a largely negative effect on cities. In 2014 we refuse to do the same for something that could have a very positive effect. What will it take for the argument to be won this time?

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Meeting with the Council

Following from my previous blog Renfrewshire Council - Delusional?, I e-mailed a link to the Councillor involved in the blog and the leader of the council. To my surprise, I was invited to a meeting with them both which took place this morning. I am not in either councillor's ward, so I appreciated them agreeing to meet.

In the end, Cllr Gilmour couldn't make it due to an urgent situation, and sent his apologies, so the meeting was just with Cllr Mark MacMillan, leader of Renfrewshire Council.

I had a presentation prepared, which I had hoped to start the meeting with. However, Cllr MacMillan started by discussing the aforementioned blogpost and questioning whether it was 'fair', primarily due to the cuts the council's budget has seen. I stood my ground, but it set the tone for a meeting that was livelier than I'd anticipated.

I'll split this post into a few themes.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, money was where the discussion kept returning to. The council, like all across Scotland, has had its budget cut by Holyrood over the last few years. Cllr MacMillan argued that Renfrewshire has been disproportionately hit. Of course, it's a position I sympathise with, but regardless of how big or small the budget is it'll always have priorities. My argument is, of course, that cycling should absolutely be a high priority, certainly within the transport budget.

My point that the cost of doing nothing about cycling is high (struggling town centres and health issues) was taken on board I think, but the statistic of £4 gain to the NHS for every £1 spent on cycling was deemed problematic since the council has to spend the £1 on cycling, yet it's the Scottish Government that fund the health service and so see that £4 dividend. Again, I sympathise with the problem, but it's a shame that this kind of bureaucracy stands in the way of investment.

CAPS 10% Target

The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland's 10% modal share by 2020 target was dismissed by the Councillor as not being worth the paper it's written on, since it hasn't been backed by money to make it happen. It's a position I'd struggle to disagree with - targets are easy to set and forget, and this certainly looks like one of them. No wonder the Scottish Government are back-pedalling on it, with the language of 'shared vision'. Of course, that shouldn't stop campaigners talking about it loudly, as Darkerside rightly says. I think it's fair to say that the odds on Renfrewshire meeting that target are zero.

'Raising the Profile'

The council leader talked a number of times about raising the profile of cycling, through mass participation events and the like. I argued, strongly I hope, that people who cycle on closed roads during such events will surely not cycle on Renfrewshire's roads as long as they are hostile to cycling and so won't be converted to cycling for everyday journeys. I've got no problem with sport cycling, the Tour de France etc, but they're as relevant to everyday cycling as Formula 1 is to driving to work.

He talked about London's increase in cycling, which I argued is more due to 'sticks' (congestion charge, cost of public transport) than 'carrots' (good facilities for cycling). I argued that for cycling to truly take off, we need both carrots and sticks - he said that he envisioned more carrots in Renfrewshire, but not sticks. I think that's a pity - we need both.

Benefits for Towns

One point I made was rebuffed very quickly - that cycling would help revive our town centres. He claimed that Paisley town centre provides well for pedestrians (I largely agree), perhaps over-provides (I disagree entirely), but that people want places to park and so are going to out of town centres such as Silverburn and Braehead. I'm not sure I articulated my arguments against this point well enough, to be honest. Suffice to say, all evidence suggests that provision for cycling benefits towns and cities.

We also spoke briefly about Renfrew, which he said had been recently remodelled as a shared space, yet no-one seems to like the design. I don't like the design - it's crap for pedestrians, crap for cyclists, crap for drivers, crap for businesses and good for those who like fancy paving. Its fundamental problem is that it's not only a town centre, but also a through route for people travelling from Erskine/Bishopton/Inchinnan towards the eastbound M8, and a through route for people travelling from Paisley to Braehead. That traffic is hurting Renfrew, and different coloured paving has unsurprisingly done absolutely nothing to fix that. Hopefully the acknowledgement that this scheme hasn't been well-received means we won't be seeing more of the same, but nevertheless it's a lot of money that was blown only a few years ago (remember, we don't have money).

Clyde Valley Investment

The proposed investment in infrastructure across the Clyde Valley was brought up a number of times, in terms of it helping modal share shift away from private cars towards public transport and active travel. It was claimed that the plan includes cycling at its core, not an add-on (I think we agreed that a lick of paint on the road wasn't terribly useful). Without having seen the plans (they're not in the public domain as far as I'm aware) it's hard to comment on their quality and to what extent they'll benefit cycling.

However, this optimism was mitigated by the mention of road-building potentially being part of the plans, since the M74 extension hasn't alleviated traffic as expected (more roads, more car journeys - should surprise no one). I pushed this one quite hard, that building more roads leads to more traffic. He argued that the new Fastlink buses will need roads, but that they won't be dedicated to public transport. I think there's a very big 'watch this space' on this topic.

Working Together

The final, and positive point, is that the council leader agreed that the council should be working with and consulting people when making plans, rather than spending money on cycling facilities for people like me to then write blogs about it, claiming that they're crap and seeing no modal shift. He's agreed to keep in touch, and I hope I can positively contribute to any dialogues.


We spoke for a full hour, yet I feel there are issues we didn't manage to fully address, and I think the discussion could have easily lasted another. Ultimately, I think the leader of the council would like more cycling in Renfrewshire, but I'm not convinced that he's willing to give it the funding and priority it deserves. There are a lot of players in getting cycling modal share up, including the UK Government, Scottish Government and local government: campaigners need to be applying pressure and winning the arguments with all of them. Unfortunately, it's all too easy for local government to blame national government, and vice-versa, with no accountability when targets are inevitably not met. 

If you haven't already, please consider shaping the Renfrewshire Cycling Campaign, write to your local councillors about #space4cycling and take a look at the excellent Pedal on Parliament and Cycling Embassy of Great Britain websites, as well as the City Cycling Glasgow forum (thanks to members there for help in making the presentation there, especially joel_c and sallyhinch). I tweet about cycling too.