Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Renfrewshire Council - Delusional?

Time to celebrate - another 600 metres of cycling!

Renfrewshire council, alongside neighbouring East Renfrewshire Council, recently opened a new path connecting South Paisley to Barrhead. It's 600 metres of shared use (so, not really a cycle path) and was completed with co-operation between 4 different public bodies. SPT (who are resisting cycle paths in Glasgow City), Sustrans (who recently approved £300k of Cycle Safety Fund money on a car-centric roundabout in Bedford), East Renfrewshire Council (56% of journeys less than 5km, 1% modal share for cycling) and Renfrewshire Council (58% of journeys less than 5km, <0.5% modal share for cycling). 

Let's put that 600 metres in context. East Renfrewshire has 473km of roads in its control, while Renfrewshire has 818km. Combined, that's 1291km. The new shared use path represents 0.05% of the combined roads network of these two counties.

Still, it's something. I hope it is well used and useful. It's not near me and I haven't seen the quality of it, so can't comment on that. The purpose of this post isn't to criticise the path, but to show that it's a drop in the ocean. And the ocean isn't pretty.

"We [Renfrewshire] have an excellent network of cycle paths"

Unsurprisingly, this isn't my view. Surprisingly, it is someone's view. In this case, it's Councillor Chris Gilmour, Deputy Convener of Renfrewshire Council's Environment Policy Board. He made this quite extraordinary statement while commenting on the new path. His quote in full:

"We are happy to have played a lead role on this collaborative project between the two councils. 

"With the assistance of funding from SPT, we have delivered the final part of this cycle route, which is part of a much longer route running through south Paisley before connecting to the national cycle route network at Fulbar Road. 

"We are fortunate that here in Renfrewshire we have an excellent network of cycle paths and we would encourage young and old cyclists to continue to make use of them as much as possible."

Over the last week I've used two of Renfrewshire's cycle paths, and taken some pictures. These are marked cycle paths, but are not part of the 'National Cycle Network.' They are the kind of paths you'll end up on if you follow cycling directions from the likes of Google Maps or CycleStreets.

Inchinnan Swing Bridge to Porterfield Road

This route is supposed to be for bikes. Really.
This is just part of a longer route, it continues towards the Braehead Shopping Centre in the other direction. From where the above photo was taken, the continuation of the path is on the other side of the road (the A8). There are traffic lights, but with no pedestrian crossing, let alone a toucan.

Following the path, it's quickly clear that the surface is completely inadequate. 

Remember, this is marked for pedestrian and cycles.

Going a little further, we can see that the maintenance of it is clearly non-existent.

Weeds like those don't grow overnight
Putting the pointless barriers to one side, this has never been suitable for mass cycling. It's totally inadequate in terms of width - imagine getting a bakfiets (cargo bike) or a motability scooter let alone two passing each other. Although it's separated from motor vehicles, it's lacking subjective safety since it's very isolated and unlit - I doubt I'd feel safe using this path after dark, but I can't think of any road I'd say the same about. The on-road alternatives to this route have lots of space for hatching, pinchpoints, pedestrian refuges, but none for cycling.

"We are fortunate that here in Renfrewshire we have an excellent network of cycle paths" Hmmm.

Inchinnan Business Park to Glasgow Airport

Another cycle path, not just signposted but featured on Renfrewshire Council's website in their 'cycle routes through the airport' map. It's a rather arbitrary link, connecting two places of work rather than a place of work with where workers live. Of course, like many (most? all?) cycle paths in Renfrewshire it's not really a cycle path but is shared with pedestrians.

It couldn't be much worse than the previous example, could it?

Side Road? Dismount
The part through the business park is presumably on fairly wide and lightly used pavements which I didn't see a shared use marking on. I'll start some commentary here, with a shared use path that runs alongside the busy A726 road (speed limit here is 50mph). The straight bits are OK - the surface isn't as smooth as the road, it's too narrow for mass cycling but wide enough to be usable. It crosses only one side road, which the path doesn't have priority over. Being only one road, it's not a deal breaker, but it is poor. Ideally, it'd be treated something like this.

However, the path to the airport doesn't follow this the whole way, but significantly changes

All downhill from here
At this point, the not-great-but-OK shared use path turns into a complete joke. Notice that there's no provision to leave the path and join the road at this stage (road speed here is now 40mph).

Further along, we get to something labeled as a shared use path, but is basically nothing. 

That sign is a bit of an insult really

I never cycled past anyone using this path. No surprise really.

The Reality

"We are fortunate that here in Renfrewshire we have an excellent network of cycle paths," claims Cllr. Chris Gilmour. 

I'd say that we are terribly unfortunate that here in Renfrewshire we have a council who don't understand utility cycling, who have no solution to problems such as inactivity (and its serious consequences) and who treat cycling as an afterthought instead of a serious mode of transport. A council that with negligible modal share of cycling, despite over a third of households not having access to a car.

In the interests of fairness, I'll send a link to this blog post to Cllr. Gilmour and the council leader, both of whom are very welcome to respond.

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Based in Renfrewshire? Get involved with forming a Renfrewshire Cycle Campaign

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